You can blame it on the kids, the dog, or the chef, but however you slice it, kitchens can get wild and woolly around the edges if you don't keep an eye on them. Tackle the kitchen with these tips and tricks on cleaning the green way, and (because we like things to be simple around here) cleaning the easy way, too!

Spending at least 10 minutes a day on cleaning and tidying some area of the house ensures that messes don't get a chance to snowball. Ten minutes in the kitchen is enough to remove everything from the counters and wipe them down, clean out the dish drainer and tray, go through the fridge to compost expired food and reorganize, and take out trash and recycling.

For deeper cleaning projects in the kitchen, create a checklist to choose from once a week (or even once a month) including tasks like cleaning the stove top to bottom, emptying and cleaning the fridge (and defrosting, if necessary), moving and cleaning under appliances, running the dishwasher on a cleaning cycle, and dusting all the cabinets.

So, how do you do all this the green way? Look no further than your kitchen pantry.

Baking soda and vinegarVinegar, baking soda, lemon

One of the most pervasive, and stubborn, problems in the kitchen is greasy messes, especially around the stove. A basic baking soda and vinegar mix can work like a charm, though. Apply it in paste form, allow it to sit, and then wipe down. The mild abrasive action combined with the chemical reaction should loosen numerous stains. If you have a more determined stain, add a coarse scrubber to the mix to lift it up.

To clear out questionable smells from your sink, try pouring in baking soda and vinegar, followed by boiling water.

Salt and lemons

Salt and lemon are a miracle pair as well, because they act as their own built-in brush scrubber set. Cut a lemon in half, sprinkle salt on the surface you're cleaning, and rub the lemon on it like you would a sponge. The salt will gently abrade stains, while the lemon juice will help lift messes, including greasy ones. (Salt is also an eco-friendly silver polish, so back away from that harsh chemical cleaner and rub your silver with salt and a soft cloth before washing and hand-drying.)

Lemon juice on its own can help attack funky garbage disposal odors. For extra punch, run lemon juice ice cubes (or simply ice and lemon wedges) through the garbage disposal.

Cream of tartar

To clean stainless steel appliances without damaging the finish, try wiping them down with a solution of 2 cups of distilled white vinegar with a half a cup of cream of tartar.

Oranges and vinegar

Orange oil is a great all-purpose cleaner that's also aromatic. To make your own basic orange oil cleaner, dump orange peels (piths included) into plastic buckets. Add only enough distilled vinegar to cover the tops of the peels and keep the buckets in a cool dark place, like the garage, for two weeks, stirring occasionally. When it's done, strain the solution, and keep it in concentrated form to dilute in spray bottles.

Vinegar, tried and true

A go-to household cleaner is just plain vinegar. You can use it straight and dilute it with water in a variety of ways. Soak towels in hot water and vinegar before using them on a (COLD!) stovetop to attack stains, or try mopping your floor with a mild vinegar and water solution (consider using orange oil if it's a wood floor). Freshen up your coffee maker by running vinegar and water through it, followed by a plain water rinse.

Rice

If your coffee grinder is getting funky, run some rice or barley through it to clean it out.

Simply water

And don't forget our old friend water. You might be surprised by how much grime a simple hand steamer can lift.

Katie Marks originally wrote this story for Networx.com. It is republished with permission here.

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Natural cleaning photo credit: Geo-grafika/Shutterstock
Orange photo credit: Es75/Shutterstock