The more you put off cleaning an appliance -- like the dreaded oven, the more the grime -- and dread -- builds up. But keeping it clean is critical from an aesthetic and a practical standpoint. Without proper maintenance, fuel ports and hood vents can clog and ovens can smoke.
Here, then, is Martha's step-by-step guide for taking the stove top, vent hood, and oven from grease-spattered and blackened to gleaming overnight. Her method requires no more than a couple of hours of active time and a few cleaning products (and most of the products are chemical free). Should you need added incentive, consider this: "If you thoroughly clean the oven, and then maintain it after every use," Martha says, "you should never have to do such a dirty job again."
The hood clears the air of smoke and grease from everyday cooking, but they can leave their mark. Over time, stains can build up and vents can clog. Clean the exterior of the hood weekly and the filters monthly.
Using a soft cloth dipped in hot, soapy water (dishwashing liquid is fine), clean the hood; wipe off with a clean damp cloth.
For a stainless steel hood, finish by polishing with a dry microfiber cloth, moving in the direction of the grain.
Remove filters and place in hot water with dishwashing liquid for five to 10 minutes.
Brush with a nylon scrub brush. Rinse in hot water, and dry. Some filters can be washed in the dishwasher; consult your stove's instruction manual.
The Stove Top
Follow these steps for getting the most spatter-prone part of the oven sparkling again. This technique is meant for gas stove tops.
Take off grates, griddles, and other removable parts. If the residue is not heavy, skip to the next slide. Should you have serious burned-on spills, place parts on a newspaper outside or in a well-ventilated area and spray with a commercial oven cleaner, following manufacturer's instructions. Let sit a few hours or overnight.
Wash grates in hot water and dishwashing liquid. Use a scouring pad on noncoated grates; for coated ones, use a sponge. Dry thoroughly before replacing.
Clean Fuel Ports
Clear any blockages with a pin or paper clip.
Soak a cloth in hot water, and place over the spill for a few minutes. Remove buildup with a rubber scraper.
Wipe the Surface
Use a damp sponge to wipe the surface clean. Be sure the sponge is not sopping; excess water can damage the igniter. On a glass or ceramic cook top, use a damp cloth.
Remove knobs, and wash with warm water and dishwashing liquid. Do not soak in water or use a cleaner that contains ammonia or abrasives, since doing so may remove the graphics. Dry thoroughly before replacing.
Using a cotton or microfiber cloth, wipe the stove top dry. (If it's stainless steel, wipe in the direction of the grain.)
Electric Stove Tops
Remove the coils and reflector bowls.
Wipe coils with a damp sponge.
Clean reflector bowls with hot water and a mild cleanser.
Open the stove top, and wipe with a damp sponge. (To burn off residue on the coils, put them back on the stove; then run the exhaust fan and turn the burners to high.)
Spatters and drips are inevitable. Here's how to tackle the oven (whether or not yours has a self-cleaning function) if you've neglected it awhile.
Take the racks out even if you are using your oven's self-cleaning function; the heat during the cycle can warp racks.
Let them sit in dishwashing liquid for a few hours, scrub with a scouring pad, and then rinse well and dry. If racks need heavy-duty cleaning, apply the paste (next two slides). Only use on stainless steel racks; baking soda can discolor aluminum.
Make a Paste
Stir together 3/4 cup baking soda and 1/4 cup warm water. (A large oven may require more paste.)
Apply the Paste
Fill any openings in the oven with foil. Using a paintbrush, spread the paste throughout the oven's interior, avoiding bare metal surfaces and the oven door. Leave overnight.
Clean It Out
Remove the paste with a plastic scraper, wetting as needed. Wipe with a damp cloth, repeating to remove streaks.
Wipe the Door
Using a mixture of equal parts water and white vinegar, clean the oven door with a soft cloth. Avoid wetting the gasket.
You've conquered the big job -- the oven. But the task of cleaning these little cookers can feel out of proportion with their modest size. The good news: With five minutes and these techniques, you can get them looking new.
Unplug the toaster, and use a thin, soft brush to remove crumbs stuck inside.
Take out the crumb tray, discard crumbs, and wipe it clean with a damp cloth.
Turn Upside Down
If there's no removable tray, turn the toaster upside down, and shake gently. Cotton brush with braided wire handle.
Loosen caked-on residue by heating 1 cup of water in a bowl for three minutes on high (to get rid of odors, add a 1/2-cup lemon juice); let it sit with the door closed for five minutes.
Wipe the interior with a sponge dipped in warm water and dishwashing liquid. Rinse well.
Wipe Control Panel
Clean the control panel with a barely damp cloth.
The Countertop Grill
Discard any crumbs in the drip tray, and wash it in warm water and dishwashing liquid.
Wipe the cooking plates and exterior with a damp soft cloth.
If the plates are removable, wash them in warm, soapy water. Scrub stubborn residue from the plates with a nylon scrub brush.
More from Martha Stewart Living:
15 Kitchen Shortcuts That Will Change the Way You Cook
24 Bathroom Organizing Tips You Haven't Thought Of
No Excuses: 30 Everyday Things You Should Know How to Do
12 Secrets for a Cleaning the Bathroom in Less Time
Martha has a few tips for your laundry room, too.