How To Clean The Kitchen (1950s Housewife Did This)

How to Clean Your Kitchen Like a 1950s Housewife

I never learned to clean the kitchen properly. So I found out how the women who KNEW how to keep the house clean did it. Here’s the step-by-step method that you should follow to keep your kitchen clean.

How To Clean the Kitchen

How To Clean The Kitchen

Here is how to clean the kitchen after a meal: put away all the food, soak the cooking utensils and rinse and stack the dishes, wipe the countertops and refrigerator, wash, dry, and put away all the dishes and utensils, clean the stovetop (and the oven if needed), empty the garbage (food scraps), clean the sink and drains, scald the dishcloth, and clean the floor.

The cleaning of the kitchen is a three-times-a-day job. When a meal is over the dishes should be washed and the kitchen straightened up before you go about other household work. High standards of cleanliness should always be maintained in the room where food is stored and prepared.

Remember how to clean the kitchen as you cook!

Building Step-By-Step Routines To Clean the Kitchen

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America’s Housekeeping Book is the #1 book for learning how to clean like a vintage housewife, although its routines and suggestions date back to the WWII housewife! This book was quite popular and went through several reprints thanks to its comprehensive approach to caring for the home.

America’s Housekeeping Book is also the basis for the 1950s housewife routine online, which originated from Jen But Never Jenn back in 2010. She used a routine from a book for newlyweds, The Bride’s Reference Book, which used the housekeeping routines from America’s Housekeeping Book (at least according to MY copy!)

However, there are other vintage homemaking books with step-by-step routines to help you learn the best way to clean. Here are some of my favorites:

1950s Housewife Kitchen Habits

  • Wear an apron when you work.
  • Put away all of the ingredients used in preparing food before dishing up the meal and serving it.
  • After dishing up food to serve it, soak the cooking utensils.
  • Straighten shelves regularly and keep your equipment in order. 
  • Wash up spilled food and spots immediately. 
  • Avoid attracting household pests by keeping shelves, counter space, and floor free from crumbs and food particles all the time.
  • Avoid moisture or damp rags under the sink or around the refrigerator.
  • Wash dishes after every meal.
  • Sweep the floor after each meal.
  • Empty the garbage after each meal.
To Clean the Kitchen is a 3-times-a-day job.

Daily Routine To Clean The Kitchen 

Open The Windows

Open the kitchen windows or turn on the kitchen ventilator to get rid of lingering food smells and greasy or smoky air.

Put on a dishwashing apron — not necessarily one of your cooking aprons.

Put Away Food

Put leftovers away in proper containers. 

Check and reorganize foodstuffs that were used during preparation. (Putting away all of the ingredients used in preparing food BEFORE you sit down to a meal is another really important kitchen habit.) 

Rinse And Stack Dishes, Pots, And Pans

Put the cooking utensils to soak now, if you haven’t already.

  • Use cold water in utensils that have held milk, egg or cheese mixtures, or dough
  • Use hot water in utensils that have held syrup, frosting mixtures, candy, etc.
  • Use hot soapsuds in greasy utensils

Scrape dishes with a rubber plate scraper or with paper towels. (I use an old rubber spatula.)

Rinse dishes with hot water.

Stack dishes according to size and shape, on the right-hand drainboard.

Wipe Off The Work Surfaces

Wipe off the top, front, and side of the refrigerator. Wipe the countertops and all the other work surfaces in need of cleaning.

Wash The Dishes, Dry Them, And Put Them Away

You can wash dishes by hand or in a dishwasher, but knowing the steps and supplies for washing dishes is so important that I have a whole article on how to wash your dishes by hand.

The basic method for hand-washing dishes, pots, and pans is:

  • Fill the sink with hot soapy-sudsy water.
  • Wash in any preferred order. The usual order is:
    • Glassware
    • Silver
    • Dishes
    • Cooking utensils
  • Change the suds frequently. Dirty water won’t make dishes clean.
  • Stack the dishes in the drainer as they are washed.
  • Rinse immediately with hot, not scalding, water so that the soapy film won’t dry on the dishes. 
  • Dry glassware and silver with clean, lintless towels. If dishes are rinsed with hot water they will dry by themselves and can be put away at your convenience.

Reserve scouring powder and steel wool or similar metal cleaners for use on pots and pans—never subject fine china to such harsh treatment.

The basic method for washing dishes in a dishwasher is:

  • Wash pots and pans first (burned-on food should be removed by hand).
  • Scrape the dishes thoroughly.
  • Follow the manufacturer’s directions for loading the trays.
  • Add soap and a water-softening compound in the exact kinds and quantities recommended by the manufacturer. Too much lather is a hindrance to thorough cleaning.
  • Run the dishwasher for the length of time suggested by the manufacturer.
  • Dry glasses and silver with clean, lintless towels, and put them away.
  • Let the dishes dry by themselves and put them away at your convenience.

America’s Housekeeping Book recommends once a week, adding ½ cup of vinegar to the second rinse, to add luster to glass and china and to sweeten the dishwasher.

Clean The Stove

For an enameled gas or electric stove, wipe the surface and drip tray with a damp cloth. Never wash enameled surfaces when they are hot, or the finish may craze and crack.

If the oven has been used, let it cool off and then clean off any spatterings with mild scouring powder and fine steel wool. Charred material can be removed with a brush or spatula. In many modern ranges, the oven bottom can be removed for easy cleaning.

If the broiler is used, let it stand and cool until the fat is solidified. (Never pour fat down the sink drain!) Scrape out the solid fat with a rubber plate scraper and wipe out any remaining fat with a paper towel. Wipe the rack with paper towels. Wash rack and pan in hot soapsuds; rinse with hot water; dry thoroughly.

