Constructing an Easy-to-Clean Kitchen

rmiriamMay 1, 2013

I've been thinking about my kitchen finishes, and also about the fact that I live with one sloppy man and a sloppy toddler, who will soon by a sloppy teenager. So...what elements of a kitchen make it low-maintenance? Seems like my planned undermount sink, quartz countertops and induction range are winners; the wood floors and painted Shaker cabinets not so much :)

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the things you mentioned seem like winners to me.

Tile flooring is probably more forgiving than wood in terms of cleanup...but trade offs are that it's a naturally harder and "colder" flooring option.

Cabinetry - Slab is probably the easiest to keep clean than any cabinets that have nooks and crannies (Shaker included).

Backsplashes - look for tile that has a very smooth surface and larger tile to grout ratio (grout is always more difficult to clean, I think)

Appliances - stainless usually will show much more fingerprints. Black is probably runner up in the fingerprint category, but IMO, was easier to keep clean.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:04AM
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Well, it's an old discussion around here, but for most people medium to dark wood cabinets make it much harder to keep a kitchen clean and much more comfortable to keep it dirty. They provide wonderful camouflage, and you can't see most of the dirt as it goes on, so you either don't wash what's "not there," you take some hopeful swipes at the areas you expect to get dirty, or you invest time and attention either finding and cleaning dirty spots or simply routinely cleaning all cabinet surfaces because that's what a person like you does. (I've never been a "you" in this last case.) Any food and handprints that're missed harden and become much harder to clean, and that goes for the greasy dirt that can build up unnotices over time on upper surfaces that are hardly ever touched.

As opposed to cabinets light enough, painted or wood, that allow you to see spills and grubby little handprints while they can still be wiped off with a wet paper towel, or at least each week or so with some cleaner.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:09AM
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I'm also interested in an easy-to-clean kitchen. I think your ideas are good, though an induction range (I've had one) isn't really any easier to clean -- all stoves are going to have the same problems. My thoughts:

- Flooring in a shade to match the dirt in your area. For me, that's red clay. You might have sand or something else.
- Ditto for a sink. Something in the off-white family is easier to keep clean than stark white or a dark color. I'd say either Silgranite or a good quality stainless steel (avoid cheap stainless steel).
- Avoid deep corners that're hard to reach into; likewise, avoid an overly deep island that's difficult to reach across. Note: I am barely 5' tall and have proportionally short arms.
- A pantry is a good place to keep things "out of sight". I'm planning a 4' workspace in mine, and I intend to use it for a crock pot that's running or bread that's rising, storing dessert out of the way 'til the right time -- even dirty dishes that I want out of company's sightline.
- Appliance finishes matter. I have black -- I know this isn't the right term -- with a pattern. Shiney black would've picked up fingerprints, but this textured 'fridge hides them.
- Plan a drop-spot so that "stuff" doesn't accumulate on your counters: You know what I mean -- mail, sunglasses, phones.
- Plan a space for everything that you use on a regular basis: The mixer, for example, deserves some thought. Don't neglect food-stuff too; a bread drawer can keep that staple out of sight. The more "stuff" you have out on your counter, the less likely it'll be wiped down on a regular basis . . . and the more likely it is that people'll feel free to add to what already looks like clutter.
- Think through where your dishes'll be. Where will dirties go? Are your cabinets convenient to the dishwasher? The easier you make it, the more likely it is to be done on a regular basis. Be sure your everyday glassware and silverware are in the most-convenient locations. Christmas china and other little-used items can be relegated to less-accessible spaces -- like the cabinets over the refrigerator.
- Plan a one-hole faucet. Less space for gunk to accumulate. Similarly, consider a built-in soap dispenser.
- Keep your trash can close to your prep area and your sink. The farther you carry trash, the more likely you'll slop it on the floor.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:14AM
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Sophie Wheeler

If you want something easy to clean, you only have to look at restaurant kitchens for ideas. Stainless counters and backsplash are easy to wipe clean and sanitize. A tile floor with epoxy grout and a floor drain for when you really have to scrub the place down. Good ventilation to keep the grease and dirt from joining and making a rock hard sticky combination on the adjacent surfaces. Refrigeration inside dedicated containers for messy or drippy substances.

