These shortcuts are anything but kind to your kitchen.

By Sarra Sedghi
August 23, 2019
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Your kitchen gets a lot of action. It’s where you prepare meals, which make messes, and then subsequently incite even more disaster in the middle of cleaning up all the burnt liquid on your stove or scrubbing grease off dirty cookware. The kitchen is a catalyst for all kinds of creations, and it’s probably the hardest-working part of your house. If you want your kitchen to respect you, you’ve got to respect it back.

courtesy of Getty.

We’re all guilty of breaking these rules now and then, but that doesn’t mean we can’t change.

Not taking care of your knives

Fancy knives are one of the most important (and costly) arsenals in your kitchen, so you should treat them right. Knives are tough, but they’re also delicate, and mistreating them leads to damage (and, thus, having to buy even more knives). You should only use them for cutting food, not opening packages: If you wouldn’t eat it, then don’t cut it with your nice knives. Wash your knives by hand and don’t leave them in the sink for days. Don’t use your knives on a surface that isn’t a cutting board, because that will damage the blades. Also, don’t just stash them all unguarded in a drawer, because that is a recipe for a nasty cut. If you can’t fit all your knives in a knife block, there is no shame in rigging up a makeshift one with rice and your container of choice.

Cleaning everything with vinegar

First, a disclaimer: I am not encouraging you to abandon vinegar, because vinegar is incredible. But it’s not so incredible at cleaning marble, granite, and stone countertops. White vinegar is acidic, and will slowly wear down those (expensive) surfaces. You wouldn’t clean granite with a lemon (For reference, the pH difference between lemons and white vinegar isn’t too far apart), so for your kitchen’s sake, use a specially formulated cleaning solution or at least warm water and a few drops of dish detergent.

Related: How to Eliminate Bacteria in the Kitchen

Using paper towels instead of hand towels

Ninety percent of the time, when you reach for a paper towel, you’re dealing with a mess or problem that cloth can handle. In addition to having a much lower carbon footprint, cloth towels have more traction, making them better scrubbers that don’t need to be replaced as often. Sop up spills, absorb microwave-based heat, or wipe down counters with a rag or kitchen towel. When it’s too dirty, toss it in the laundry with your other towels.

Washing your meat

This one isn’t just bad for your kitchen it’s bad for your health. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are here to back me up on this one. Firstly, there’s no need to wash raw meat because cooking it will kill any lingering bacteria. Also, washing meat doesn’t kill bacteria, it just spreads it somewhere else, namely your sink and countertops, or anything else that meat juice contacts.

Related: Food Safety: Handling and Cooking Poultry

Not cleaning your sink

Repeat after me: “My sink is disgusting, and I don’t clean it enough.” Good. Even if you do clean your sink regularly (Once a week is the preferred minimum, according to NSF International), it’s probably not enough, especially for one of the dirtiest spots in the house. To start, wash your sink with soap and water. If you have any of those drain catchers, throw out what they’re collected, and wash and disinfect those as well. If you don’t want to touch them very much, I understand, just put them in the dishwasher or let them soak in vinegar for a while. Next, introduce the sink to your disinfectant of choice. Finally, slowly pour a teaspoon of bleach and a quart of warm water down the drain. Remember, do this all at least once a week.

Skipping the oven thermometer

Not all ovens are created equal, and chances are you’ve already determined whether yours is fast or slow. There’s a likelihood that your oven’s interior temperature doesn’t correlate with the knob, which makes it even easier to overcook or undercook your food. Rather than periodically pulling your food out of the oven, invest in an oven thermometer that’ll tell you exactly how hot it is in there.

Related: How to Clean a Microwave

Misusing your cookware

Please don’t use a metal utensil to stir anything cooking in nonstick or enamel cookware, unless you enjoy scratching your things. When everything’s done, let your pots and pans cool down before rinsing them, and definitely don’t shock them with cold water. In addition to making a smoky, steamy mess, you’ll warp and damage the cookware.

Not labeling freezer storage

When you think about it, your freezer may be the most incredible appliance in your kitchen. It’s the magical land where ice cream comes from, but it’s also a time machine for meal prep and leftovers. The problem here is that a lot of leftovers look the same, especially once they’re surrounded by a layer of ice. Then you’ll either defrost the wrong thing or just leave that food in freezer purgatory forever, because going through the trouble of defrosting soup instead of homemade pasta sauce is a pain. Don’t let freezer buildup happen to you. Labeling that food eliminates that entire conundrum.

Saving that sponge

Heads up, germophobes. Remember how I said your kitchen sink is one of the dirtiest spots in the house? There’s a strong chance your sponge is even dirtier, and washing dishes with a dirty sponge just spreads bacteria. Throw your current sponge away right now and replace it with a fresh one. (If you’re really that attached to it, at least run it through the dishwasher.) Or, make the switch to a dish brush since it’s not a paradise for bacteria.

This story originally appeared on MyRecipes.com.

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