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How to Clean a Kitchen the ADHD Friendly Way

Picture of mismatched plates. Keeping dishes and plates organizedhow to clean a kitchen

“Everyone knows how to clean a kitchen,” I can hear some of you saying. That’s part of the problem. When it is assumed that everyone knows how to do something, people grow into adulthood where they’re too ashamed to admit to their lack of knowledge.

Trust me, there are plenty of adults in the world who do not have any idea about how to clean a kitchen. In fact, when I talk about cooking with ADHD, the issues I hear are about cleaning up afterward just as often as it is cooking.

Keeping a kitchen clean can feel like a full-time job

The kitchen can be an intimidating place when you don’t know what you’re doing in there. You’ve got a bunch of spices, all these tools, and the frustration of not knowing how to make any of it work for you. That can produce feelings of inadequacy which can lead people to completely avoiding the kitchen altogether. But we still have to eat, right?

Before you start thinking about what it takes to cook something in the kitchen, you have to start with a clean slate. Cross-contamination and cooking in a kitchen with less than pristine surfaces and tools can be dangerous. Food poisoning is no joke. That means it is time to get the kitchen clean for real. Let’s simplify cleaning the kitchen once and for all.

My favorite kitchen cleaners

For every job, you need the right tools of the trade. I don’t believe it takes a ton of complex cleaners to keep your kitchen clean. Here’s a list of some of my favorite cleaning substances for the job.

Vinegar – Cleaning vinegar is a great disinfectant and it is wonderful when I really want to use bleach but I’m scared to use it on a particular surface. It’s inexpensive and if you like the idea of using all-natural cleaners, vinegar is a wonderful substitute.
Baking Soda – baking soda is mandatory in a kitchen. It absorbs odors in the refrigerator that can affect the taste of the food and has many other uses to keep everything fresh.
Dawn Dish Detergent – Yeah, I know this one is brand specific but it is my favorite and it cleans better than anything else in my opinion. Plus ducks. I love ducks.
Bleach – Bleach kills every germ that comes into its path and I can’t break up with it no matter how hard I try (I don’t try hard )
Wipes – When it comes to a quick wipedown of a spill, you can’t beat them no matter what you say. I love the wipes.
Multipurpose cleaner – As it says, you can use it for multi-purposes. I like to be able to clean my floors with Mr. Clean because the smell makes me happy. Happy = stimulation = the job gets done. That’s what it is all about in this neck of the woods

Keeping the Dishes done

Dishes, oh dishes. If you read my cleaning guide, “Everything You Need To Clean With ADHD”, you probably read the inordinate amount of time I have spent grounded for not doing the dishes in a timely fashion.

I’m still not a huge fan of dishes, but now I also hate the smell of dirty dishes and how food gets stuck to them, it’s all a gross sensory thing that I hate, so I wash them. You have to wash dishes, it is unavoidable, you’re going to have bacteria and vermin on your hands if you don’t, and that is the very thing we are always trying to avoid.

Years ago, a dear friend’s mother took the time to teach me the “right” way to do dishes (side note: there’s no right way, there’s the way that gets the job done, or there’s nothing at all but this is good and I digress. Here’s the order she told me to do the dishes in to ensure maximum cleanliness:

  • Cups/silverware
  • Plates/bowls
  • Pots/pans

Doing dishes in this order leaves you with cleaner dishes and you never have the icky water that you scrubbed the pots in touching the plates/silverware/cups. Just trust me, I’ve spent a lot of time avoiding dishes, this is a great way to do them. Rinsing them really well beforehand also blasts a lot of the icky stuff off.

In conclusion, keep the dishes out of the sink as often as possible. If you can’t do them that night, rinse them well and leave them in the sink. They won’t be clean, but they won’t stink or attract vermin either.

