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Spring is always a welcomed time of year; the flowers start to poke through the ground and the birds start chirping early in the mornings. The cold, damp and dark winter days are behind us and we consider dusting off the barbeque for weekend gatherings. Doing a little spring cleaning will help you get your home ready for those unexpected, spontaneous gatherings that seem to pop up during the warmer months. Tackling a few of the following chores will get your home spruced up and ready for the warmer months of the year.

Refrigerator Clean-out

It isn’t unusual to forget about certain things in the fridge, especially when we don’t use them all that often. One of the biggest oversights in most households is the expiration date on condiments and salad dressings. Making a habit out of checking the dates at least twice a year will help you avoid any disappointing situations where your favorite salad ends up ruined because of spoiled dressing. Also, don’t forget the freezer, it’s another place we tend to stick food and forget about it.

Pantry Clean-out

Another area of the kitchen that gets overlooked is the pantry. Dry and canned foods last a lot longer than fresh foods and so it’s easy to forget about them. Consider putting the pantry on a six-month schedule, like the refrigerator, and go through the goods to weed out the expired items. Canned foods typically last awhile but it’s best to make sure at least a couple of times a year to avoid eating something that could make you sick. Things like pasta and rice have an extended shelf life, but it is always a clever idea to note the purchase date, especially if you transfer the dry food from its original container into a storage container, that way you know how long it’s been on your shelf. Pantries can become a breeding ground for clutter, so it helps to eliminate extra packaging and expired foods and spices.

Stove-top and Burners

The stove top and burners are culprits for collecting spills, pieces of food and sauces. These things can become crusty and stuck if not cleaned up immediately and cleaning them can be tough. One quick solution is to put some warm, soapy water on a cloth and saturate the surface area with it. Let the soapy water stand for several minutes, working to loosen the stuck foods, and then wipe up. Most of the mess will come up with just a wipe but if there are trouble spots, you can use a toothbrush to work those out. You’ll want to avoid hard or abrasive cleaners because they have the potential to scratch your surfaces.

Drawer and Cupboard Wipe Down

Utensil drawers and cupboards are used on the daily but often missed when cleaning the kitchen. It’s not uncommon to find some crumbs in the drawer as you are grabbing for a fork, but it’s rarely a convenient time to clean the drawer, so making this part of your six-month routine gives you a chance to freshen up each drawer as you move into a new season. The cupboards could also use some cleaning every six months and this is easily done with a damp, soapy cloth. Remember the handles to the cupboards too, those tend to get sticky.

Dishwasher and Garbage Disposal

These are two appliances that get missed in kitchen cleanups because their job is to clean. We forget that they can collect unwanted pieces of food which can lead to the appliance not working properly. Be sure you read the manuals before you clean these two appliances because you don’t want to unknowingly cause damage with certain cleaners. A non-toxic solution is to use distilled white vinegar, it kills bacteria and is a great deodorizer. Freezing vinegar and using the ice cubes to clean out the inside of the garbage disposal is an effective way to get those hard to reach places that you don’t want to stick your hand anywhere near. Simply throw a few vinegar ice cubes in the disposal and turn it on~ the vinegar will swirl around and pick up any unwanted foods and smells and take it down the drain, no scrubbing and no harsh cleaners.

Spring cleaning is a perfect way to get your home summer ready for the late afternoon get-togethers and lazy summer days. For many people, spring cleaning means using harsh chemicals, but it can be done with non-toxic cleaning agents and you’ll get just as good of an outcome. The kitchen is typically the center of the home, where gathering with friends and family takes place and memories are made. Using this simple cleaning checklist can ensure a party-ready kitchen and you’ll have a refreshed space which makes everyone happy.