House Therapy

No More Kitchen Sink Drama

We spend hours in our kitchens and when it comes to elevating our everyday, a clean, flowing space is a must. Here is my guide to giving yourself that gift.

CLEANING ACTION PLAN

If there is one thing I know for sure, it is that people underestimate the draining effect of dirty, disorganised and chaotic spaces in their lives. Many think the situation is so hopeless that they need a new kitchen when in fact, a declutter and a really good clean would be transformative.

CUPBOARDS

1 Empty the cupboards and clean them thoroughly including the tops. You will be horrified at the colour of the water. This is your most hygienic room remember!

2 Throw everything past its sell-by date out and recycle the containers.

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Minging Microwaves

“We’ve seen some truly disgusting microwaves. Burned-on food stains, ovens thick with grease, the glass so dirty you barely see in and the smell of old curry. Ugh!” say Kim Woodburn and Aggie McKenzie of the hit show How Clean is Your House.

Put the glass plate in the dishwasher and wipe out inside after use. Not that hard really is it?

Stains can be removed using bicarbonate of soda and water. Don’t use steel wool as it can lead to rusting.

Dirty Bins

Take a quick test. Would you buy your bin in a shop in its present state or would you never set foot in the shop again if you saw such a filthy item?

“We saw some truly terrible kitchens when we were travelling around cleaning up Britain,” say Kim and Aggie. “Filthy, sticky rubbish bins spewed their contents on the floor, torn black bags sat next to radiators incubating germs, allowing flies to lay their eggs in their favourite haunt.”

The good news is bins are easy to deal with so there is no need to be a minger.

  • Make cleaning the lid part of your evening kitchen ‘sweep’ (see below).
  • Empty it regularly.
  • Swish it out with hot water and disinfectant weekly.
  • Wipe down the sides.
  • If it is beyond help clean it, recycle it and buy a new one.

If you have separate food waste bins (and it’s very last century not to) make sure you clean these every time you empty them and before you put a fresh bag in. They are tiny, so there is no excuse.

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Dirty Ovens

Try this easy test – would you eat in a restaurant with an oven like yours? First, consider a self cleaning oven for your next purchase. These work by heating to a higher than normal temperature to burn off any food to a white ash and you simply wipe down afterwards.

I line my ovens with Magic Non Stick liners from Lakeland (£10.39) so any spills go onto the liner which can be taken out and washed with hot soapy water.

STICKY FLOORS

In the 1970s there was an advert for Flash floor cleaner showing a floor with one clean side and one dirty. “Who lets their floor get that dirty?” was the universal question from mums in those days – they’d be horrified today.

An electric steam mop is best for the job. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen someone in a restaurant or shop slopping dirty water over a floor to ‘clean it.’ With a normal mop you can’t clean the head and the water gets filthy, but with a steam mop it’s fresh water all the time. There is no need for detergent and you can put the pad in the washing machine afterwards. Wait till you see the colour of it when you are done!

If you don’t want to use a steam mop, use the two bucket method so you are not slopping dirty water back on the floor. Squeeze the dirty water into one bucket and clean from the clean water in the other. Don’t leave the mop in the bottom of the bucket stagnating and providing a holiday camp for bacteria. Store mops with the heads up.

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FRIDGES

Do you have seven end bits of chorizo with the string still on somewhere in your fridge? A jar of gift shop mustard from 1982? Are there any congealed rings? Un-mopped spills? It’s time to get the Marigolds on.

Before you next shop:

  • Take everything out.
  • Discard anything than looks like a science experiment or that could reasonably live in the bottom of a swamp.
  • Wash shelves with soda crystals and hot water. Air dry.
  • Clean the seal.
  • Hoover the coils if you can access them. Keeps the Sauvignon Blanc colder darling.

The SINK

It’s impossible to be on your A-Game getting up to a sink full of dishes. See overleaf for natural cleaners.

Joseph and Joseph Sink Caddy works well around the sink, fitting washing up liquid, washing up brush, sponge and cloth. Just remember to put it in the dishwasher now and again.

Under the sink

under-sink

This is the litmus test of a well run kitchen.

Time and time again you see the same things. Rusty brillos, a vast collection of single washing up gloves (yes, yes I know ‘in case a hand goes in the next pair’) a J-cloth that you have to crack with a hockey stick, green gungy circles of Fairy Liquid, rock hard curled up sponges, dirty vases and a leaky trap. Does this sound like you? Was ‘Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep’ in the charts when you last cleaned it out?

ACTION PLAN

1 Get everything out of there.

2 Chuck every last single glove. You can manage to buy a whole new pair next time.

3 All rusty brillos, disgusting dish clothes, granite-like sponges – bin them all. Why are they there?

4 Any vases past their best or you never use – give them away. Any that you do use – put in the dishwasher.

5 If you have several open bottles of the same thing – decant what you can into the one bottle.

6 I like to line the bottom of the cupboard with thin, vinyl floor tiles. I use Cath Kidston.

7 You need only the basics there – do not store the entire house’s cleaning products here. Children can reach this area. Remove all hazardous products and anything without a child safe lid.

8 Use caddies for grouped items – cloths, cleaning products etc. as they are easy to pull out, so you can quickly clean underneath.

