Spring Cleaning

These tools allow me to spend more time enjoying the food I make and less time cleaning up after eating it.

Cleaning is on everyone's mind right now. Whether I’m doing dishes after a weeknight meal or tackling a big spring cleaning project, I rely on a few key tools to make the process simple and easy. Our favorite dish soap and sponge easily lift off cooked-on food and are gentle enough for delicate cookware. Our dish drying rack is spacious enough to accommodate everything I wash by hand (such as glasses and nonstick skillets). And for deeper cleans, I always use our winning spray cleaner and paper towels. Do you have any questions about cleaning? Check out our test kitchen handbook, Kitchen Smarts. It’s filled with answers to all your cleaning (and cooking) questions. —Carolyn Grillo, Associate Editor, Tastings & Testings

This model was literally the clear winner—its transparent plastic soap chamber with a wide opening made it easy to fill. It was fast, and it neatly released soap with no wisps trailing behind. Finally, we liked that this dispenser was the shortest in our lineup, making it less obtrusive. One complaint: It had “plus” and “minus” buttons that allowed us to adjust the soap amount, but the settings weren’t marked, so we didn’t know which one was selected.

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This product looks like the classic blue sponge we've all used, but its plastic-based scrubbing side has ripples. These ripples added texture, which helped nudge off cooked-on food. This sponge was absorbent and durable, and it looked surprisingly clean at the end of testing. It was also our preferred size: thick enough to hold comfortably but small enough to maneuver in tight spaces.

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Every tester who tried these paper towels came back with a rave review. The sheets were thick, soft, and sturdy, and a single full-size sheet could hold nearly 1/4 cup of water—about twice as much as lower-ranked products. Thanks to their double-ply construction, these sheets looked unscathed after scrubbing—even after 300 passes across a plastic cutting board—and we detected nary a hair of lint, even on glass.

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Even after we washed a sink full of greasy pots and pans, the grip on these gloves never faltered. Their slender fingers and tapered wrists fit snugly and comfortably, and the long sleeves—cleverly dammed at the end by a self-folding cuff—let us reach silverware at the bottom of a full sink without dampening our shirtsleeves.

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The Small Ring Scrubber effortlessly removed cooked-on bacon and hamburger from cast iron and lasagna from our 13 by 9-inch baking dish. This scrubber’s larger size allowed it to cover more area efficiently, and we especially appreciated its fine rings, which scoured narrow grill pan grooves with ease. The smaller rings did, however, make this scrubber harder to clean. We don’t recommend using either scrubber on enamelware or stainless steel.

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We loved how deeply this pan browned foods: The steak had a dark crust and the fond made a flavorful pan sauce. It came preseasoned, but some scrambled eggs stuck to the surface, and we saw traces of black cast-iron seasoning on the crust of apple pie. (It’s worth noting that this pan will become more nonstick with use over time.) Plus, it requires seasoning after every use. However, these are minor quibbles. It’s a great pan at an excellent price, and it will last a lifetime.

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