Take Control of the Space Under Your Kitchen Sink

Whether you're neat at heart or a perpetual clutter bug, organizing the space under the kitchen sink can be a challenge. With these five ideas, you can turn this valuable storage space into a place that is functional and tidy. Here's how to start:

1. Toss old products out.
Get rid of all stained, encrusted and half-empty bottles of cleaning products. If you haven't used them up by now, chances are you never will. (Besides, chemicals in household cleaners lose their potency over a lengthy period of time.)

2. Pare down what's left.
You can do your basic kitchen cleaning with just 6 products:

  • Liquid dishwashing detergent: gentle enough not to damage any surfaces, but good enough to get the job done.
  • All-Purpose Cleaner: when you need some abrasive power, these products will do the job without harming any surface (except glass). (Bon Ami is one of my favorites.)
  • Glass cleaner
  • Degreasing cleaner
  • Vinegar: a mild acid that is effective in many ways. It will get rid of hard water deposits, remove film accumulation on your coffee maker, and much more (to remove film in coffee maker and get rid of hard water deposits and help unclog slow drains.
  • Oven cleaner or ammonia: Place a cup of ammonia in an unheated oven overnight to help loosen carbon from the walls and make cleaning easier.

You'll also need a few tools for basic cleaning: a bucket, soft cloths, rubber gloves, and a scraping tool for stubborn stains; sometimes the edge of a plastic credit card is enough. For heavy scraping (to remove caked-on food, for example) I like a safety razor: always use it on an angle, and make sure you have a lubricating medium (such as oil or water) underneath.

3. Group cleaners together.
If you are short on space and use any product or products infrequently, consider placing them in a less conspicuous place (such as laundry, garage or bath). If there are children in the house, you will want to move the oven cleaner and any other strong chemicals to a place where they are hard to reach.

4. Clean up.
Before you replace the products, clean the area with soap and water, then lay down a liner to protect the surface. The most inexpensive and versatile solution I've found is a piece of vinyl flooring. It comes in a variety of colors and patterns, is very durable, can be cut to size with scissors, and is very easy to clean. Occasionally take it out of the cupboard and wipe it down as needed. (Home Depot sells small pieces of vinyl that are appropriate for this purpose.)

5. Organize your space.
Buy turntables, stackable containers, and expandable wire shelving—whichever works best in your area—to expand the amount of storage space. Caddies are good for keeping related products together. If there is any spillage it's easier to clean out the caddy than the entire are under the sink. Caddies are also easily transportable. (Put rubber gloves and cleaning cloths in the caddies.) Mount one or two holders inside the cupboard door to store plastic wrap, aluminum foil, and plastic bags.

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