If you use the right products, stainless is MUCH easier to keep clean than is black. Black is like owning a black car. Every single dust spec will show 15 minutes after you clean it. Stainless is a breeze to just wipe clean if you use Pledge on it. Add in a bit of Barkeeper's Friend if you need to scrub off something stuck on.

And if you are doing an open concept home, you have to translate that "easy to clean" bit to the rest of the open space. Pancake batter from a mixer can fly pretty far if your helper removes the beaters while they are still running. Ceilings, upholstery, lamps, all of that needs to be wipe-able, slip-coverable, Bissel-able, or dishwasher-able. If you live your life in a workroom, your life needs to change a few priorities about it's accoutrements.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:29AM
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Hollysprings, I like the verb "Bissel-able" :)

These are some great points! There are a few things I can't change. The kitchen will be open, and the LR/DR have original hardwood in them. I'm told that the same is probably under the current kitchen floor, so I'll keep it. As for the 4' workspace in a pantry...that's my dream, but ain't gonna happen in this 1200 ft2 house!

What do y'all think about white appliances? I'm not in love with stainless (although my induction range is, because they don't come in white and it was a killer deal), and black is a bit too dark for my space.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:53AM
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I have been thinking that white appliances might look very good with grey or green cabinets, dark counters, darker wood floor etc. I currently have white, don't like them with the current off white cabinets and light counter, and was planning on SS; but the price difference between SS and white has given me pause.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 11:48AM
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Just went through this actually. A couple of points:

1) I wanted to see the dirt - I'm not an obsessive cleaner, but I do like to keep things clean, so I wanted easy to clean things, rather than hard to see dirt things.

2) Went with white appliances, they look fabulous. Our cabs are "artic white" to match the appliances. We chose our white based on appliance white, so it doesn't look wonky next to the cabs.

3) White uppers, dark lowers. That gave me a bit of a contrast, but still easy to clean and see the dirt.

4) Slab doors

5) One piece pulls with no decorations and no little crannies

6) Tile floor - there is now epoxy grout

7) Limited glass doors (only one for decoration)

8) No open shelves (people would debate me how hard these are to clean)

9) Tons of storage, so things can go away. I don't like stuff on the counter like the toaster and then when you want to clean it's in the way. On the other hand, we do have to take it out and put it away, so that's a bit of a bother. My kids and husband needed to be trained on that one.

  1. White quartz counters.

  2. White silgranit sink. Actually having got rid of the SS one, I'd say this is about 10 times easier to clean. Magic Eraser, boom, it's clean. But my contractor made an error, and in one sink he put the SS stopper, and in the other the white stopper. Both were supposed to be white. I think the white stopper is harder to keep clean.

  3. Good vent fan to keep grease away from cabs.

  4. Big backsplash tiles, so less grout and easier to wipe up. Ours are ceramic and 4x12.

  5. Cabs to ceiling, so no dusting up there.

There's probably more, but that's a pretty good list. Ours is super easy to clean, and I'm happy with our decisions.

This post was edited by jansin62 on Wed, May 1, 13 at 12:08

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 12:05PM
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I would prefer a solid color countertop in my kitchen. We "inherited" a lovely black-grey-white granite look Corian, it's actually quite pretty, but you can't see crumbs on it. No, this is NOT good, because when you go to wipe the counters, a little mountain of unseen crumbs goes to the floor. You also can't tell when there's a spill.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 12:11PM
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Do not get white appliances, if you are concerned with constant wiping. If you have active people in your house or small kids with grubby hands, the door handle will always look dingy. I've had them and so have my parents -- my dad is especially murder on the fridge after working in the garden -- which is all the time. The grime has a way of working its way into the texture that is difficult to clean.

For the bs, there are thin quartz and large sheet porcelain products available (or laminate) that can be used for a durable, easy to clean backsplash with no seams.