9 Use a stick-on clip on the inside of the door for rubber gloves.

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KEEPING IT CLEAN

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A fresh new day deserves to start in a clean space.

Once your kitchen is all sparkling and fabulous, a post dinner 15 minute routine ‘sweep’ will help it stay that way. You will wonder why you didn’t do it before.

Once dinner is finished and the children are in bed:

1 Load the dishwasher and set it off – do not wait until you cannot fit a teaspoon in there. If you put some cut lemon in the top rack everything will smell lovely. You can empty the dishwasher the next morning when you are waiting for the kettle to boil or coffee to brew.

2 Clean the table and all surfaces including the hob and oven liners.

3 Did you use the grill pan? Bin the foil and put fresh foil on it. Microwave? You know what to do.

4 Clean the bin lid and empty the bin, take out the rubbish and put a fresh bag in.

5 Clean the sink.

6 Sweep the floor.

7 Put out a clean tea towel and dishcloth and take the dirty ones away.

NATURAL CLEANERS

I don’t use any chemical cleaners on work surfaces – I don’t want them near my food or my lungs. I think natural cleaners are just more luxe.

  • Worktops – Ecover Spray.
  • Sinks – Put equal parts of white vinegar and water in a spray bottle and label it ‘sink cleaner’.
  • Glass – use an E-Cloth with water or white vinegar.
  • Limescale – Ecover Limescale Remover or rub with a cut, fresh lemon.
  • Mix bicarbonate of soda with fresh lemon juice for a brilliant cleaner which will magically lift off any marks.
  • Buy Bags of Soda Crystals – I use them to boost laundry whiteness and to degrease anything. Pour a little mound on the drain of your sink, followed by boiling water for sparkling clean drains. Never forget, money spent on preventable plumbing problems is money that could be spent on shoes.

I have seen with my own eyes, people spend a fortune on a new kitchen, months up to their ears in muck and bullets with nothing but microwaved cauliflower cheese to sustain them, only to move a pile of junk and bric-a-brac into their lovely new space!

caravan

Nothing says 1970s caravan park like:

  • Mismatched cutlery.
  • Random Tupperware.
  • Plastic butter dishes.
  • Baby spoons and mugs when the kids are in secondary school.
  • Crusty J-Cloths.
  • Tartan flask with the cup missing – you know who you are.
  • Baking trays that look as though they have been in armed warfare.
  • Melted fish slices. What is the matter with people? People of Britain we must raise our game.
  • Splayed washing up brush – why?
  • Crumbs in cutlery drawer – nice touch.
  • Knackered, blunt potato peeler with string handle that could never peel a spud again if your life depended on it.
  • Wooden spatula with scorched end. Again, why?
  • A drawer full of mismatched tea towels – “Welcome to Flintshire” 1972 Calendar tea towel. Is that you? Please stand.
  • Old plastic colander – often orange.
  • Utensil ‘set’ with missing pieces. Often just a sad carving fork hanging with a distressed potato masher.

You cannot elevate your everyday if all you are missing is a chemical toilet and a pull down bunk.

Do you recognise yourself?

  • Glasses – you have nine wine glasses, all different and you’re 43.
  • Mismatched plates which are horrible to put away as they don’t stack nicely.
  • Jumble of mismatched mugs – depressing to look at and you don’t know how they even got there.
  • One battered baking tray inherited 12 years ago which hasn’t been replaced since.
  • Wine bottles with candle wax down them.
  • Frying pan that looks like something that should be dangling from a one-man band. The non-stick has long become stuck inside your digestive system.
  • Under sink disaster (see previous page). Rusty Brillo is not the name of a country and western singer, it’s a permanent fixture in your kitchen.
  • You can’t remember the last time you washed your bin, your microwave or your grill pan.
  • There are Persian cats less fluffy than your extractor fan ‘filters’.
  • You have way too many ‘70s caravan park touches (see left).
  • Your ‘fruit’ bowl has some copper coins, bits of fluff, a train ticket and a couple of black bananas in it.

ACTION PLAN

Throw away anything that is: melted, scorched, split, chipped, broken, cracked, crusty, rusty, knackered or has missing parts.

(I recognise that some of these may describe your husband but we will stick to the kitchen for now.)

Aim to give away and start again: mismatched glasses, mismatched crockery including mugs, mismatched cutlery and cookware that you have not got space for.

DEALING WITH LINENS 

Random tea towels – scorched, frayed, threadbare, holes in, stained – get rid of them. Buy ten matching tea towels. I recommend 100% linen (try Fergusons Irish Linen).

Oven gloves – are they brown, scorched and greasy? Bin them.

Aprons – would it not look out of place in an abattoir? You know what to do.

Put any appliances that you don’t use on eBay (put the money towards what you do need) or give them away.

If you need more of anything and cash is short – choose a set you love, put it on your MySwag wish list (www.mysw.ag) and share with people to let them know what you really need.

More in the magazine…

For my tips on designing a kitchen with ease and flow, pick up Issue 3 – available now.

Read more!

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This is an excerpt from Issue 3 of Amanda Magazine. Read the full article by ordering your copy now.

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