Spice jars contain a vast number of options for making our food taste good. From cinnamon for our cookies and coffee cake to oregano for our homemade spaghetti sauce, the average cook reaches for something on his or her spice rack frequently when cooking.
What Do I Need When Cleaning My Spice Jars?
There are a few, simple household items that are needed for cleaning out your jars. You likely have most of them already.
- Small bowls
- Dish soap
- Dish towels
- Small electric fan
- Marker or pen
- Small funnel
Did you know that spice jars should be cleaned, organized, and even purged on a fairly regular basis? It’s true. And unless you employ a maid service to tend to this task, it’s going to fall to you.
If you do rely on a maid service to do your weekly, bi-weekly, or even monthly cleaning, you can ask for this task to be placed on their list. A maid service will keep track of when the job was last done and be mindful of when it should be done again.
In the meantime, the job is yours. There are a few steps to cleaning and organizing your spices. They are simple ones. Just allot yourself a couple of hours for a job well done.
Empty the Jars
Most spice jars are made of glass or metal and most have metal tops. Remove the spices from your spice rack. Fill a basin, bucket, or your kitchen sink with hot water mixed with a few drops of liquid dish soap. Soak a cleaning rag in the soapy water and wring it out. Wipe down the spice rack before proceeding.
Line up the same number of small bowls or containers and the number of spice jars you plan to wash. If your collection is ample, you may wish to do 10 jars at a time, unless you have enough small bowls or containers to match all of your jars. Empty the jars into the bowls, but as you empty each one, write the name of the spice on a small piece of masking tape and place it either on the bowl or container or just in front of it on your countertop.
Clean the Jars
Submerge the jars into the bucket, basin or sink full of soapy water and allow them to soak for a few minutes. Using a dish cloth, wash the inside and outside of the spice jars. If it’s hard to get inside the jars with the cloth, wrap a table knife in the rag and push it inside each spice jar. This will ensure the rag or cloth gets inside and that the interior of each jar gets thoroughly cleaned.
Rinse each of the spice jars in clean, hot water, and then place them upside down on a dish drying rack. Allow them to stay there until most of the water has dripped out. Take a clean dish towel—and possibly that knife again—and proceed to dry the inside of each jar. Place the dried jars—laying them on their sides—onto a clean dish towel. Turn on a small electric fan and aim it toward the opening of the jars. It’s important to dry all traces of water before returning the spices to them. If you prefer, you may run your spice jars through your dishwasher, and allow them to dry there. Don’t run the lids through the dishwasher. Make sure to employ the electric fan method for drying even if the jars have gone through the dishwasher drying cycle.
Your next step is to wash the lids to your spice jars. Since so many are made of metal, you don’t want them soaking in the soapy water for very long, but they do need to be cleaned. Drop them into the sink or basin, and begin removing them one by one, cleaning them with a dish cloth rag soaked in the soapy water. Rinse with clean, hot water right away, and place them right side up on a clean dish towel. Once you have cleaned all of the spice jar lids, begin drying them by hand. Place them—upside down—in front of the fan for a half hour or so. You might like reading Best Organizing Ideas for Dry Goods.
Purge or Replace?
How long do spices stay fresh and usable? It’s important to know this before replacing them inside your spice jars. If you don’t know the last time you replaced the spices in your jars, then it might be time for new ones.
A general rule of thumb when replacing spices follows. Start marking the new spices when you buy them with a small piece of tape or small label on the bottom of each jar. You may wish to keep a list instead.
- Whole spices (those that haven’t been ground), as well as dried leaves (like bay leaves), herbs, and flowers have a shelf life of one to two years.
- Seeds (mustard seed, for example) will keep for two to three years.
- Ground spices and the leaves of herbs are good for one year.
- Ground roots (like ginger) last for two years.
This is a general rule of thumb and is practiced by many popular chefs and home cooks. Older spices won’t harm you if you eat foods prepared with them. They just won’t provide the full flavor intended in your recipes.
The next step in this process is to refill your spice jars with the spices in the bowls or containers. If needed replace them with new spices. If you don’t have a small funnel for refilling, twist a 3 x 5 card into a cone shape and tape it closed. You now have a disposable funnel.
Learn How to Organize a Pantry.
The next step in this project is to organize those spices you’re about to return to your spice rack. Spice racks vary. Some are a wooden rack hung on your kitchen wall. Others could be magnetized and affixed to your refrigerator on long metal strips. And sitting on your clean kitchen countertop could be a spice rack carousel.
Use the organizational method that works best for you and the way you cook. Some people like to alphabetize their spices. That way they know exactly where to look on their racks to find the spices they need. Others prefer to have the spices they use most often on the top shelf and ready to go. They typically alphabetize the remainder. Organize your spices—with their expiration dates affixed to their undersides—and return them to your spice rack.
The final thing you will need to do is cleanup everything you have used for this project. Put everything in its proper spot. You will want to wash the containers and the countertops. Put the dish cloth and towels in the laundry. Finally, you are finished!
The next time you prepare a favorite dish or a new gourmet find, you’ll be ready to roll with your cleaned and organized spices. Your cooking process will be much more pleasurable with everything you need in its proper place.