One reason you absolutely should not cook is: it’s messy.
Yet most of us know you have to break a few eggs to make an omelet, and so even we renters—with the small kitchens and creaky drawers and ugly floor tiles—we cook. We make scrambled eggs (and ok, omelets) for ourselves, and sweet potato-gouda frittatas for our friends. We try out new recipes; we bake batches of cookies; we even host Thanksgiving dinners. And then, again and again and again, we clean up.
The need to wipe down counters and sweep up crumbs from the floor won’t go away if you cook often—and you should cook often. But, if you’re a renter, there are a few improvements you can do when you move in to make it easier to keep the kitchen tidy on a daily basis—and neat enough long term to get that deposit back when you leave.
Here are three tips for setting up a rental kitchen to prevent huge messes later.
Line Cabinets, Shelves and Drawers
No matter how neat you think you are, you’re probably going to spill the honey one day, while whisking together some inauspicious Dijon vinaigrette. But if you’ve lined the shelf where you keep the sweet bottle, you won’t have to sweat the sticky stuff.
To prevent soiling hard-to-clean cabinet interiors, line them with shelf liners the day you move in. For shelves that hold fold, I like non-stick liner, which usually have some sort of texture to prevent slippage, in white or clear. For drawers, sticky (but removable!) Con-tact brand liner is best; it comes in fun solids and patterns.
For either, measure the dimensions of the surface to be lined; then cut liner to fit. You can wipe liners down in place with a slightly soapy sponge, or remove them and scrub off accumulated drips in the sink.
Paint with a Satin Finish
If you’re allowed to paint the walls in your place, buy a small bucket of paint in kitchen & bath satin finish in the same color as the rest of the space. (If you like, the new finish can also be your excuse for adding a new color, like hot pink.)
Either way, use the satin paint to coat any wall space near the stove and counters that doesn’t boast a tile backdrop. The paint’s glossy surface makes walls a cinch to clean with soap and water after any splatter-filled cooking session. (Matte finishes, like the eggshell you’ve probably got in your living space and bedroom, stain more easily and are much harder to clean.)
Blow Cooking Air Out the Window
Set up a box fan near the window and stretch an extension cord to meet its plug. Any time you deep-fry, pan-fry, stir-fry, or cook a particularly fragrant dish, set the fan in the window facing out.
Turn the fan on to medium or high before you start cooking, and leave the fan going until half an hour after you’re done. You’ll turn tonight’s mouthwatering scents of chili and crispy fish into flimsy, fleeting gusts that’ll be gone before they have a chance to turn your stomach in the morning. To further freshen the kitchen, turn the fan back in when you’re done with dinner, so the night air can whoosh in. Also, light a candle.
In addition to providing a surface feeling of cleanliness, this trick also rids the kitchen of much of that greasy air you get from cooking meat at high temperatures, which turns into a residue that would otherwise settle, gather dust, and become stubbornly sticky.