7 Clever Tips For People Who Hate Cleaning Up After Cooking

kitchen cleaning

Ever feel like you spend twice as long cleaning up the kitchen after dinner as you spent cooking the meal itself? You’re not alone! A 2011 survey found that among people who don’t cook at home, 25% cited post-meal cleanup as their main reason for staying out of the kitchen.

While cooking can get a little messy sometimes, there’s no reason for your kitchen to end up looking like the aftermath of a natural disaster. The key to making post-meal cleanup quicker and easier is learning how to “work clean” while you’re cooking!

In today’s post, I’ll be sharing 7 simple tips you can use while you cook to help keep your kitchen clean. WIth the help of these tips, you’ll soon find that working cleaner not only makes cleanup easier, it makes cooking more enjoyable too! :-)

7 Easy Ways To Keep Your Kitchen Clean While You Cook

kitchen cleaning

1. Use A Garbage Bowl

If you want to keep your kitchen cleaner while you cook, using a “garbage bowl” can be a serious game-changer. When you start cooking, set out a spare bowl and fill it with anything you would normally take over to the trash (like eggshells, empty packaging, carrot tops, etc.)

In addition to saving you a hundred trips to the trash can, the garbage bowl system also prevents those little spills and drips that often occur during those trips. Once you embrace the garbage bowl, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without it!

kitchen cleaning

2. Soapy Water Squeeze Bottle

After a delicious meal, it can be disheartening to acknowledge the tower of food-crusted bowls you used while you were cooking. But there’s an easy way to make the cleanup process quicker and easier, and all it requires is a squeeze bottle!

Before you start cooking, fill your squeeze bottle with warm, soapy water. When you place a dirty bowl or dish in the sink, take a second to squirt some of the soapy water into it to start cutting through the food residue.

This extra step won’t slow you down while you’re cooking, but it will save you a lot of time and effort after dinner! :-)

kitchen cleaning

3. Use Splatter Screens

Sautéing and pan-frying can quickly make an oil-splattered mess of your clean stovetop. To eliminate this issue, invest in a splatter screen or splatter guard!

When you start cooking, just set your splatter guard over the pan to keep splatters contained and protect your clean stovetop!

kitchen cleaning

4. Do Messy Stuff Over The Sink (Or Dishwasher)

Some parts of the cooking process are messier than others, like measuring ingredients, using cooking spray, etc. Do the messy stuff over your sink to contain spills and make cleanup easier.

And as long as your dishwasher isn’t full of clean dishes, you can do messy stuff over your open dishwasher too! (I do this when using cooking spray, because the once I start a load of dishes, the dishwasher will clean up all the overspray for me!)

kitchen cleaning

5. Clean Up Spills ASAP

When you’re “in the zone” while cooking, it’s easy to ignore spills and drips in favor of whatever you’re working on. But the longer spills and messes sit, the harder they will eventually be to clean!

There’s also a good chance you’ll step on the spilled food at some point, and that’s no good either. But you can avoid all that unpleasantness by stopping what you’re doing for a few seconds to wipe up the mess with a damp cloth!

kitchen cleaning

6. Minimize Counter Clutter

Giving yourself more room to work not only makes cooking easier, it makes cleanup easier too! You don’t have to have miles of countertop to work with as long as you keep them relatively free of clutter.

If you could use some more room to work with, take an inventory of what lives on your countertop. Decide what should stay and what can go, then find space in your drawers or cupboards for the unnecessary stuff.

With more free counter space, you’ll have more room to work with and wiping down your counters will be quick and easy!

kitchen cleaning

7. Use Washable Rugs

If you like to have rugs in your kitchen work area, make sure they are machine-washable. Spills and drips are impossible to avoid entirely, and it makes things a lot easier when you can just toss those dirty rugs in the washing machine!

How do you keep your kitchen clean while you cook?

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Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • I use a paper plate for food scraps, crushed eggshells, tops and cores of fruit and some vegetables, etc., since our garden is less than 20 feet from our back door. Our trash can is next to the end of our kitchen cabinetry (unfortunately–it’s a small kitchen, so there’s nowhere else to put it), and just throw out the plastic wrapping, elastic bands (on celery and broccoli), butcher paper wrapping, stickers on fruit, etc.

    As to using the inside cover from a box, I am glad to see someone else does that, too! I have been doing that since we were married over 50 years ago–I don’t have to wash the spoon rest.
    And like the others here, my father in law always washed the pots and pans before he sat down to eat. All that’s left is the cutlery and dishes you had your dinner on. When the food is finished baking or cooking on the stove, start washing the pots you used. Also been doing this for over 50 years.

  • Regarding the “garbage bowl” tip. I use the two bowl method: 1) bits and pieces for making soup and 2) scraps for the compost bucket. The only “garbage” I can think of would be a price sticker, rubber band, or other non-recyclable packaging. I keep a gallon container in the freezer for those bits and pieces and any leftovers, ie, small amounts of cooked veggies, meat, rice/pasta. The bag is labeled SCRAPS FOR SOUP. Some folks call it Kitchen Sink Soup. I call it Salvage Soup.