Cleaning and wiping down kitchen surfaces

The surfaces in our kitchen get a lot of traffic. We sit grocery bags on them after a trip to the store, we slice, separate and season food on the surfaces. Because of that, if we aren’t careful, we have a greater chance of cross-contamination of food and that leads to awful food poisoning and bad feelings all around. Nobody wants to eat at the house they got sick at. Great way to lose friends and alienate people. So anyway, you gotta wipe surfaces down. Here are some times when you need to be sure to do that:

When to wipe the surfaces

  • When you’ve chopped or prepared fruits/vegetables/meats on them – Ok, so quick note: I consider a cutting board a surface versus a dish that needs to be washed, so it is really important to remember not to do something like season your chicken and then chop your salad on the same board. You’ll get salmonella, and you won’t like it. Be sure to clean your cutting boards and counters thoroughly when you’re done preparing any food, but especially raw meat.
  • When you’re done cooking – Have you ever seen how filthy the stovetop can get after a meal is cooked? The last thing you want is for all of that mess to bake onto your cooktop. I was born into a “clean as you go” family (more on that later in the post) so as I’m cooking, I have a sink full of clean dishwater ready for me to dip a rag in, wring out, and wipe those surfaces down. Pro tip: if you do it while the stove is still warm, everything comes off nice and easy.
  • When you spill on them – Anyone can have an oops moment. Make sure you have disinfectant wipes/a clean rag/paper towels or whatever your weapon of choice is handy for when you do.

Keeping a fresh refrigerator

The fridge can wind up as a gray area in your housecleaning efforts until a not so pleasant aroma reminds you that it is time to take care of it. Nobody likes the smell of rotting food, so you probably should come up with a way to keep that from happening.

Pick a frequency, whether it is every few days, once per week, or biweekly to whip through the fridge and dispose of any unmentionable items that don’t belong there anymore. For a quick clean, hit it with a wipe, but every once in a while, you gotta pull stuff out of the refrigerator and give it a good scrub down.

How often this needs to happen is totally at your discretion, no judgment here. Basically, keep the spoiled stuff out, and the spills wiped up and you’ll be doing well. To keep things pretty well deodorized, put some baking soda in there to absorb odors.

Pro tip: to keep an eye on foods that spoil quickly, store those on the top shelf of your refrigerator. For many of us with ADHD, out of sight is out of mind. Store those things where you can see them as soon as you open the fridge.

Kitchen cleaning trouble spots

There are always a few spots in the kitchen that can get messy without us quickly noticing, and those trouble spots are ones that you may have to remind yourself to take a look at occasionally just so it doesn’t get gross there and leave you with a bigger task on your hand than if you checked occasionally.


Microwaves aren’t something I spend a lot of time looking inside. I toss my food in, I heat my food up, and I keep it moving. Having said that, you have to take the occasional glance in your microwave and clean it out. An easy way to do so? A cup or a bowl filled with water, microwave it for 10 minutes and wipe it out with warm soapy water. Now you know we all have ADHD, so set a timer. Otherwise, you’ll be coming back to a soggy microwave and a cold mug of water.

Behind/inside the trash can

Trash cans keep all the things that aren’t useful to us anymore and sometimes those things smell. If a trashbag leaks there can be a nasty odor inside of those trash cans. The solution? Well, clean it. I personally use disinfectant and a splash of bleach for mine. As long as there are soap and warm water, you’ll be just fine.

The back of the stovetop

When we cook on our stovetop we often remember to wipe the area around the burners and leave the back of the stovetop forgotten. Grease and grime can build up in those areas unless we make a point to occasionally go through and wipe them down. It doesn’t take very long, and it doesn’t have to be done all the time, though I must admit, I wipe mine down each time I wipe my stovetop down.

The handles of the fridge/front of the fridge

This isn’t an area you think about cleaning every day but oils from the cooking and our hands and general grime can get on your fridge. Take a few moments and wipe it down occasionally, you’ll thank me later.

How to clean the kitchen as you go in 3ish steps:

Ah, the coveted “clean as you go” that everyone always tells you about. It doesn’t always make sense unless you’ve seen it.

  1. Cleaning as you go assumes that you are starting with a clean kitchen– So if you walk into the kitchen and there are dirty dishes and countertops, you have to bust those suds and tidy that part up first.
  2. (or 1, if the kitchen was already clean) Run a sink full of clean dishwater– Also, have a dishrag handy so you can wipe down surfaces. Clean off cutting boards, and wash dishes as you dirty them while cooking. In between stirring and sauteeing you’d be surprised what you can accomplish.
  3. Keep the trashcan nearby– When you’re chopping, slicing and dicing, you don’t want to be far away from the trashcan. Otherwise, all of those peels and stray pieces will wind up everywhere. Keep the trashcan nearby or keep a bowl or small plastic bag to put the trash where it belongs.
  4. Sweep the floor when you’re done. – No matter how thorough you are, or your dogs are, there’s always a little something left behind. Go ahead and sweep over the floor while you’re waiting for a sauce to simmer or a pot to boil. You’ll thank me later.