Wash the inside of the broiling compartment with a cloth wrung out of hot soapsuds. Rinse with a cloth wrung out of clear water. Dry.

For a wood range, wait until the fire is out and the stove is barely warm, and then remove the ashes. Black the stove (with nonflammable blacking!) if it is iron, or use the method above if it is enameled. Polish the metal trim.


Dry any damp work surfaces and the stovetop.

Once the surfaces are dry and the dishes are put away, then wipe the stove hood, and dust the radiator or register, the tops, the ledges, and the furniture. This only needs to be done once a day, not after every meal.

Take Out The Garbage

Take out the garbage and put a clean lining in the garbage can.

Garbage should be well drained before it is put in the can, and the can should be emptied at least once a day. 

 Always line the can with paper. Moisture-proof liners to fit the can may be purchased, or you can use grocers’ brown paper bags.

Clean The Sink

Rinse the sponge, dishcloth, or mop in scalding water. Hang it outdoors or in the sun, if possible. Do the same with the scrubbers and brushes.

Soap and water or a mild scouring powder will keep the sink clean and in good condition. Avoid harsh scouring powders or using an acid, like vinegar, on an enameled sink.

After each use, flush very hot or boiling water down the drain to carry off any grease and leave the trap full of clean water. At the end of the day, it is nice to add a spoonful of baking soda to the drain before flushing.

After rinsing the sink and flushing the drain, use a clean dry cloth to dry the surface and produce a soft sheen.

Change The Towels

Collect the soiled dishtowels. Always use a clean dishtowel, even switching to a new towel while drying the dishes, if needed.

Hang them to dry in the laundry, so that they don’t mold before washing, or wash them straight away. 

Hang fresh hand and dish towels. 

Clean The Floor

Sweep or dust-mop the floor thoroughly. What kind of broom or dust mop you use will depend on your flooring material. But try to have a broom reserved for kitchen use only.

Your kitchen floor will probably need to be damp-mopped once a day unless you eat out a lot.

Like every other room in the house, the kitchen requires a weekly cleaning

Weekly Routine To Keep the Kitchen Clean

Clean The Refrigerator

Put away all foods except those that are stored in the refrigerator. Check and reorganize foods in the pantry and cabinets.

Remove all foods from the refrigerator.

Remove freezing trays, empty them, and wash them in hot soapsuds. Rinse with scalding water and dry. Remove racks or shelves and wash in the same way. 

Wash the inside of the refrigerator with a cloth wrung out of cool water in which borax or baking soda has been dissolved, 1 tablespoon of borax or soda to 1 pint of water. 

Wash the outside of the refrigerator with mild soapsuds. Rinse with a cloth wrung out of clean water and dry thoroughly.

If you have a drip tray, empty the pan under the freezing unit, wash in warm suds, rinse thoroughly, and dry. 

If you have an icebox, pour a strong solution of washing soda and water down the drainpipe and use a long brush to remove any accumulation of dirt or slime. Remove the drain pipe for cleaning if necessary.

Return the food to the refrigerator.

Clean The Stove

Clean the range and the oven thoroughly.

Clean the stove hood and fan blades.

Clean Food Boxes

Clean, scald, and sun vegetable bins, bread boxes, and cake boxes.

Clean The Cabinets

Clean out and wash 1 cupboard or several drawers in rotation, weekly.

Get rid of any unnecessary items. Order ranks next to cleanliness in importance, for nowhere is it more essential to have a place for everything and everything in its place than in the kitchen. Food preparation, dishwashing—all the many kitchen tasks—are sped along if there is no searching and groping for the thing you need!


Dust the lighting fixtures.

Dust window shades or Venetian blinds.

Take down curtains for laundering at least once a month, if not every week.

Brush the ceiling at least once a month.

Clean The Walls

Wash the wall behind the sink, stove, and work surfaces, if washable. 

Wash and disinfect the work surfaces. 

Wash the outside of the cabinets and shelves to remove fingermarks.

Wash woodwork and windows at least once a month, doing a little each week.

Clean Garbage Pail

Wash the garbage pail at least once a week with soap powder and hot water. Rinse dry. A long-handled brush is convenient for this work.

Sun and air the garbage can after washing. Disinfect occasionally with a safe household disinfectant.

If you’ve been scalding and sunning your dishcloth all week, send it to the laundry and use a new one. Disinfect your dishmop, dish brushes, or sponge.

Polish Fixtures

Clean metal fixtures, soap dish, sink strainer, dish drainer, and sink. Polish them with a soft cloth.

Spring Cleaning Has a Routine for How to Clean Your Kitchen, Too!

Seasonal Care Of The Kitchen

Seasonal care is spring and fall cleaning. In the kitchen, however, you may want to do these things every spring, summer, fall, and winter, to make sure that the kitchen is truly clean.

Wash Lighting Fixtures

Wash lighting fixtures and light globes.

Clean The Walls

Clean the ceiling.

Wash all the woodwork and walls.

Clean The Windows

Thoroughly clean or wash the window shades or Venetian blinds.

Take down curtains to wash, dry, and pack away. Unpack and press fresh, clean seasonal curtains.

Wash the windows and put up the fresh curtains.

Wax The Floor

Wax and polish the linoleum, finished wood, or tile.

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America’s Housekeeping Book, Charles Scribner & Sons.

The Good Housekeeping Housekeeping Book, Helen Crandall.

The 1-2-3 Of Homemaking, Marion Hurst.