And its been said many times before, avoid the deep black glossy surfaces as they show dust, crumbs, water marks, and fingerprints too easily. A mid-tone with a pattern will be "kitchen camo" in a busy household.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 1:37PM
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Hire a good cleaning person and get what you want for the kitchen!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 2:02PM
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Get beveled edges for the stiles and rails of your Shaker cabinets. It still looks like Shaker without the need to Q-tip the corners.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 2:32PM
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Very good ventilation--as quiet as can be afforded so it'll be turned on routinely--seems highly desirable, especially for an open kitchen. Some systems mount the blower well away from the kitchen for noise control.

There's a recent thread about what people wash in their dishwasher. I said that everything I normally allow in my kitchen goes in. That way nothing sits out waiting to be washed or waiting to dry. If you start now, your child won't realize for years that not everyone clears straight into the dishwasher. The big guy may be a little harder...

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 3:30PM
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Weissman- LOL! I wish :)

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 5:54PM
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Embrace your hardwood floors that are under the current flooring! Wood floors are the easiest thing to clean in my house. The extra plus is they don't show dirt when they are dirty. I can't believe I am admitting this on a forum, but my floors in the main living part of my house (foyer, LR, kitchen , DR, and one bath have not been mopped for at least 4 weeks. They do get swiffered if that counts :). I know they are dirty, I just can't see it. I can only imagine what they would look like if they were light tile or light grout.

I must admit, I don't usually do this, but it is a busy time for me at work (still working at 6:30 and will be here a while long, but took a break to check in here) and have family committments/emergencies that have taken up the last three weekends.

Darker tiles would work for you also if you can't live with the wood floors.

I too am trying to decide on appliances in the future. Currently have black and while I don't dislike them, they kind of suck the life out of a kitchen that gets very little natural light. I hear too many horror stories about SS, so may go with white.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 6:45PM
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Everything I picked out had to be easy clean.

- modified shaker doors (wanted the ones May_flowers has, but not available in my line so I got ones that are close)
- simple pulls with no crevices, Amerock Westerly
- rounded sink corner vs zero radius
- single hole faucet with no fancy details, and a handle without crevices, Kohler Simplice, which will be mounted with handle in the front
- cork floor
- only 36 in uppers, but will have spacer and crown to the ceiling (8ft)
- induction range, which I do feel is easier to clean since things don't get baked on like radiant heat
- planned storage for mixer, dishes, etc so everything has a home
- hood! Real venting at last! No seams in the housing, and powerful enough to use on low most of the time so it will be quiet.

Also have a powder room off the kitchen
- skirted toilet
- simple vanity with shelf inside
- coated vanity light that the lighting guy swore only needs a swipe with a dry rag to keep clean. We'll see. It was calling my name though.

I would have used slab doors if I thought the house would support the look. I think I might regret picking a busy granite, thought I'd like it hiding stuff, now I'm not sure. But it will be easy to clean, so might not be a problem.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 8:41PM
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May_flowers, I never thought of that! Will definitely keep the beveled edges in mind. But I thought that newer white appliances would not have the textured handles? I also hate the hand shadow on the older white appliances.

I will say, though, that the induction range is definitely easier to clean because nothing bakes on. I love it!

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 8:59PM
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Seeing dirt / not seeing dirt -- sounds like personal opinion and personal tolerance level.

I can't believe I forgot cabinets to the ceiling! That's a huge one. I have cabinets at work that don't reach the ceiling, and it's FILTHY up there. Every so often I get up there to sweep it off . . . and that just means I bring all the dust down. I sneeze and my eyes tear up. No way I want that at home. I have discovered a secret weapon though: When I clean the cabinet tops, I lay a thin layer of newspaper across the top . . . then I throw it away later. No, it's not perfect, but it's better than nothing.

Like several others, I LOVE MayFlower's cabinet door. Simple, yet not a dust grabber. To point out the obvious, if you wipe them down every week or two, the dust won't accumulate in the crevices.

I like the shade of MayFlower's doors too. White is hard to keep clean, dark shows dust . . . but a midpoint. Just like the Baby Bear said, "Just right".

Stovetops: If you wipe up spills immediately, none of them are hard to clean. If you let them sit, regardless of what type of stovetop, you have a mess. By definition, NO stove is easy to clean. They all end up splattered with grease, etc.

    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 9:51PM
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LOL, weissman, and if you don't cook, things stay MUCH cleaner!


    Bookmark   May 1, 2013 at 10:12PM
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