7 kitchen-cleaning tips from a person who likes the smell of ammonia

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Jolie Kerr thinks dish soap is romantic. She would -- she is the author of My Boyfriend Barfed In My Handbag ... And Other Things You Can't Ask Martha and the weekly advice column, Ask a Clean Person, which appears on Deadspin. Kerr shares seven tips for cleaning kitchens.

1. There are actually 3 ways to deep clean a kitchen

 

cleaning oven
(Photo: kirstyokeeffe / iStock /Thinkstock)

Rebecca Sheir: Your book starts with tackling the kitchen in terms of making it clean. You give a very particular method for deep cleaning; in fact, you break it into three subsets.

Jolie Kerr: I have three subsets for deep cleaning. First is what I call the Hard Clean, which is more than your standard cleaning -- more than just wiping down a counter. The idea behind that is to take everything off of your counters, clean the counters, clean your appliances, wipe anything down that lives on your countertops and then put everything back.

Then there's what I call the Full-Monty Hard Clean, which is even deeper -- more than just surface-cleaning the appliances.

RS: Like going inside your toaster oven, for instance?

JK: Exactly.

Finally, the Pantry Clean. You really have to think about what you're keeping and not keeping. You have to do a purge. The last part of the Pantry Clean is that you have to figure out where everything is going to go back, if you need new storage solutions or if a certain way of organizing things isn't working for you.

2. When it comes to cleaning products, fewer is better

 

cleaning products
(Photo: judith511 / Flickr)

JK: I don't use that many products. When I talk to my readers, I try to encourage people to use fewer products. You don't really need all that much. It makes cleaning a lot faster if you're not switching products, reaching for a new thing or having to dive under the sink to find that bottle way, way in the back.

I use Windex. I have one of those enamel stovetops: the old, gas, not-very-nice thing. I use Windex on it. I think Windex is great.

I love sponges, those scrubby-back sponges with Windex. Love, love, love.

3. It may be smelly, but ammonia is a powerful degreaser

 

ammonia
(Photo: leomadvr / iStock / Thinkstock)

JK: I also love ammonia. I know that ammonia is not the most popular cleaning product for most people because it is a pretty harsh chemical. It's not environmentally safe. It's not really all that safe for humans. You have to wear gloves.

[Ed. note: Avoid contact with eyes, nose, mouth and skin. Store out of reach of young children. Don't mix with bleach. And maybe open a window. More information here.]

RS: There's the odor as well.

JK: I actually love the odor of it.

RS: You like the odor of ammonia?

JK: I also like the smell of gasoline -- I'm one of those people.

I love ammonia in the kitchen. You only have to use a really, really tiny amount, like 1/4 cup at most, obviously diluted in water.

It's great in the kitchen because it's a great degreaser. The thing is, even when you don't have a greasy spill, you know how your cabinets have that sticky film? (I hear a lot about sticky film from people.) Basically, that's a combination of grease that's just gone into the air and landed on your cabinets, and then dust sticks to it. Ammonia is awesome for getting that off really fast. It's great for vent hoods; those also get really greasy and sticky.

4. Dish soap is romantic (and you can use it for everything)

 

dish soap
(Photo: jessica wilson {jek in the box} / Flickr)

JK: Then also: dish soap. I love dish soap. I use dish soap for everything. I have fancy and utilitarian dish soap. My husband buys me fancy dish soap as my stocking stuffer at Christmastime.

RS: How romantic.

JK: It is romantic actually. For me, it really is because I get the fancy stuff; I get the Mrs. Meyers.

5. Sliced bread can be used to pick up glass shards

 

bread
(Photo: SliceOfChic / Flickr)

RS: You have this great chart in your book called "Using foodstuffs to solve your cleaning conundrums." Using sliced bread to pick up shards of glass, really?

JK: I love that one. The same thing with a sliced potato. That will also pick up the glass shards. The idea is similar in that they're kind of porous; they're like the lint rollers of the food world.

[Ed. note: Wear gloves when dealing with broken glass, and dispose of glass shard-filled bread or potatoes in a place where your pets -- or hungry roommates -- won't be tempted.]

6. Alcohol can eliminate odors and remove stains, but save the good stuff for drinking

 

spill
(Photo: Don Bayley / iStock /Thinkstock)

RS: In terms of eliminating odors: vodka?

JK: I know. I think it's kind of a waste of good vodka.

People really like the one about using white wine to get out red wine stains. It works, but I feel like what a horrible waste of good white wine. I'd rather drink it than use it as a stain remover. I'd much rather save the club soda for the red wine stains.

7. To sterilize a sponge, run it through your dishwasher

 

sponge
(Photo: kittijaroon / iStock / Thinkstock)

RS: You mentioned that you're big on sponges. But don't sponges get really dirty or full of stuff? Aren't they gross?

JK: Yes, they are gross, and yes, they do get full of stuff. "Stuff" is a technical term. There are a couple ways you can deal with sponges to make them less gross.

The first is replacing them fairly frequently. I don't have a dishwasher, so I wash everything by hand, which means that they get torn up when I'm washing our knives and all that kind of stuff. You can replace them. They're not too expensive.

But of course that's a little bit wasteful, so you can sterilize sponges in a couple of different ways. The first way is to get them fairly wet -- squeeze them out so they're not dripping -- and microwave them for 2 minutes. That's going to kill 99 percent of the bacteria that's lurking in that sponge.

The other thing you can do, if you are lucky enough to have a dishwasher, is put them in the dishwasher on the top rack.

RS: Running it with the dishwashing detergent in or without?

JK: You want to run them with dishes. It's not that you necessarily need the detergent to get them clean, it's really the heat of the dishwasher, the steam, that's going to do the sterilization.

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