Tips for keeping your college kitchen clean

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A few, small changes can keep your cooking space clean and organized. 

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When living at home, it can be easy to assume all the little things that keep a household running smoothly happen on their own. It is by some force of nature that the sponges are switched out before they get too stinky. It’s magic that starts the dishwasher on time. Drains that get clogged summon Drano from some special void, and those random necessities that everyone relies on, like neosporin and sugar, just appear in the cupboard of their own volition.

Surprise surprise, those things are done by real people. And now that we are living alone, in the real world, we are the lucky ones tasked with such mundane burdens. The power of a no-curfew, sibling-free, shower-at-midnight world comes with responsibility, and with responsibility comes a shopping trip to Bed Bath & Beyond for a plunger and a Swiffer mop.

But while some tasks can be overlooked — for example, there is no need to worry about keeping the pantry stocked with expiration date-free foods for the impending apocalypse —  some require punctuality and continued attention. These tasks, most often found in the kitchen, do more than just prevent bug infestations and nasty odors. If you have a neat-freak roommate, a couple easy additions to your daily routine will also forstall your being murdered in your sleep for forgetting to clean up all your dirty utensils.

I have three tips that will help start you off on your journey of kitchen-friendly chores. These simple tasks will keep your cooking space organized and clean and will provide that delightful effect of having everything run smoothly with almost no hands-on intervention. For those of you who are tidiness-challenged and think you might need a baby-steps level jumping off point for housework that may still encourage you to start doing more than the bare minimum around your apartment — like maybe vacuuming every once in a while — these tips are the place to start. 

First, get your sponges in order. Pick up a bristle brush and a whole pack of sponges with the scrubby, durable backs. The brush can be left in the sink. As for the sponges, one should be used for the counter and set apart from the rest. The other should be used for dishes, and dishes only. Keep this one with the dish soap by the faucet.

Each of these products has a unique function and together, they create the trifecta of kitchen cleanliness. The scrub bristle brush gets those pesky chunks of sticky, heavy food off dishes and utensils before they go in the dishwasher, saving the insides of bowls and the spots between the tines of forks from a crusty fate. 

The counter sponge soaks up all that water that somehow gets around the edges of the sink — in my kitchen, every single time a dish gets washed by hand, it looks like the monsoon rains just passed through. The dish sponge, as can be inferred, cleans the dishes. Making sure to change the sponges out regularly — once every three or four weeks, or whenever they start to turn a different color or smell — prevents their getting too gross, and by keeping them separate, they have to work a lot harder to spread dirt and grime around.

The second tip is this: get your trash bags at Trader Joe’s. When getting groceries from the homeland — TJ’s, that is — ask for them to double bag your goods. Then, use the bags as trash receptacles. Not only does it save money and the environment, it also prevents too much buildup. 

A large trash can may seem great at first, with a carrying capacity that means you don’t have to walk the gross slimy trash out to the dumpster more than once a week, but it is a mistake. Even the odor-lock trash bags can’t fully quell the smell of three-day-old Chinese food, and they definitely can’t prevent a little trail of ants from finding its way to your kitchen. The smallish size paper Trader Joe’s bags hold about a days worth of trash before overflowing, thus scheduling the trash take-out for about once a day, a much more clean, kitchen-friendly plan.

Lastly, make use of your dishwasher. Don’t just chuck dishes in willy-nilly; if you keep it organized, the dishes will get cleaner. If you put bowls in too close together or right side up, they might not rinse off properly. Plus, you won’t be able to fit in as many dishes — can I say, water bill? If you line your dishes up properly, following the little slots in the rack and keeping one half for plates and one for bowls, you will get better results for a larger amount of dishes. Ideally, mugs and cups will be placed upside down on the top rack so they don’t fill up with scummy dishwasher water. Another idea, put the utensils in tops up and they will come back out without needing an additional handwashing or rinse.

All these things are super easy to stay on top of and will add a dash of order to the kitchen. They will make it a cleaner, better-smelling place for recipes and treats galore to thrive, and they may even inspire other home improving endeavors.

Lindsay Smith is a Food Columnist for The Cavalier Daily. She can be reached at life@cavalierdaily.com

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