5 unexpected things I keep in my kitchen that make it much more organized - and you should, too

These items might seem out of place in the kitchen but they're secretly organizational and cleaning gems

Cozy kitchen design with warm tones and glimmers of copper
(Image credit: devol)

Pans. Plates. A stove. All these things live in my kitchen, of course. But among them are a few unexpected items that aren't in most peoples' kitchens, and I'm here to tell you they should be. Because they all help to make my space, home and life more organized. Add them in and you soon won't know what you did without them.

When it comes to how to organize a kitchen, it pays to think outside the box. 'The kitchen is the most hardworking space in the home,' says Michelle Urban, of The Organized House. 'It's not just a place to prepare meals and eat - it's also a family zone. A place where you start the day, do arts and crafts, cook, and socialize with friends. So, it makes sense that there are some items that don't pertain to cooking and eating that can actually be really useful in the space.'

5 unexpected things you should be keeping in the kitchen

1. Cotton swabs

A kitchen with pots and pans suspended on wall

(Image credit: Light and Dwell. Photo credit Amy Bartlam)

Yep, did you know that this bathroom essential is also a modern kitchen must-have?

'Cotton swabs are an essential item in my kitchen,' says Michelle Urban, founder of The Organized House. 'They are the perfect cleaning tool for getting the gunk out of tiny crevices, corners, grooves, and seams. 

'For example, use a cotton swab to remove the crud from the threads of a screw-top lid (think water bottles or jars). They also work great for wiping the seams and crevices in your refrigerator.'

There's a plethora of ways you can utilize the humble cotton swab to make minute cleaning details a breeze.

  • Cleaning corners: The Q-tip is the queen of corner-cleaning, whether it's inside the microwave, fridge, or kitchen countertop.
  • Edges of fixtures and fittings: Does the seam around your kitchen sink tap always have a tiny bit of dirt left in it even after cleaning? It's the cotton swab to the rescue - banish the buildup up for good by cleaning it with a Q-tip, which is small enough to target the crud.
  • Getting around kitchen cabinet door knobs and handles: Cotton swabs are equally as handy at getting into those stubborn edged around your kitchen cupboard handles.
  • Lifting lunchbox dirt: As well as cleaning the threads of water bottles, cotton swabs are ideal for getting into lunchbox seams to remove bits of food so there's no frustrating leftovers anywhere in sight.
  • Freshening up the in-fridge water dispenser: You've probably noticed by now that there's a lot of ridges in and around your in-fridge water dispenser. Get rid of one headache really easily by using your handy Q-tips to remove any dirt of limescale buildup. 
  • Giving outer edges of plug sockets a clean: Anywhere there are small crevices to reach, grab your cotton swabs and get scrubbing for an effective result.
Bamboo cotton swabs, pack of 900, Amazon

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These biodegradable cotton swabs look so much smarter than white plastic ones, and are better for the environment. Keep them in a clear jar within easy reach - they're pretty enough to be on the shelf.

2. Toothbrushes

A kitchen hidden storage in beams

(Image credit: Studio SFW)

Uh-huh. Like the cotton swab, a toothbrush is a perfect cleaning device. 

'It works wonders on a wide range of items or tiny areas,' explains Michelle Urban. 'You can use a toothbrush to clean your veggies - like potatoes and mushrooms. You can even remove the silk from the ears of corn. 

'For deep cleaning, dip your toothbrush in hot soapy water and use it to clean the knobs on your stove, baseboards, heating vent, tile grout, and the ridges of your waffle iron.'

3. Cloth diapers

A kitchen with deep drawers

(Image credit: Brad Ramsey Interiors. Photo credit Paige Rumore-1)

Certainly not something you'd expect to come in handy in the kitchen, but Michelle Urban says they're a little cleaning marvel. And now I always have a couple in the cupboard under the sink.

She comments: 'Since cloth diapers are super soft and absorbent, it makes sense they come in handy for cleaning. 

'Use them for dusting, mopping, drying dishes, and polishing your stainless steel. You can also use them as a paper towel replacement. '

4. Dry erase markers

Pink kitchen with marble island

(Image credit: British Standard by Plain English)

Get organized by using dry erase markers to label your kitchen containers.

‘A dry erase marker is the unsung hero of kitchens,' says Pam Meluskey, co-founder of of luxury home organization firm Settled. Use them on your plastic or glass Tupperware containers to write the ‘best by’ date or cooking instructions. Then, easily wipe off the writing when the contents change.'

She adds: 'Dry erase markers are also great if you are decanting items from original packaging into glass or acrylic. You can write cooking items or expiration dates on the back of your jars.' 

I agree wholeheartedly - when decluttering my kitchen earlier this year I bought this dry erase marker from Amazon and it's made my storage look so much prettier, and therefore it has been easier to keep organized.

5. Plastic razor blades

IKEA hack by Sarah Sherman Samuel

(Image credit: Jason Varney)

The ideal gadget for cleaning induction hobs, plastic razor blades are super-handy for scraping off stuck-on food without damaging or scratching the cooktop, even glass ones. I've found them to really do the job, keeping my induction hobs pristine after a pan boils over.

But their super powers don't stop there. You can also use them, along with hot, soapy water, to get rid of those really annoying and hard-to-remove sticky labels on new containers, as well as tackling burnt-on food on your dishes.

Ruth Doherty is a lifestyle journalist based in London. An experienced freelance digital writer and editor, she is known for covering everything from travel and interiors to fashion and beauty. She regularly contributes to Livingetc, Ideal Home and Homes & Gardens, as well as titles like Prima and Red. Outside of work, her biggest loves are endless cups of tea, almond croissants, shopping for clothes she doesn’t need, and booking holidays she does.