It’s important to ensure the security and state of your whole home whilst you're on holiday, but it’s the kitchen that calls for the most thorough pre-travel preparation. From electrical hazards and energy saving precautions, to food preservation and hygiene, the kitchen poses the most amount of risk to your home when you are absent, and many homeowners are unsure about what should and shouldn’t be done before departure.
Lizzie Beesley, kitchen specialist from Magnet, has revealed the ten essential steps that you should take to prepare the heart of your home for your absence. These tips are designed to help protect your home from risk, to save energy and reduce bills, and make for a seamless homecoming.
"Travel can be stressful, but a little bit of planning ahead can put your mind at ease when on holiday and help make your life easier when you return home," says Lizzie. "It might take some extra time on the front end, but doing these ten things will leave your kitchen in tip-top shape while you’re gone. Then, when you’re back, your kitchen is in working order without any unwanted surprises for you to deal with."
Read on for 10 essential steps to follow...
1. Do switch off
Ovens, dishwashers, microwaves, washing machines, kettles, coffee machines, toasters and other countertop gadgets in your home should be switched off before departure.
"Whilst switching off kitchen appliances and supplies in your home is really important to avoid the risk of fires and electrical hazards whilst you’re away, it’s also the perfect way and time to conserve energy and save money on utilities," says Lizzie. "Kitchen appliances are top culprits for using lots of electricity, even when left on standby. Unplugging them or turning off the fuse switch are the best ways to ensure they’re not left on standby - but make sure you don’t switch off your fridge or freezer in the process!"
The only exception is the boiler, which should only be turned off during winter months.
"There’s a continued debate around whether or not to switch off your boiler when going on holiday, but the decision depends on the time of year you are going away. In the summer, switch off your boiler as hot-water and heating isn’t needed. In the winter however, it’s important to leave your boiler on and set the thermostat on a lower temperature or on a timer, to prevent your pipes from freezing.’’
2. Don't switch off
Removing food from your fridge is vitally important (more on that below,) but it's not something you should switch off.
"Leave the freezer and fridge on unless you’re going away for a particularly long time. If you switch off a fridge or freezer, it will defrost and you’ll return to a very wet floor. The stench and clean-up of rotting food is not something you want to return to."
3. Cut the water supply
"Water leaks are one of the most common domestic disasters holidaymakers return home to. They’ll cause considerable damage and expense if left unattended, so remember to turn off your water supply at the mains," says Lizzie. "The stopcock is usually located in the cupboard under the kitchen sink or where the service pipe comes into your home. Turning it off is simply a must-do and it will put your mind at ease whilst on holiday."
4. Clean out your fridge well in advance
Any food that is likely to spoil whilst you're on holiday will leave an unpleasant odour and is susceptible to spreading mould, even when it's kept in the fridge.
"A little planning ahead here can go a long way and prevent you from wasting food and money," says Lizzie. "In the run up to your holiday, try and use up anything that will go bad during the time you are away. Use vegetables in a soup or stew, or make a veggie curry or casserole. If you make a big batch, you can freeze the leftovers for an easy meal when you get back."
"Whilst you’re clearing the fridge out, wipe down the shelves and draws to make sure any lingering crumbs and food that could breed mould are removed."
5. Empty the bins and give them a clean
"A simple but often forgotten task, is taking out the rubbish and recycling. Leaving a bin alone for an extended period of time in the summer is likely to attract pests and create a very unpleasant odour to return to. It’s also a good opportunity to clean out your bin and recycling containers as even the tiniest amount of rubbish or food waste can cause an odour in the warmer months."
6. Don't forget about coffee grounds
Wet coffee grounds left in your machine are the perfect breeding ground for mould, so don't forget to add them to your cleaning list.
"Coffee machines are a staple in many of our kitchens nowadays and since coffee grounds are tucked away within the machine, it’s easy to overlook clearing them out amongst all your holiday prep. It’s a simple step to miss, but take the time to clean to do so!"
7. Leave the dishwasher open
After running a cycle in the dishwasher, there may be a small amount of water left to collect near the drain pump, and by leaving the dishwasher door closed, you run the risk of excess moisture creating mould and mildew.
"While it might be tempting to run the dishwasher and leave the unloading for when you return, it’s probably one of the last chores you’ll want to return home to after a lovely holiday. Do it before you depart and make sure you leave the dishwasher open just a crack. This will allow any standing heat and moisture to escape which can breed mould and microbes if left alone for a long period of time."
8. Wipe down surfaces
"Wipe down counters, oven tops, the sink and any tables or islands in your kitchen," says Lizzie. "As there won’t be any air flow in the space for an extended period of time, it’s also a great idea to leave a diffuser or new air freshener in your kitchen whilst you are away. There’s nothing more satisfying than walking into a visibly clean and refreshingly fragrant home after a long day of travel."
9. Freshen your drains
One of the last jobs before you leave should be cleaning out your kitchen sink.
"Kitchen drains can get smelly after a while and you’ll definitely notice it when you come home from a holiday. They are usually the result of built-up food residue and particles getting stuck in the drains," says Lizzie.
"Before you go, drop ½ cup of baking soda down the drain and then pour 1 cup of vinegar down it. Let it sit for 15 minutes and then flush the drain with hot water. Add some lemon and you’ll be sure to return home to a sparkly sink with a citrus scent."
10. Be smart with lighting
You’ll need to make your house look lived in while you’re on holiday to avoid the attention of burglars. This is particularly important for those with kitchens at the front of the house.
"If you have an automatic timer on your lights, set it to turn on and off in the evenings at pre-programmed times. Or, make use of external security lights which will warn off potential intruders and give the impression of someone being at home," says Lizzie.
And don't overlook kitchen blinds or curtains.
"Completely shut kitchen blinds during the day scream that a home is unoccupied. Leave them slightly open to give the impression that someone is in, but not enough for people to peer directly in. For those with kitchen curtains, you can also leave them slightly drawn and ensure any valuables are out of sight. But it’s advised you use other deterrents like smart security systems and upgraded door and window locks to enhance the security of your home."
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