When we asked readers about their top cooking gripes, cleaning was high on the list, cited by 39 percent of them. Here are some ways to make the process less laborious:
Choose a speedy dishwasher. The downside of more water- and energy-efficient machines is a cycle time that can approach 3 hours. Some models are quicker, such as the $700 Bosch Ascenta SHX3AR7UC, which took a relatively brisk 95 minutes in our tests; a 30-minute cycle works for lighter loads.
Skip the prerinsing. Most modern dishwashers don’t need it. You’ll save time, and you could reduce your household’s annual water consumption by up to 6,500 gallons.
Let all-purpose cleaners settle in. Manufacturers of those products often make “spray and wipe” claims. But based on our tests, letting them sit for a few minutes results in better cleaning power, which could save you time in the long run. Our top-rated spray cleaner was Seventh Generation Natural All Purpose Cleaner.
Clean smoothtops quickly. Cleanup is easy with smoothtop cooktops. But food that contains sugar, such as tomato sauce, can bond with the glass if you let it cool. For routine care, use a cleaner made especially for smoothtops. Cerama Bryte and Cooktop Magic combined value and performance in our tests.
Consider a robotic vacuum. They can’t deliver the deep carpet cleaning of a regular vacuum, but they’re perfect for collecting cereal, crumbs, and other surface debris from the kitchen floor. Tops in our tests was the Roomba 760, $450 (shown).
Clean as you go. Put ingredients away once you’re finished with them—or enlist someone else to do so, including a child who’s old enough. Keep a bowl or receptacle on your work surface for food scraps, preferably running them out to a compost heap once meal prep is complete.
Time refrigerator cleanings. Wait until it’s almost empty, then push any remaining items to one side. Clean shelves with a sponge and a solution of dish detergent and warm water. Rotate the items and repeat until the entire refrigerator is clean.