Warmer temperatures and greener lawns signal the arrival of spring, which means it’s also time for spring cleaning.
This activity is dreaded by some and revered by others, but a large portion of Americans will participate in some form of spring cleaning. A 2013 study by the American Cleaning Institute revealed that 72 percent of Americans partake in spring cleaning annually.
With so much to potentially clean, it can be difficult to decide where to start. K-State Research and Extension associate and food safety specialist Karen Blakeslee suggests a popular gathering area – the kitchen – as a good place get the spring cleaning underway.
“I would suggest starting with the cabinets,” Blakeslee said. “Clean everything out. Look for packages that have any damage to them, that are leaking or spilled onto the shelf. Give them a good wipe down with a damp cloth.”
Blakeslee added that if those spills are left unattended, there’s a good chance they’ll attract bugs.
Once the kitchen cabinets are clean, homeowners and renters have an opportunity to reorganize their cabinets. Creating places specifically for canned soups or vegetables can help make cabinets much easier to navigate, according to Blakeslee. Check “use by” dates, and organize them so older foods are pushed toward the front and will be used first.
“There are many types of stacking systems and shelves available, if you have wasted space above the canned foods or packaged goods in your cabinet,” she said. “Buy extra shelves, and fill up the empty space.”
Another area Blakeslee recommends to clean in the spring is the refrigerator. The fridge can be a tricky appliance to clean because of all of the drawers and shelves.
“Unplug your refrigerator first, and then take everything out,” she said. “If you can take the shelves and drawers out, that makes it a lot easier to clean. Always refer to your manual for your appliance to make sure that you’re using the right type of cleaning product for that appliance.” Blakeslee also recommends vacuuming dirt and dust from under and behind the refrigerator.
While working in the fridge, remember to check the expiration date on baking soda, which can lose its odor control effectiveness over time. Also be sure to check expiration dates on all food items in the fridge, and discard those that are past the expiration date or not safe to consume.
In addition to the refrigerator, it’s also important to clean other appliances, especially ones that are used to cook food.
“Don’t forget your oven and microwave,” Blakeslee said. “Clean these appliances as you go, because spills are going to get baked on and harder to clean.”
Something that is often forgotten is the grill. Grills can collect a lot of food residue, and if not cleaned regularly, can affect the taste of food cooked on the caked surface.
“Take a look at the inside of your grill. If you can take the grill plate off, you can soak it in some soapy water to try to get some of that burnt food off,” Blakeslee said. “After you’ve taken the food off the grill, let it burn a little longer, and that helps burn off the food residue. Use a wire grill brush to help clean grill grates.”
Remember that spring cleaning activities don’t have to only take place in the spring. Spread these tasks out over a few weeks, she said. These suggestions are most effective when done regularly and not just in the springtime.
More information about food safety in the home can be found online through the K-State Research and Extension Rapid Response Center or by visiting any local extension office in Kansas.