Follow These 9 Steps to Clean and Prep Your Kitchen Before Leaving for Vacation

Cleaning experts share their advice on essential pre-trip prep, so you can truly relax on vacation.

There are plenty of things to think about when getting ready for a vacation: having every piece of your trip itinerary in order, packing all the right essentials, and hoping that everything goes according to plan. In the midst of all that, home cleaning is likely the last thing on your mind.

But there are certain parts of the house — namely, the kitchen — where a little bit of work pre-travel will go a long way to ensure a seamless homecoming. So, we talked to cleaning experts to gather the best advice to help you prep your kitchen before heading out.

Clean out the fridge.

Becky Rapinchuk, better known as Clean Mama, says to check the expiration dates on food and get rid of anything that won't last the duration of your trip. Then, top it off with a shine: "Wipe the fridge down before leaving, so it's clean and ready for you to come back and fill up," she says. Lifestyle expert Cheryl Nelson of Prepare With Cher recommends checking containers and jars for mold: "You don't want to grow a science experiment while you're away."

Run the garbage disposal.

Leanne Stapf, COO of The Cleaning Authority, says to give the disposal an extra complete whirl. "Make sure nothing is lingering in the drain that might attract pests," she adds.

Empty the trash.

A simple, but often forgotten, task is taking out the garbage. "Your nose will thank you upon return," Nelson says. "You don't want a smelly trash can to attract pests like roaches. It also helps to wash out your trash can ever so often, including the week of your trip." Stapf adds, "Even the tiniest amount of trash can leave unpleasant odors throughout your house if not thrown away before you leave."

Dump the coffee grounds.

Stapf says the biggest mistake people make is a simple one: leaving coffee grounds in the machine. "Since coffee grounds are tucked away within the machine, it's easy to overlook clearing out the coffee maker when in a rush to catch a morning flight or head out on the road," she says. "Wet coffee grounds are the perfect breeding place for mold and can even attract cockroaches. Over time, it could also begin to leave an unpleasant smell throughout your kitchen."

Wash the dishes.

Nelson says to wash the dishes in the sink as well as run the dishwasher before departure. "When is the last time you cleaned out your kitchen sink drain stopper? Food particles left in there will develop a nasty smell upon your return," she says. "Be sure to freshen up your sink garbage disposal, too. Distilled white vinegar works well, followed by a flush with water."

Wipe everything down.

Give every surface a good wipe down, and that includes mopping the floor, Nelson advises. "A great DIY all-purpose cleaning solution can be made by mixing 1/3 cup bleach, 1 gallon of water, and 1 teaspoon of Arm & Hammer Odor Blasters Detergent," she adds.

Double check the appliances.

While it can feel like paranoia, Rapinchuk says the biggest mistake that people make is forgetting to check that appliances are off. Make a round through the kitchen outlets, including everything from the blender and toaster oven to the Instant Pot and coffee maker, and then double around again for peace of mind. Nelson adds that unplugging is a good habit after daily use, too, since it can prevent power surges and reduce fire risk.

Leave your dishwasher open a crack.

While the instinct is to close everything, including the dishwasher, while you're gone, Stapf says to resist the temptation: "Make sure to leave [the dishwasher] cracked open slightly to allow any standing water to evaporate."

Turn off the water.

Rapinchuk says the top thing to do is turn off the water for the house. She says, "This prevents any leaks or pipe bursts, which probably won't happen, but now you know it won't happen."

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