Why Mama Always Cleaned As She Cooked—And Why You Should Bring Back The Habit

Is it Mama’s way or your way?

Mother and daughter washing and wiping dishes
Photo: FPG/Getty

Mama might have known what she was doing when she never let things get out of control in the kitchen. Whether whipping up her famous fried chicken or smothered pork chops, she cleaned those prep bowls, wiped down those counters, and even managed to pour herself a glass of tea (or wine if the hour allowed) between tasks. As for many of us who sat at the counter watching her concise and tidy methods, well, we clearly learned nothing. Flour all over the floor, breadcrumbs scattering the counter, and the constant clanging of cooking utensils as they're tossed into the sink is the soundtrack to dinnertime. It's chaos, but it gets the job done.

If there's one thing we know about life nowadays it's that it moves fast. Real fast. Between work, carpool, after school activities, homework, and devices that do more buzzing than a bee hive in spring, things have a way of getting sporty on any given weeknight. It comes as no surprise that we're looking to get things done as fast as possible, which means streamlining the process is not only preferred but an absolute necessity. But, here's the thing, skipping dish duty until the very end is likely doing you no favors. Mama hates to say she told you so. Well, mostly.

The thing is, many of us are on board with the clean-as-we-go method in other areas of our homes already. The idea is that you do a little bit each day so you avoid a marathon cleaning day—or living in chaos for five days just to set everything right for about 48 hours. Cleaning as you go in the kitchen is a similar concept, but on a smaller scale. For the clean geeks among us, who were zone cleaning, speed cleaning, and (dare we say) death cleaning before we knew it was cool, we know you take no convincing. But for the other faction, let us continue on the case.

Why You Should Clean As You Cook

We get it. This might sound a little preachy. Is there really a right way to clean your kitchen? Probably not. And we can't deny the benefits of loading up the sink so you can load up the dishwasher in one fell swoop. Less on and off of the water, less back and forth and up and down of you, and probably a few minutes in time saved. But what about that spatula you need that's now buried beneath the rest of the dishes? Or the feeling of utter chaos that's starting to creep in? It could be related to the hungry family members who are starting to circle the stovetop, but it also might be that you're starting to take in the heap of dishes, splatters, and messes at the exact time the end-of-day fatigue has started to rear its ugly head. Not a pleasant way to start the evening, of that we can be sure.

Don't Forget the Countertops

Mama certainly had her own way of doing things, some of which we've taken up as our own habits and others that Mama remains the sole proprietor, but cleaning as we go might be worth trying if you're so inclined. No matter whether you're camp clean at the end or not, just don't skimp when it comes to wiping the counters throughout your cooking process. There are of course the germs to contend with, but speaking of time consuming, those caked on messes are utterly plastered by the time you're finished layering a lasagna. Do yourself a favor and save yourself time with more frequent wipe downs, if for no other reason than it will save your fingertips, all-purpose cleaner, and countertops.

Finish with a Sink Scrub

For those of you who have been shaking your head throughout this read knowing that the draw of the one-and-done method is the satisfaction of taking a giant mess into a pristine clean in under a half-hour, try your hand at the clean-as-you-go but insert a sink scrub into your routine as the final step. The satisfaction one can gain from a little baking soda mixed with essential oils paired with some elbow grease is nothing short of therapeutic. We won't say we told you so.

Was this page helpful?
Related Articles