How to Clean Out Your Pantry in 4 Easy Steps

Front view of an organized pantry

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Total Time: 30 mins - 1 hr
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $5 to 40

No matter whether you have a dedicated pantry or just a couple of shelves in a cabinet for food storage, keeping it clean and organized is important. With an organized pantry, you can help protect your food from insect infestation, save money by using products before they expire, and access ingredients quickly during meal preparation.

Cleaning a pantry takes a bit of time but you can do it with just four easy steps. Set aside an hour or so and you'll be amazed at how good your pantry can look and function.

How Often to Clean Out Your Pantry

Ideally, you should clean your pantry at least four times a year as the seasons change. However, twice a year is a good start.

Spills of wet or dry items should be cleaned up immediately. If you see insect infestation, the pantry should be cleaned right away to prevent further spread to the rest of your kitchen or home.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 vacuum
  • 1 microfiber cloth
  • 1 small bucket
  • 4 to 10 sealable clear containers
  • 4 to 10 plastic bins or baskets
  • 1 pen or marker

Materials

  • 1 bottle all-purpose cleaner
  • 1 bottle disinfectant or disinfecting wipes
  • 1 trash bag
  • 2 to 10 cardboard boxes or shopping bags
  • 4 to 10 labels

Instructions

Materials needed to clean and organize your pantry

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Clean Out Your Pantry

  1. Empty the Pantry Shelves

    Take everything out of the pantry. If you don't have counter space close by, bring over a table or place some cardboard boxes on the floor to hold everything.

    Tip

    Get a head start on the sorting step by placing similar items together as you unload the pantry.

    Emptying out the pantry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Clean the Pantry Storage Space

    • Use a vacuum with a hose and brush or a handheld vacuum to suction away crumbs and cobwebs.
    • Mix some warm water and a tablespoon of an all-purpose cleaner in a small bucket or bowl. Dip a microfiber cloth in the solution and wring until it is not dripping. Starting at the top of the pantry, wipe down each shelf and the walls. Don't forget the floor!
    • If you see or suspect mold or mildew, clean the area with a disinfectant solution (follow the label instructions) or use disinfecting wipes.
    • Allow the area to air-dry while you sort the food that should be returned to the shelves.
    Vacuuming the shelves in a pantry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Sort the Items in the Pantry

    • Remove any items that belong in other places and put them in their proper spot. It's not a good idea to store cleaning supplies alongside food products.
    • Gather cardboard boxes or shopping bags and trash bags before you begin sorting. Designate one area as "Keep", one as "Donate", and one as "Trash".
    • Check the expiration date on each product and then decide where it should go. Toss items that are expired, any food that shows insect infestation, leaking or bulging cans, and open foods that are stale. Donate foods that your family doesn't like or items that you've over-bought to a local food pantry. Keep the rest.
    Sorting pantry items

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  4. Organize and Restock the Pantry

    • Now that you have only your "Keep" items to deal with, take some time to organize your pantry.
    • If a bottle or jar feels sticky, wipe it off with a damp microfiber cloth before returning it to the pantry.
    • Place items that are used daily-like cereals and snacks-within easy reach.
    • Store like items (snack bars, juice pouches, foils, and storage bags) together in bins or baskets for easy access. Be sure to label the bins.
    • Group similar items together so you can find them easily. Consider placing all baking items together, all canned goods, or all spices and flavorings.
    • Consolidate open foods in clear, sealable storage containers and, if possible, recycle the commercial packaging.
    • Place foods with the longest expiration date at the back of the shelf and short expiration dates at the front so you'll use them first.

    Tips

    If you have a pantry with deep shelves, consider purchasing wire risers so you can stack items for more visibility. Add an over-the-door shallow wire rack to hold spices and small items.

    Preparing to restock the pantry

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Tips to Keep Your Pantry Clean Longer

  • Keep a running list of what you have on hand in your pantry. Make a notation of what you need to restock to prevent overbuying.
  • Maximize your storage space with shelf risers, over-the-door shelves, turntables, and reusable storage containers.
  • Remove excess packaging from the manufacturer to create more space.