6 Spots in Your Kitchen You Keep Forgetting to Clean, Ranked from ‘No Big Deal’ to ‘Bust Out the Disinfecting Wipes!’

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You’re on top of your dishes, your counters are regularly wiped down and after watching Get Organized with The Home Edit, your pantry is a color-coded wonder. But your kitchen doesn’t quite have that squeaky clean feeling…and it’s probably that weird smell that seems to be coming from the fridge. Turns out, there are six commonly overlooked spots that may be to blame. Here’s how to tackle them, and our honest take on whether you should be cleaning them on the regular.

RELATED Your Ultimate Kitchen Cleaning Checklist (That Can Be Conquered in Less Than 2 Hours)

dirty places in kitchen toe kicks

1. toe Kicks

No matter how much you sweep and mop, that little four-inch space between the floor and your lower cabinets—known as a toe kick—can be a total crumb magnet. Especially in the corners. And especially if you use a robot vacuum, since its bubbly shape often prevents it from sucking up dirt right along the edge of a wall.

Is it terrible to skip a cleaning? No big deal.

What should I do? Once a week, grab a disinfecting wipe and run your hand along the toe kicks, wiping away any dried-on food splatters and loose crumbs. (Or consider installing a toe kick vacuum and sweep any messes directly into it.)

dirty places in kitchen handle
Grace Cary/Getty Images

2. Fridge Door Handle

This is arguably the area of your kitchen that’s touched the most often and, according to microbiologist Dr. Charles Gerba (aka “Dr. Germ”), it’s also one of the most germ-ridden spots in the whole room.

Is it terrible to skip a cleaning? It’s not so bad, unless one of your family members is sick (then it’s a must!). And, as we fight the spread of COVID-19, little preventive measures like this can go a long way.

What should I do? Grab that disinfecting wipe and give the handle a good scrub on the daily.

dirty places in kitchen dishwasher
westend61/Getty Images

3. the Dishwasher

Your dishwasher’s whole purpose is to clean, so why would you need to clean it. Right? Not quite, because bits of food can block the drain and leave your plates less than sparkling.

Is it terrible to skip a cleaning? It’s kinda bad. If your dishes are gleaming, your dishwasher smells fine and you don’t see any signs of mold, you should be OK. But that doesn’t mean you can skip it entirely—that damp, dark space can be a breeding ground for fungi.

What should I do? Once every three months, slide out the bottom rack and clean the drain. Then, place a dishwasher-safe cup filled with vinegar on the top rack. Run it on a hot water cycle, remove the cup and sprinkle the bottom of the dishwasher with a cup of baking soda. Run another hot water cycle, and you’re all set.

4. the Coffee Maker

Be honest: When was the last time you really, truly scrubbed that thing? If you use your coffee maker on the daily, you should clean it out once a month.

Is it terrible to skip a cleaning? Yeah, it’s pretty bad. When CBS News swabbed household coffee machines and sent them to a microbiologist for testing, they found multiple kinds of bacteria, many of which could cause an upset stomach or other gastrointestinal issues. Yuck!

What should I do? Fill the coffee maker’s reservoir with a 50-50 mix of vinegar and water. Run the machine, stopping it halfway and letting it sit for an hour. Then, run the rest of the brew cycle, wipe down the machine, and run a few water-only cycles to flush out the vinegar. (If you have a Keurig, try this method.)

dirty places in kitchen fridge

5. under The Fridge

That strange smell may not be coming from inside your fridge; it could be the food that slipped under it.

Is it terrible to skip a cleaning? Don’t skip this spot! Odor aside, food that gets stuck under the fridge can attract bugs and mice, and become a breeding ground for mold, according to Pennsylvania-based repair company McCombs Supply Co. The brand’s seen plenty of refrigerators in its 50-plus years of business, and they know firsthand how messy that area can get.

What should I do? Once every three months, McCombs Supply recommends unplugging your fridge and carefully pulling it away from the wall. Use your vacuum’s brush attachment to clean dust from the condenser coils and clean the back wall with soapy water. Make sure everything is dry before sliding the fridge back in place.

dirty places in kitchen ice
knowlesgallery/getty images

6. the Ice Maker/ice Cube Trays

If you never think about cleaning your ice maker or ice cube trays, you’re not alone. It topped the list of “least cleaned” items in the kitchen in a recent Apartment List survey, with one in four people admitting they’d never cleaned theirs before. Ever.

Is it terrible to skip a cleaning? Absolutely. Considering people have gotten e.coli and norovirus from dirty ice, it’s definitely worth the extra effort.

What should I do? Set a calendar alert to clean your ice maker, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, every six months or so. As for the ice cube trays, you should scrub them with dish soap and rinse them clean at least once a month.

candace davison bio
Candace Davison

VP of editorial, recipe developer, kitsch-lover

Candace Davison oversees PureWow's food and home content, as well as its franchises, like the PureWow100 review series and the Happy Kid Awards. She’s covered all things lifestyle...
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