Why the Range Hood Is the Kitchen’s Nastiest Corner
A friend of mine recently cancelled our Saturday night plans. It wasn’t personal: Her cleaning went full-on Amityville Horror when she got to the kitchen’s range hood. It had been a little too long since the last check-up. The stove’s range filters were overdue for degreasing and sent my friend into a cleaning black hole. The source of all of this scum was in the oven’s range hood, and it wasn’t letting go.
Most dedicated cooks are pretty vigilant about cleaning the counters, the sink, the stovetop—anywhere the eye can see. But sometimes, even that isn’t enough. The out-of-sight, out-of-mind spots are always the scariest, and the range hood is a prime example.
I spoke with Donna Smallin Kuper, a certified house cleaning technician (yes, that’s a thing) and author of Clear the Clutter, Find the Happiness to get to the bottom of the filth above your stove.
What Is the Range Hood Actually For?
The range hood is a large fan housed in a structure suspended over the stove. It’s there to keep your kitchen air cleaner during high-impact (and high-mess) frying and searing. The range’s fan sucks up smoke, along with any airborne droplets of grease, and keeps the kitchen fresher—even during the most intense frying sessions. Some varieties are duct-based, meaning they utilize a duct tunnel system to funnel the kitchen’s fumes out of the building entirely.
Both the duct-based and ductless variety (which are way cheaper and easier to install) use removable filters that fit into the underside of the hood. Filter materials range from charcoal to cheaper aluminum. The more you cook, the more gunk the filters capture. And without regular cleaning, they can get clogged with the grease of cooking experiments past.
“And when you let it go, it just gets harder to clean as dust mixes with grease over time,” said Kuper.
How Do You Clean It?
Kuper recommends making a quick wipe-down on outside of the hood part of your daily kitchen cleaning routine. Dip a soft sponge or cloth (we’ve got plenty of favorites) in soapy water and simply wipe down the exterior. The filter doesn’t need daily cleaning—just a monthly check up should do. “The more often you clean the filter,” said Kuper, “the easier it is to do.”
There’s a litany of range hood filter cleaning tricks (everything from baking soda to Oxy Clean), but there’s one method that Kuper swears by. To clean a filter, pop it out from the range hood. Swish it up and down through a big bowl of hot, soapy water. Using a steady stream of water (or the sink’s sprayer attachment), rinse the filters, shake the filter vigorously, and allow it to air-dry before re-installing it under the hood.
While it may be tempting, resist dumping the filters into the dishwasher. Caked-on grease can get released into the dishwasher, clogging its drain, while the filter’s metal housing can bang around during the cleaning cycle and leave marks on your dishes.
To clean the nastier underside of the hood, you need something with power (especially if you’re at plan-cancelling levels of grime). Use a degreaser (the Epi Test Kitchen swears by Mrs. Myers’ All-Purpose Cleaner). Spray and wait a couple of minutes minutes, then wipe with a wet sponge to remove the residue. It’s pretty unbelievable how well it works.
Get into the habit of going underneath the range hood. Your social life might just depend on it.