Cleaning guru Aggie MacKenzie shares her proven tips for keeping the heart of your home spotless – and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.
As part of our 25th birthday celebrations, we called upon the skills of TV personality and clean queen, Aggie MacKenzie, to guide us through our bumper spring clean and beyond with her 25 ways of sprucing up the most important room in the house...
How to clean your sink...
1. If your stainless steel sink looks dull or has rusty stains, here’s how to get it to gleam again. Squirt a little washing-up liquid over the surface, then scrub with a dampened pot scourer. Rinse and wipe with a cloth dipped in household white distilled vinegar (but not white wine vinegar, which is different) then buff dry with either kitchen roll or scrunched-up newspaper. You’ll need sunglasses to look at it now!
2. Does your kitchen sink outlet smell, or is water slow to drain away? Put a handful of soda crystals plus a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda at the mouth of the drain, then pour over a kettle of boiling water. Stand back and watch the action – it’ll fizz madly for a few seconds. Pour over a second kettle of boiling water and your drain will smell fresh again.
3. A newly installed granite work surface looks fantastic but I get many letters from people complaining of water stains after a while (more likely if you live in a hard-water area). The best remedy is ultra-fine wire wool (grade 0000): rub the area very gently with some of the dampened wire wool and wipe dry. Not all granite is the same, so check in an unobtrusive corner before attacking the whole kitchen.
How to get rid of smells...
4. Smelly wooden chopping board? Rub over some dried mustard powder, leave overnight, then scrub under a hot tap, rinse and dry.
How to get rid of pests...
5. If you find weevils or flour moths – you’ll see webbing first, or the odd moth flutter out when you open a cupboard – take instant action! Empty everything out of the cupboard and throw away all opened packs (and put in the outside bin quickly). Then vacuum your cupboards, especially the corners where eggs have been laid (empty the vacuum cleaner afterwards), and wash and dry your cupboards. Buy flour and other dry goods in small quantities, as moths can turn up any time of the year. Store nuts in the freezer – they keep ages longer and you can use them straight from frozen.
6. Fruit flies (which are more common in summer, particularly as our climate gets warmer) are a pain. The only way you’ll see them off is to keep every single food item – even potatoes – in the fridge. Eventually they’ll starve and disappear.
7. Plagued by ants? They don’t carry disease but most people don’t want them crawling all over the worktops. First find the source, then pour some boiling water over. If you’d rather deter them than slaughter them, sprinkle some chilli powder instead.
How to get rid of grease...
8. The top of the cooker hood is a magnet for dust and grease. The easiest way to cut through this is with a hot, damp microfibre cloth (the fluffy sort), followed by a waffle cloth (textured like a waffle) for extra absorbency to help surfaces dry quicker. Some people prefer to use the cloths the other way round – see which suits you.
9. If you have baked-on grease coating the glass of the oven door, apply some soapy water, then go at it with a scraper from a DIY shop (the sort used for removing splashes of paint from window glass after decorating).
How to clean the oven...
10. We all know the best way to keep an oven clean (if you don’t have a self-cleaning model) is to wipe it down after each use. If you’ve left it a long time, a noncaustic remedy for smooth enamel oven interiors is to coat all inside surfaces with a thick paste of bicarbonate of soda and water. Leave overnight, then scrub with warm water and a scourer. If you want to give yourself a treat, don’t be ashamed of calling in a professional cleaner, who will return it to showroom condition.
11. If you never want to clean the oven floor again, invest in the Magic Oven Liner (available from Lakeland and Amazon), a non-stick heavy duty sheet that will catch every splash of goo. It’s easy to remove and you can even put it in the dishwasher.
How to clean the floor...
12. I no longer use a broom on my kitchen floor – I’m a cordless stick-vacuum convert! I keep my AEG Ergorapido charged on standby in the cupboard to whip out at a moment’s notice, and no need to track down the dustpan and brush afterwards. Love it.
13. String mops may be traditional but they always look mucky and I don’t believe they do a good job of cleaning. There is nothing to beat the E-Cloth microfibre floor mop. The strip of cloth attaches to the mophead and after each use, into the washing machine it goes, nice and clean for next time.
14. A steam mop on floor tiles is a good idea if you have toddlers knocking around. Steam is great at breaking down dirt and grease, and getting rid of germs.
How to freshen things up...
15. Lemon juice and salt works wonders on dull copper pans. Sprinkle salt over the flesh of half a lemon and rub over the metal. It immediately releases the tarnish and the copper shines through. Rinse and dry.
16. Window cleaning used to be such a chore, but not with microfibre cloths. Just wipe the dirt off with a soapy, fluffy microfibre cloth, rinse, then buff dry with a window cloth (it has the same texture as a specs cleaning cloth). No smears, guaranteed.
17. Do you love fish but not the smell it leaves behind in your kitchen after cooking? My advice is to use a chef's candle each time to eliminate any lingering fishy odours.
How to get the most from your appliances...
18. Next time you put your dishwasher on, stick your washing-up cloth or sponge on the top basket. It’ll get a good clean and those nasty odours will stay away a bit longer. If your sink has a basket strainer, or you have a caddy for washing-up liquid and brushes, stick that in too.
19. If you’ve cleaned out the fridge and it still smells stale, odours may have penetrated the plastic. Try either a saucer of bicarbonate of soda or freshly ground coffee on one of the shelves.
20. Every week I get asked: ‘Why does my washing machine smell musty?’ The reason is that we’re all washing too often at low temperatures or using the quick cycle. Bacteria, which produce gases that give off a bad smell, will survive a 30C wash, so when the water drains away, the bacteria are left behind to build up and grow in number inside the machine – hence the nasty niffs (and eventually black mould on the seal). The answer? Throw a cup of household white distilled vinegar into the empty drum and run the machine on the hottest wash. Thereafter, do a 60C wash once a week, particularly for towels and cotton sheets.
21. Who reheated curry in the microwave, splattered it everywhere – and now it’s welded to the roof and sides? Never fear: put a heatproof bowl half-filled with hot water and a few lemon slices inside and turn on to High for 5 mins. The steam will loosen the food stains and the lemon will save you from retching.
22. Hard water will leave limescale in your kettle. The most efficient (and cheapest) way to get rid is to half-fill with white vinegar (not brown – it will overspill when boiled!) and half water, then bring to the boil. Leave overnight and drain. Most of the scale should come away (you may need to repeat). Rinse the kettle three times until all traces of vinegar are gone.
23. If the enamel of your cast-iron Le Creuset is stained let a slice of fresh pineapple take the strain – the enzyme within cuts right through the food stain, making it easier to clean.
How to clean your pots...
24. Is that bargain wok now rusty and sad-looking? Take half a potato, smear washing-up liquid on the cut side, then wipe the pan surface with it. Rinse well, then apply a light coating of oil with a paper towel.
25. Your roasting tin is caked with burnt-on grease. No problem – there’s an easy way out. Sprinkle over a handful of biological washing powder, half fill with water and heat on the hob until simmering. Leave to soak overnight, and in the morning the crust will rub away.
Do you have any cleaning tricks for creating an enviably sparkling kitchen. We'd love to hear your secrets - if you're willing to share them...