How To Keep A Food Pantry Clean

In homes with food pantries, both big and small, it is easy for a sense of disarray to befall the space. Home to most of the food items that don’t need refrigeration, pantry cleaning and organization should be a priority. With such a varied space, you may wonder how to keep a food pantry clean. 

To keep a food pantry clean, you will need to follow just a few steps. You will purge old food, clear and clean the shelves, and then sort all of the items you are keeping. To keep your pantry clean, try to maintain it at least once a month.

How To Keep A Food Pantry Clean 

If you have let your food storage go for some time, it may have fallen into chaos. If you are finding it hard to find your breakfast cereal or sort through the cans of soup, it is time to clean your pantry. Especially since food is kept there, organizing a pantry should be taken hand-in-hand with cleaning. 

Step One: Set Aside Your Time 

You will need plenty of time to clean out your pantry if you haven’t done so in a while. It is best to get it entirely clean at once, and then do smaller sessions later to maintain it. This will keep it cleaner going forward. 

It may be helpful to set this time aside when the rest of your kitchen is already clean. This way, you are not stacking on additional cleaning tasks while already in the middle of one. Organizing in an already tidy space could ameliorate a portion of the stress from the task. 

Overall, it may take anywhere from one hour to three hours to clean your pantry. However, this all depends on how fast you move, how much you have in your pantry, and how messy it is. 

Step Two: Empty Out The Pantry 

The first step to keeping a pantry clean is to take everything out of it. You can set your items on a counter, kitchen table, or even on the floor if you have the space. Do not worry about throwing anything out yet, unless it is obviously empty or spoiled. 

Doing this will give you a clear view of everything you currently have stocked. It will also give you full access to dusting and disinfecting your pantry space. 

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Step Three: Clean The Shelves 

Once your shelves are completely clear, it is time to get cleaning. When you put food containers right from the store to the pantry shelf, you may be welcoming in bacteria. While you are not eating the packaging, it is still helpful to disinfect this space. 

You can use any commercial cleaner in your pantry, either in the form of sprays or cleaning wipes. Clean the shelves, being sure to get into the corners and on the undersides of each shelf. 


If you do not have a commercial cleaning product, you can also make a solution of white vinegar and water. Mix equal parts vinegar and water in a spray bottle, ideally using distilled versions of both. Adding lemon will not only act as a natural antibacterial agent, but it will neutralize the scent of vinegar. 

Step Four: Toss Old Or Spoiled Food 

Now that you have all of your food laid out in one place, it is time to suss out what has to go. Food that is past the expiration date or has gone stale should be discarded. If you have been hanging onto something forever and do not foresee that you will realistically eat it, toss it out. 

Step Five: Donate Unused Items 

Once you’ve gotten rid of food that has gone bad, take time to consider what you might be able to donate. Food banks in the Feeding America network alone provide over 37 million Americans per year. It is always helpful to sort through and consider what you might want to contribute. 

Look for foods that are non-perished and unopened. Shelf-stable things like rice, pasta, or canned proteins are high priorities at food banks. You can also donate gadgets you might not use anymore, like food processors or impulse-bought personal blenders. 

Not only will this free up valuable space while cleaning your pantry, but it will help a person who is suffering from food insecurity. 

Step Six: Organize Your Shelves 

Begin putting your items back on the shelves, taking time to think about what will work best for your lifestyle. Keep things organized by type. 

  • Keep snacks like chips, pretzels, crackers, and nuts together. This will prove convenient for when you need a quick snack fix. 
  • Baking supplies such as sugars, flours, and extracts can be kept close together so that they’re easier to find. 
  • Meal staples like rice and pasta can be organized based on what you might use them with. For example, you can keep all of your pasta cooking needs together in a spot, or what you might need for your favorite rice dish. This is dependent on your personal kitchen. 
  • Bottles of liquids, like salad oils, cooking oils, and vinegars, can be kept together in a bin. This is useful in case you find yourself reaching for more than one at once. In the unfortunate event of leaks, liquids will be contained just to that bin instead of spreading to everything.
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Of course, you know your pantry the most. A rule of thumb is to keep similar items together, but use your best judgement. 


Clear containers, bins, and jars can be your best friends when it comes to keeping a food pantry clean. It will make it easier to manage similar items together, and help avoid an array of boxes and bags cluttering the area. Emptying your dry goods like sugar, flour, nuts, and pastas will help you keep stock of what might be running in short supply.

How Often Should You Clean Your Pantry? 

How often you clean your pantry will decide how rapidly it becomes confusing and untidy. By keeping the food pantry clean, you’ll benefit from an easy cooking workflow and peace of mind in the kitchen. 

Ideally, you should set aside time to clean your food pantry once a month. However, there is no harm in sprucing up the place more frequently. You could work a tidy-up into your cleaning routine twice a month if your pantry is smaller.


The best way to keep a pantry clean is to tidy it up regularly. When it comes time to organize your pantry, first remove all of the food inside and then clean up the shelves. Then, sort what you have and decide what to keep and what to toss. 

Afterward, storing and categorizing is the name of the game. Storing food in clear bins, corralling into sections based on type. Once you have your pantry fully cleaned, be sure to maintain it at least once a month.