13 Kitchen Spots You Need to Clean Before the Stench Hits You

Kitchen cleaning tips so you’ll never be embarrassed by cooking odors.

Image: KConstantine/Shutterstock

You love, love, love cooking in your very own kitchen. It’s the kitchen of your dreams, where you can crank up the tunes while trying out that teriyaki recipe you saw in a “Tasty” video.

And it’s tons more fun if you’ve got guests coming over. You love to greet them with the aroma of something delicious.

But what if instead of smelling teriyaki, your guests smell something else? Some lingering, foul odor from meals long gone? It happens — especially if you cook often.

Don’t let stale, icky cooking odors ruin your dinner party. Give these kitchen spots a good detox treatment, so stinky smells won’t have a place to feed.

#1 Disposal Flaps: Scrub Those Suckers

Flip the flaps in your disposal and prepare to be as grossed out as a sixth-grader in health class. Yucky slime left over from food proteins line the flaps, treating you to a greasy and grimy stink.

“Use a small brush, even a toothbrush, and scrub them clean with hot, soapy water,” says Donna Smallin Kuper, author of several books including “Clear the Clutter, Find Happiness: One-Minute Tips for Decluttering and Refreshing Your Home and Your Life.”

While you’re down there, clean the disposal itself by sending down three or four ice cubes, a handful of kosher salt, and hot water. 

Don’t forget the drain side of the sink. Pull out food bits and scrub the drain with that toothbrush again. And then, OMG,throw it out. Or clearly label it “drain brush” and store faaaaar away from your real toothbrush.

#2 Faucet and Sink: Cleanse the Crevices

If you’ve got a lever handle on your sink faucet, lift it and look down.

All around that nice ball joint is lovely brown slime. No big deal, that’s just where you get your drinking water. Deep breath. You can get the gunk in one swipe with a paper towel dampened with a degreaser or some vinegar and water.

Then keep hunting. The crevices at the base of the faucet, around the soap dispenser, and around the edge of the sink are all gunk magnets.

#3 Range: Sideswipe Food Spillage

“You probably have dinner for six spilling down the sides of your range,” says Jan Dougherty, author of “The Lost Art of House Cleaning: A Clean House Is a Happy Home.”

It’s gummy. It’s gaggy. It’s stinky. She suggests using Krud Kutter, an all-purpose, non-toxic, odorless de-greaser, mixing 5 parts water to 1 part Krud Kutter. The same solution or another good, non-toxic degreaser like Force of Nature can also clean your cabinet walls or whatever else is in splatter distance of your stove.

#4 Stove Vent Filter: Boil It Clean

While you’re at the stove, force yourself to really look at the range hood filter or pop-up vent filter.

After the obligatory “ewww,” vow to clean the filter every month at least, depending on how much you cook, Smallin Kuper says. All the grease stuck to it makes a hell of a bouquet. Remove the filter, shake it out, and wash it in hot, soapy water. Or, if it’s extra grimy, put it in boiling water with ½ cup baking soda.

#5 Stove Knobs: Remove to Reveal the Gunk

In horror movies, the monster is always hiding behind a harmless-looking door. On your stove, your otherwise clean knobs are the stink monster’s hideout.

Remove the knobs and soak them in hot, soapy water, or just toss them in the dishwasher. The real anti-smell work is cleaning underneath the slim rubber gasket behind the knob.

Sing, “If you liked it, then you should have cleaned your ring on it,” to keep from gagging over the ring of brown gunk. Wipe it away with a damp cloth, replace the gasket, and keep singing.

#6 Oven: Use Liners for No Grease Stink

Why do your fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies smell vaguely like chicken? That would be from last week’s roaster juices that bubbled over onto the bottom of the oven. YUM.

In addition to making your cookies non-vegetarian, the gooey stuff on the bottom of your oven will smoke and stink up the joint. In an ideal world — and who lives there? — you’d clean the oven after every use. (Try a paste of equal parts vinegar and baking soda.) 

In reality, you can avoid the problem by using silicone oven liners. When they get dirty, let them cool. Then wash with warm, soapy water.

#7 Dishwasher Door: Wipe the Reek Off the Rim

How can cleaning machines get so dang dirty? The inside of your dishwasher should, actually, be clean — as long as you get rid of large food particles before you wash your dishes. But it’s likely that grime will lurk along the edges of the inside of the door and on the gasket. Grab a rag and clean it off with hot, soapy water. A quick swipe with every unload will prevent the build-up.

#8 Fridge Vent Grill: Suck Out the Smelly Stuff

Dust, cooties, pet hair, dander, and bits of food all get sucked into the vent below your fridge. This could all be a source of odor. Pull off the grate (it usually comes off quite easily with a gentle tug), vacuum under the fridge, and clean the vent grill in hot, soapy water.

More clean, less stink, and (bonus!) the less stuff on the grill, the easier it is for your fridge to cool your food.

#9 Fridge Drip Pan: Find It, De-Gross It

There’s a drip pan under your fridge. So that’s good to know. And water and food spillage that gets into it, plus hot, humid weather can equal a gross, moldy cocktail.

You can nip it in the bud by wiping out the moisture and spraying the pan with a hydrogen peroxide solution (1 teaspoon hydrogen peroxide in 1 cup water). Wipe clean with a rag soaked in white vinegar.

Also, you’ll want to check the floor beneath the pan and keep it clean, too.

#10 Cabinets: Do a 360 De-Griming

You may have cleaned up that spattered spaghetti sauce off your backsplash tile, but bend down and look at the underside of your kitchen cabinets. Do it on an empty stomach, lest you yack on your counters.

Give it a degreasing, and then a regular wipe-down to keep build-up at bay.

After going low, go high: Cooking fumes rise and come down on cabinets doors’ top edges and fronts. “Scrape the leading edge of the cabinet door with a fingernail and see how much slime peels off,” Dougherty says. 

And after adding that to your wipe-down routine, go ahead and schedule a manicure. You’ve earned it.

#11 Cabinet Floors and Oils: Keep 'Em Separated

Coconut oil. Truffle oil. Olive oil. Peanut oil. Grapeseed oil. You’re the Exxon/Mobil of cooking oil options, and now your cabinet shelves are shiny and possibly starting to smell not so delightful. Clean the shelving with hot, soapy water and wipe down all the bottles. 

Then keep the bottles off the wood by using the lids of old plastic containers as coasters, recommends Smallin Kuper, or use a sturdy bin in your cabinet to contain them.

#12 Toe Kicks: Wipe Away Smells From Below

Find a small child or get down on your knees: You cleaned up a sauce spill two days ago, but — whoops! — the wipe-up didn’t extend to the kickboards. 

There it is, along with a variety of splotches from other recent meals. Scrub the boards clean with hot, soapy water, and resolve to be less klutzy so you won’t have to do this more than once a year.

#13 High Cabinets: Line Tops With Paper Towels

Thank goodness most visitors aren’t 7 feet tall. Those hanging cabinets exposed at the top and showcasing your tchotchkes are full of grease and grime — which will eventually add a nasty perfume to your kitchen — along with dust, dead bugs, and anything else floating in the air.

Just what you want lingering right above your cookspace.

But how’s this for handy? A roll of paper towels is the same width as your cabinets. So after you clean the grease from your valuables and the top of the cabinets, roll out a line of paper. Toss it, and replace with a fresh batch whenever your very tall friends are coming by. Or, at least once a year.

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