The room that's the heart of the home is also its most mess-prone. Food prep plus eating is a recipe for sticky counters, gritty floors, and crud everywhere else.
1. "Get a dog. It's the single most effective tidy-up tool after meals." Kim Woltmann, mom of one; Los Angeles, CA
2. The best thing you can do to keep kitchen countertops clean is to keep them dry—bacteria thrive in wet environments, says Donna Smallin, author of The One-Minute Cleaner.
3. If you catch an oven spill when it's still fresh, pour salt on it, Smallin suggests. It'll cut down on the burnt stench and create a crust—making it easier to scrape up when it's cool.
4. A clever cutout lets you hang Libman's durable Variety Sponge Pack (libman.com for stores) on a dish drainer or faucet for rapid drying.
5. Try Smallin's tip to clean the oven when you don't want to run—or don't have—a self-cleaning cycle. Heat the oven until it reaches 200 F, then turn it off. Fill a small bowl with ammonia and place it on the center rack. Close the door and leave the bowl overnight. The fumes will soften grime; then all you'll need are hot water and a squirt of grease-cutting dish soap, such as Dawn or Palmolive, to clear it away.
6. Attack a grimy microwave with steam. Zap 2 cups of water in a microwave-safe bowl for five minutes. Let it sit for a few minutes; then wipe inside surfaces with a sponge. Keep it clean with Cadie's Oven Cleaning Wipes ($7 for 20 wipes; jensco.com), which use sweet-smelling, natural orange oil to rid walls of baked-on gunk.
7. The new Clorox 4-in-One Disinfecting Spray (clorox.com) not only kills germs on hard surfaces but also reduces allergens and sanitizes soft surfaces, like mattresses and upholstery. Spray as directed almost anywhere germy hands have been.
8. Windex Touch-Up Cleaner (scjohnson.com for stores) has a sleek dispenser that's pretty enough to be left out, so you can tap the top to get a burst of multi-surface cleaner for fast wipe-downs.
Originally published in the April issue of Parents Magazine