  • I thought the whole point in having kids is so they can clean up after I cook?

    Just kidding :)

    If you cook a lot like I do, you probably own one or more spoon rests. They obviously get washed/rinse after each meal. When I make something that comes in a package (IE stuffing, flavored rice, gravy) I fold the package flat and use that as my spoon/spatula rest. When all is said and done, they get tossed in the trash.

  • I stopped using cooking spray several years back as I was constantly cleaning a layer of volatilized oil off my stovetop and cabinets. No matter how carefully you spray there’s still a cloud of fine droplets that coats anything nearby. I hadn’t heard of the dishwasher method above but I just found it easier (and cheaper) to pour a small amount of oil into the skillet and spread it around with a spatula before I start cooking. I also don’t trust canola oil and was having a harder time finding spray oils of any other kind.

    Like others here I also compost, so I keep a small bucket near the sink where any vegetable scraps, eggshells or non-meat food waste goes as I do my prep.

  • I thought I signed up for a $7 per month subscription, but have been charged for a full year ! I was told I could cancel at any time ! I was also told it would then be ad free and much easier to read. But it is still full of ads , Jillee ads !

  • I have a set of microfiber “rags” from the dollar store that I use instead of dish sponges. They’re multi-purpose. I also make up a quart spray bottle of magic solution: 3/4 c of vinegar, 1 t Dawn dish detergent, and 1 1/2 c water. 1 rag washes dishes, another gets sprayed with solution to wipe down counters in between tasks. Sometimes another rag is just for rinsing so I can roll out a pie crust or 2, since I have limited counter space.
    The spray also serves to loosen stuck on dough in plastic bowls, food on plates, eggs on utensils, and at the end of the night, leaves my sinks and chrome shiny, and stove top, microwave, and fridge like new, without needing to wipe off. Saved my sanity and cash.

  • I have a sponge with a handle that you can put soap in and use that for really greasy dishes besides my sink of soapy dish water. Makes things go faster if the grease is already off the dish before washing or putting in the dishwasher. I also load it as dishes get dirty. Once full it goes on and they get done. Once we are done with a meal it’s just those dishes that need cleaning. I also use the fact that my oven is hot so if I need to clean it it gets done then and doesn’t seem to take as long. A roll of paper towels on the counter is also there if needed and the occasional child that walks through when you need something done. Love this site for ideas.

  • My father in law taught me to keep a basin of hot soapy water in the sink. Everything gets put in there as you use it. During moments between cooking chores you can quickly wash up those few things. This along with your garbage bowl idea keep the kitchen well cleaned as you go. No big clean up at the end.

    • I was headed here to suggest this very thing! The first thing I do when beginning to prepare a big meal is fill my sink with hot soapy water. I clean everything as I cook! I clean up spills immediately. I wash pots as I pour up the food. When I sit down to eat I have a clean kitchen. Then all I have to do is load the dishwasher after our meal and I am done! Clean kitchen means time for visiting or relaxing and enjoying a TV show or a good book!

  • Great ideas. I’ve always been one to clean up messes immediately while cooking. I’m kind of neat freak about this. Those splatter screens I’ve heard you can find them at some of the Dollar stores -FYI.

  • Instead of soapy squeeze bottle, Method foaming dish soap (which is endlessly refillable w only ⅛ c of detergent and rest water) works the same way for me.

  • Great ideas especially the garbage bowl. I also use a strategy to keep cleaning after a big meal from becoming overwhelming. I prepare part of the meal then stop and clean before continuing with cooking. Then go back to cooing. With this method you’ll have a minimum of dishes after the meal. Super fast clean up!

  • In the UK most councils now provide food waste collections. We’re given a canister to keep in the kitchen with a biodegradable bag inside to put any food waste: peelings, egg shells, teabags, etc. I generally peel my veggies directly over the canister. When the bag’s full it goes into a larger box outside with a clever handle/locking mechanism to stop animals/seagulls getting in and is collected weekly by the refuse/recycling guys. The council then turns it into fertiliser. Do you not have this in the US?

    • I keep an empty, half gallon, waxed cardboard ice cream container inside a lidded metal pot with handles I found at a thrift store. I sprinkle baking soda at the bottom and periodically as it fills up. It sits on my countertop and no one knows it’s trash. Use it all week for scraps and coffee grinds and on Mondays I take it to my neighborhood vegetable garden who turns it into compost.

  • I have a dual sink and I designate one side as clean and other is dirty..when I whisk, measure ingredients like flour and sugar, or use my hand held electric mixer I out the bowl in the clean sink..any spills go in instead of on my counter..works great for mash potatoes!

  • I make sure my cleaning rag is in a bowl of clean soapy water. That way it’s easy to clean up spills, and clean the counter for the next steps. Also, if I need to use my favorite knife, it’s easy to wash it and have it ready to go!

  • I have a bowl of water in sink ready for tools and dishes I use to go into directly after using. Saves water and they can go directly into dishwasher without further rinsing.

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