Don’t let that dried-on bread flour cause you another minute of worry.

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Professional chefs make it look so easy – handling soft and pliable dough that doesn’t stick to you or the surface, scattering flour across a small portion of the counter and none of it lands on the floor, and deep-frying delectable treats without splattering grease all over the kitchen (and themselves). And admit it – sometimes the mess we make while baking, especially if we are baking with family and friends, is just part of the fun. Most of the time, however, messes we make in the kitchen just work to derail our joy of baking and we are left feeling overworked and perplexed about how to clean that major flour mess stuck to the kitchen counter. Don’t give away your box of heirloom recipes and your favorite kitchen tools just yet; help is on the way. We have rounded up some easy, why-didn’t-I-think-of-that ideas to help keep your sanity in tact and your kitchen clean as head into the holidays.

Start with an Empty Dishwasher

Cleaning as you go is a lot easier if you can put dirty dishes and utensils in the dishwasher, instead of stacking them in the sink. Before you start that baking project, just take a few minutes to empty the dishwasher.

How to Clean a Flour Mess

Many bakers got their first lesson in baking by making a pie crust; we threw flour onto the work surface, plopped the ball of dough down and valiantly tried to roll it, all the while scraping bits of sticky dough off our fingers and countertop. The more the dough stuck, the more flour we threw down, and it landed all over the kitchen counter and the floor. Even experienced bakers encounter flour messes, so we polled our readers to ask their favorite way to clean up the white stuff. Many prefer to use a silicone baking mat as a work surface because dough does not stick to it. However, flour can still wind up on the counter. Some bakers prefer using a plastic scraper to scrape off dried dough, and follow up with a wet dishrag. For really big messes, it was suggested getting out the vacuum cleaner; a few readers said they have a small hand-held vacuum dedicated to the kitchen. 

Use a Garbage Bowl

There is no need to spend money on those cute, brightly colored, and pricey items specifically marketed as garbage bowls. A regular mixing bowl, an empty pot, or a grocery bag will do just fine. Just keep it close by your workstation as you peel, chop, and slice. Simply drop scraps into the garbage or compost bag at your elbow instead of walking across the room to the trashcan with a handful of scraps.

 Keep the Recycling Bin Close

Recycling bins are usually kept tucked away, out of sight, in a closet or cabinet. During cooking projects that require a lot of canned or boxed items, such as hearty soups and one-pot pasta meals, bring your recycling bin out to your work station so you can easily toss cardboard boxes, paper wrappings, and aluminum cans as you open them.

Mess-Free Measuring

When measuring dry ingredients, put a flexible cutting board or piece of wax paper under your measuring cup before spooning in the flour or sugar. You will catch all the excess and can simply pour it back into your canister, leaving your countertop clean and avoiding a flour mess. Same with liquid ingredients; when pouring oil, honey, milk, etc. into a measuring cup, do it over a bowl or sink to catch any runoff. When you need to spray a pan or rack with cooking spray, do it over the sink to avoid spraying your counter top, as well.

WATCH: How To Make Pie Crust Garnishes

Proper Planning Prevents A Messy Kitchen

The best way to avoid a messy kitchen is to plan and prepare. Find all the ingredients you need and set them out before you start cooking. Prep vegetables and meats and mix dry ingredients before you even turn on the oven. You don’t want to get caught browning flour and trying to chop onions at the same time. Work slow and deliberate, wiping up spills as you go and putting used dishes in the empty dishwasher. Cooking is fun, cleaning up – not so much. You don’t have to become robotic, but with a few minor adjustments in your kitchen routine you can enjoy a neater kitchen.