How to Organize the Kitchen Clutter

Ok, let’s talk about the elephant in the room: kitchen clutter. Stacks of spices, piles of tools, etc etc. Here are three tips to take a look at when you’re trying to keep the kitchen clean:

  1. As always, don’t keep things you don’t need. – Seriously, the kitchen is one of the easiest places to amass clutter. Partially this is because we buy things we HOPE we are going to use and then never do. Take a look at the tools and books and other things you’ve purchased. Have you used it in the past year? The past 2 years? If the answer is no, let’s just assume you’re not going to use it and ditch the thing. It’s ok.
  2. Set up your kitchen so you have “stations for certain things and keep those things in that place. – Sometimes we have so many things that we have stuff crammed in wherever it will fit. There’s no real regard for whether or not it is useful or necessary in that space. Have the kitchen set up where the things you use are in the spot where you use them. You’ll lose fewer things and more things will make it back to the place they belong in. Trust me, you won’t regret it.
  3. Grab some useful storage solutions – The kitchen tends to function a little better with good storage. This would be a time when buying some storage solutions could really come in handy. Drawers for the refrigerator or wire holders for the cans will really help you.

Kitchen Organizers that can help

While you’re trying to keep your kitchen organized, take a look at these products. These can help you to get everything into its place and keep it there!

Refrigerator bundle – I am BEYOND excited about these refrigerator drawers. I love that they are clear so I can see exactly what is in them and when I am running low. Yes, I’m one of those out of sight, out of mind people, too.

Broom organizer – Storing brooms and mops can get bulky, but this broom organizer can attach right to your pantry door or a wall in the kitchen!

Dish drainer– If you’re like me and living in a home with no dishwasher, you know how important having a solid dish drainer can be. I like this one because it won’t take up much space, and yet it still has lots of room to fit all the dishes.

Storage containers- I have been on the hunt for a decent set of storage containers for quite some time, and I love the look of these. Seeing as I’m going to be cooking at home a lot more, it seems like a great time to take a look at getting a set.

I have a surplus of canned goods in my pantry that are now in my way and driving me just a little crazy. This is my plan to get them organized. A rack that will keep them in place and keep them rotated so I can always reach them.

Keeping a kitchen clean doesn’t HAVE to be a full-time job

I hope these tips really help you and you’re able to go forth can conquer. I hope you discover a way that is a little easier to manage. We’re all keeping track of this kitchen stuff. We are all coming up with new ways to get it done. What are some of yours? I can’t wait to hear your favorite clean kitchen tips!

Until next time,


PS – If you’re looking for a new place to hang out, come to The ADHD Cooking Club! It’s a group where we’ll be talking recipes and ADHD.

1 thought on “How to Clean a Kitchen the ADHD Friendly Way

  1. “Everyone knows how to clean a kitchen,”
    Yes! LOL I still have challenges. There are those new stove burners that have something to do with magnetic (obviously I don’t understand them ) How to clean them? No idea.
    The ‘everyone knows’ is a dangerous place IMHO
    Recently I was pushed into getting a hearing test and then hearing aids.
    The difference between getting the ears and my dentist who got me a ‘bridge?” to hide missing teeth is considerable. ( Dry mouth is recking havoc with lower teeth)
    Ear lady told me how to put them in, and change batties and was generally helpful.
    The dentist man didn’t tell me a thing. I still struggle with them. Not even a page of instructions. Expensive plate is underused and I can’t actually eat with it. ARRGHH
    I don’t so much blame him as wonder why the outfit he works for doesn’t look at what he is doing and put it right.
    My optometrist is really good about some things but getting them to give me some extra reading room on my glasses has been an issue.
    I don’t expect them to read my mind but it seems like the dentist would get that people need to learn how to use these things.
    I have a lot of trouble asking for help; people think I’m criticising them as the tension in my voice may sound strident from fear. And when I’m tense I’m also a control freak. “just don’t be a control freak” my mind tells me.
    I’m off to hide under the bed. The monsters under there are smaller than the ones out here.

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