Even if you spend half the time I do on TikTok you are sure to have come across some incredibly useful cleaning videos. Often though, they focus on the countertops, the sink or the oven. What I've been looking for is specific: tips for cleaning my pantry, and particularly my pantry shelves.
They seem to be constantly littered with debris and sticky grime that takes ages to shift. I had spent ages planning how to organize my pantry well, but the shelf smut was ruining the aesthetic.
I have found countless ways of organizing deep pantry shelves in the past and, boy, can it be time-consuming. One of the main reasons I never got around to deep cleaning the shelves was the time it took to reorganize again afterwards.
However, a good scroll later, I was ready to speed through cleaning my pantry shelves in half the time it usually takes me. And I want to share them with you here.
1. Start high, work downwards, one shelf at a time
Ideally, you might take everything out of your pantry in one go, clean all the surfaces and put everything back, all in one go. But life just doesn't work out like that does it? One minute, you're halfway through deep cleaning the entire pantry, the next you have to dash out to do something else. Doing this also allows you to tackle pantry cleaning in between other jobs – when you're waiting for the kettle to boil, for example.
So, I followed the advice to empty one and clean one shelf at a time, starting at the top, so that any grime and debris only fell onto other shelves. And before you say, 'but hold on, you're sweeping muck onto all your food below', let me tell you that a length of kitchen paper not only stops this happening, but catches the debris, which can be then shook off into the bin. And the paper can be used later for mopping up mess from the floor. Besides, you haven't read tip two yet.
2. Don't wipe, vacuum
This is a step I stole from my favorite home organizers on TikTok. I had (rather stupidly) never thought of popping the handheld attachment on my vacuum and using it to clear the shelves of debris before tackling the grime. Not only did it make the process easier and quicker, it also helped keep my cloths cleaner, meaning I could use them for longer without switching out for new ones – less laundry to do later.
I've adapted this tip when cleaning a kitchen generally, too, vacuuming crumbs off of the counters, from inside cabinets and even out of the microwave. Yes, I've gone full John McClane.
3. Use vinegar to cut through the grime, fast
I'd seen videos about cleaning with vinegar to make windows streak-free, but I hadn't thought about using it on my pantry shelving ideas. The shelves had quickly built up grease from my daily cooking and the sticky residue from the bottom of sauce bottles.
It was the easiest way to clean kitchen grease, and I had some in my pantry already. White vinegar works best. If you can't stand the smell, I found that a good food-safe kitchen degreaser, like this one on Amazon, will quickly get shelves clean and make a pantry smell wonderfully fresh.
How often should I clean out my pantry?
It is a good idea to clean out a pantry around once a month to help remove expired items, dust and degrease the shelves, and take inventory of what you own. This will help to keep on top of it rather than it become overwhelming and cluttered with time.
How do you maintain a pantry?
To maintain a pantry complete semi-regular inventories to take stock of what you already own, this can help to keep your space neat as well as prevent doubling up on goods. It is a good idea to take the time to declutter your pantry of expired goods and things you no longer need or want whilst doing this.
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Chiana has been at Homes & Gardens for a year, having started her journey in interior journalism as part of the graduate program. She spends most of her time producing content for the Solved section of the website, helping readers get the most out of their homes through clever decluttering, cleaning, and tidying tips – many of which she tests and reviews herself in her home in Lancaster to ensure they will consistently deliver for her readers and dabbles in the latest design trends. She also has a first-class degree in Literature from Lancaster University.
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