How to Host Thanksgiving: Prep and Clean Up Tips

Thanksgiving prep

7 tips to make hosting thanksgiving at your home less stressful this holiday season.

If you’re entertaining during Thanksgiving, here’s a checklist to help you prepare so that you can enjoy and clean up afterwards with less stress.

7 Thanksgiving Prep Tips

1. Make Sure Your Dishwasher Is in Top Shape

Person cleaning dishwater rack. Photo courtesy of GE
  • Take out the racks and scrub with mild detergent. Use a toothbrush to remove any gunk on the utensil holder. If you see exposed metal or nicks in the vinyl when cleaning your dishwasher, patch with a rubber coating like Plasti Dip ReRACK ($8.99 for a 1-oz. bottle; Ace Hardware).
  • Remove the sprayer arm. Clean it using a cotton swab or toothpick to clear any buildup in the holes. Check the space under the arm for any food scraps.
  • Clean the filter. In newer models, this may involve some disassembly; set screws or any other hardware in a dish while you clean. Scrub the filter and parts with a soft brush.
  • Wipe down the door gasket. Use a damp cloth dipped in distilled white vinegar, focusing on the bottom, where debris collects.
  • Run the dishwasher. empty except for a bowl filled with two cups of white vinegar in the center of the lower rack, and it will be ready to report for duty once more.

2. Look After the Fridge

Person checking food in fridge. Photo by Morsa Images/Getty Images
  • Dump any leftovers before you start cooking to make some room. Airflow is essential inside a fridge, as well as outside. In the freezer, packing items closely together keeps them colder, but a stuffed fridge can hinder the airflow that works to cool food.
  • Wipe up spills right away. This is especially important if the spill comes from raw meat, because its juices contain bacteria. Prevent spills by defrosting meat in a covered container on the bottom shelf.
  • You should also be cleaning your condenser coil regularly. Turn off the fridge and clean the coil—it’s often located underneath the fridge—with a brush or vacuum. Letting dirt build up on the coil can increase energy usage and encourage appliance failure.

3. Get the Oven Ready

Turkey in the oven on thanksgiving day. Photo by GMVOZD/Getty Images

If you’re prepping for host duty and notice baked-on spills in your oven, you may be tempted to set the self-cleaning cycle and walk away. Think twice if your appliance is past its prime, say the pros.

The high-heat setting can trigger a service call on an older oven near the end of its life span (13 years, on average). So don’t wait until the day—or week—before a holiday cook-a-thon to clean it.

What to do instead? Try Easy-Off Fume Free Oven Cleaner followed by a thorough wipe-down with a diluted white vinegar solution, suggests one appliance expert. Be aware that your owner’s manual may warn against spray cleaners for liability reasons, because some people overuse them and some products produce toxic fumes. Applying a paste of baking soda followed by a final swipe of diluted white vinegar can work, too, but expect to use a lot more muscle.

4. Set up a Beautiful Table

Thanksgiving dinner spread with a plate that says the word thankful on it. PHOTO: COURTESY OF TARGET

Creating a festive tablescape doesn’t have to be hard. Get inspiration from these Target shopping guides:

5. Prevent Stovetop Fires

Stove safety firestop.

Thanksgiving is the peak day of the year for kitchen fires, according to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Almost three times more fires occur on Thanksgiving than any other day of the year. Last year local fire departments responded to roughly 1.6 million fires. That’s a residential house fire every 19 seconds, resulting in about $11 billion worth of damage.

“Most of these fires involve the kitchen stovetop,” says Lorraine Carli of the NFPA. “The majority of the cooking fires occur because of unattended cooking.” Be sure to stovetop safety measures in place to prevent a fire in your home.

6. Put Together a Stain-Removal Kit

Person removing stain from carpet with cloth.

When you mix large groups of people (and especially children) with food, spills are all but inevitable. Keep all your stain fighters in one place, close at hand to minimize the damage.

Some handy helpers may include:

  • Nonbleach detergent (carpet stains, urine stains)
  • Vinegar (carpet stains, urine stains)
  • Ammonia (carpet stains)
  • Bleach (solution-dyed carpet stains)
  • Rubbing alcohol (glue, ink stains)
  • Hydrogen peroxide (stone countertop stains)
  • Club soda (fabric stains)
  • Baking soda (grease splatter, fabric stains)
  • Lemon juice (fabric stains)
  • Salt (red wine stains)

7. Get to Know Your Garbage Disposer

It’s helpful to know what should go into a garbage disposal and what you should avoid putting in. And, make sure everything is working smoothly before your guests arrive.

Already jammed up? Here’s how to troubleshoot and fix a garbage disposal.

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