Got a dirty little secret – or seven? Relax, you're not the only one spot cleaning your kitchen. Here, cleaning guru and author of the acclaimed Stainless and Spotless book series, Shannon Lush explains the six most neglected spots in Aussie kitchens and how to whip them into sparkling shape.
Even better, you won't have to fork out a fortune on toxic cleaning chemicals or expend any hard-core elbow grease to achieve a five-star health-rating, as Lush's solutions are both human- and wallet-friendly.
The oven and stovetop
It's possibly the most dreaded kitchen cleaning job on the planet for many, but not Lush. "It takes me 4½ minutes to clean the stove and that includes the oven," she says. "I clean it once a week using bicarb soda, white vinegar and a pair of pantyhose."
And yes, you read correctly - bicarb soda, white vinegar and a pair of pantyhose is all it takes. Not a gas mask, eye goggles, four hours of your time and eight bucks. How? "Make sure the oven and stove is cold, take out all your racks and shelves, then sprinkle bicarb soda across the oven," Lush says. "Next, sprinkle with white vinegar. As soon as the bicarb soda fizzes, rub it with a rolled up pair of pantyhose. It cuts through the muck so fast. All you have to do is wipe it with a damp sponge afterwards. Just pop a mirror in the bottom of the oven so you can see the oven ceiling without having to stick your head upside down."
TIP: "The only difference between "cleaning vinegar" and "white vinegar" is the words on the label and the price. White vinegar is cheaper and exactly the same.
Shannon is clearly not a fan of the expensive toxic cleaners we use to blanket our food cavity with – before running for the hills. "Commercial cleaners cause more problems than they cure," she says. "Many oven cleaners ... damage the surface of your oven and create a greater surface area for muck to stick to, so you are actually creating a bigger problem. Not to mention commercial cleaners are toxic and your food tastes disgusting afterwards."
And don't forget the oven doors. "The oven-door glass is basically two layers of glass, not one," Lush says "On the inside of the oven door you'll see four little screws, which can be unscrewed to remove the inside glass. Just wash this in the sink with dishwashing detergent and water."
If years of neglect mean your glass is more opaque than transparent, Lush suggests scrubbing the grime from the glass door with a sprinkle of cigarette ash and some rolled up pantyhose. "Cigarette ash is a greasy ash that sticks to the muck and pulls it off," she says. "It will come off in a flash."
The bottom of saucepans
There's no two ways about it – if you don't wash the bottoms of your saucepans properly, they will get blacker and blacker and blacker. Solution? "Bicarb soda and white vinegar," Lush says. "Sprinkle the black with bicarb and then sprinkle on some vinegar. While it's fizzing, rub it with a pair of rolled up pantyhose. Once the fizzing stops (the fizzing is the chemical reaction between the vinegar and the bicarb soda) all you are left with is a salt water to wash off. This means no nasty residue and it is non-toxic."
And the burnt insides of your pans? "If you've burnt jam or other foods in the bottom of your saucepans, pour vinegar in the bottom of the pan then freeze it overnight," Lush says. "Then half-thaw it on the stove the following day – so you have chunks of frozen vinegar. Sprinkle it with bicarb soda then rub it with the pantyhose and the black will come off. Your pan will come out like a dream."
TIP: If you're prone to burning jams and other goodies, Lush says, "Pop a washed tin can lid in the bottom of the saucepan while cooking. It will bounce around the bottom of your pan, stirring your jam while it's cooking, so it doesn't stick and burn."
Most people would agree that cleaning the toaster is a crumby job. That's why we rarely do it. But if only you knew what was sniffing around there after dark … "People don't clean the crumbs out of the bottom of the toaster, but those crumbs are the perfect food to attract mice and cockroaches," Lush says. "The best way to clean a toaster is with uncooked rice. Pop a handful of uncooked rice down into the two toaster slices, seal the top of the toaster with your hands (or pop plastic wrap over the top if your hands aren't big enough), then give it a really good shake. It will dislodge all the crumbs and muck off the inside of the toaster, without damaging the elements. Then empty onto old newspaper."
If Louie the Fly and his fruit-fly mates are constantly circling your drains, you will love this solution. "The simplest thing to do is pop a plug in your sink at night to keep the insects away," Lush says. "Fruit flies and other insects come up through the drains because they are attracted to all sorts of things, including water."
If the damage is done and your sink has been the main highway for fruit flies forever, you'll probably want to clean those pipes. And it's easy to do. "To clean the drain, sprinkle two tablespoons of bicarb soda down the drain and leave it for one hour," Lush says. "Then, add two tablespoons of white vinegar and leave it for an hour, before pouring a kettle of boiling water down the drain. It stinks to high heaven while you are doing it, because it's actually treating the inside of the sink and pipes, but it gets rid of the muck and you'll end up with a free-flowing sink. It will be cleaned beautifully."
Shannon says she does this little drain detox every three to four weeks, "because no matter how careful you are about what you put down your sink, other things will still go down".
It's ironic, isn't it? We reach for our taps to clean our hands/dishes/clothes, but most of the time those "cleaning taps" are a source of black grime. "There is always that mucky bit around the rim of taps," Lush says. "People often use an old toothbrush to clean it, but pantyhose are much better. Just wrap the pantyhose around the tap rim twice and see-saw back and forth, like you'd polish a pair of shoes, and the muck will come off easily."
Our kitchen floors sure do take a battering between footwear bringing in outdoor crap and food spillage during meal preparation, but getting them "reflective clean" isn't that difficult. "Kitchen floors are often neglected but shouldn't be, especially if you have kids in the house," Lush says. "We tread in things that are really yucky, then walk inside and our kids sit on those floors." Lush's solution? A device called the Monster Mop. "It's not about steam, it's about heat. It heats up to 120 degrees and only needs one wipe and the floor is clean and dried in less than 10 seconds."
No chemicals and no elbow grease required. "About 100 millilitres of water will do a 10-metre kitchen floor," Lush says. "The pads on the front of the mop are easily removed and washed in the washing machine. It fits under the fridge and dishwasher, it is lighter than a broom and with me having arthritis it, it's easy to use. Even the grout in the tiles, which is caused by dirty water running into the grout, is cleaned at once."
Have we been so trained to believe that spraying and wiping our benchtops is conducive to a healthy food preparation area? Lush says a better solution is lavender. "Whether your benchtops are marble, metal, laminate, whatever, the best thing to use is a teaspoon of lavender oil mixed with one litre of water, sprayed on the benchtop, then wiped down with a pair of pantyhose. It's non-toxic, leaves a lovely fragrance behind and the insects hate it."
TIP: You can get five pairs of pantyhose for $2, which work just as well as those expensive microfibre cloths that cost $15 a pop. In fact, those microfibre cloths are made out of the same fabric as microfibre clothes. Just pop them in the wash and reuse them until they completely fall apart – and that takes a long time.