By Laurie Herr

Tackle the mess before it tackles you.

It's official: Americans hate washing dishes. According to a recent Yelp survey, cleaning the kitchen ranked first as the chore that both men and women said they disliked the most and caused the most home tension.

That's right — many folks would rather clean their bathroom than their kitchen.

It's easy to stress over a messy kitchen. What's not so easy: Avoiding a mess when you cook. Measuring, mixing, chopping, frying — it can all add up to kitchen chaos.

Sound familiar? Try these solutions to common cooking messes, and see if they help you loathe cleaning a bit less.

Photo: Carol Yepes/Getty Images

1. Problem: Sticky surfaces.

Solution: Keep a spray bottle filled with water and a little white vinegar handy to clean up spills and wipe counters (hit the fridge handle, too). Save chemical cleaners for after the food is put away.

2. Problem: You can still smell last night's fish dinner — and not in a good way.

Solution: Simply cracking open a window and flipping on the vent often does the trick. Or you can cover strong odors naturally: Simmer water on the stove with cinnamon sticks, cloves, and lemon peel. Or leave a dish of baking soda or coffee grounds out overnight to absorb the smell.

3. Problem: Mountains of dirty dishes every night.

Solution: Once a week or so, double your recipe and freeze the extra. You'll have enough for two meals but only one mess.

4. Problem: Counter clutter.

Solution: Stow appliances you rarely use and ditch the knick-knacks. What is "rarely used"? If you've not hit the on button in a month, it needs to be put away. A clear counter not only gives you more work space but instantly makes your kitchen look neater.

5. Problem: You dread washing certain gadgets.

Solution: Stick with easy-to-clean tools. Forget the garlic press and use a knife instead. Your old fondue pot leaves a big cheesy mess? Maybe it's time for the donation pile.

6. Problem: Your fridge still has holiday leftovers — from last year.

Solution: Toss the moldy-oldies and start showing leftovers a little love. Date items, move the oldest ones to the front, and use them first. Once a week, deep clean one shelf — it's less intimidating than tackling the whole fridge.

7. Problem: Clumsy attack! You're spilling everything.

Solution: Go slow — it's easier to make a mess when you're rushing around. To prevent slops and spills, measure over the sink. Make sure your canisters are big enough for your measuring cups. And take Julia Child's advice: "Always start out with a larger pot than what you think you need."

Photo: Maskot/Getty Images

8. Problem: Peelings everywhere.

Solution: Julia's advice for bigger things applies here, too: Use a bigger cutting board — skimpy ones don't do the job. Scrape food scraps into a big bowl as you go and empty it when you're done.

9. Problem: You've used every pot and pan in the house.

Solution: Make them multitask. You can often use the same pan when you sauté foods separately — just wipe it out between batches. Boil veggies in the same pot with the pasta (add them the last few minutes). And use simple recipes: One-pot wonders are lifesavers.

10. Problem: Your kitchen looks like it exploded after every meal.

Solution: Start with a clean kitchen and tidy up as you go. Pull the trash can out so it's easy to get to, and take mini breaks (like while sauces thicken) to wash pots, fill the dishwasher, or wipe counters. If you need to stir, ask someone else in the house to tackle that while you handle a few dishes.

11. Problem: Crusty pans with baked-on grease.

Solution: Say hello to foil! Lining baking and roasting pans with foil — or parchment paper, depending on the recipe — makes cleanup easy-peasy.

12. Problem: Your microwave is, well, scary.

Solution: Dried-on splatters are grossing you out? Fill a bowl halfway with water and some lemon slices, or a little vinegar or baking soda. Microwave on high a few minutes and wait for it to cool. Open the door and wipe down the inside with a sponge. Leave the door open to air dry.

13. Problem: The sink stinks.

Solution: Dump baking soda or bits of lemon down the drain every week to keep the garbage disposal smelling fresh.

14. Problem: You used your best china, and now you have to wash it all by hand.

Solution: Know your limits. Skip the fancy dinnerware if you're short on time, or use paper plates if you're having a crowd. If it's a special occasion and you want to go all out, recruit helpers ahead of time.

15. Problem: The kitchen is so bad, you always fight over who has to clean it.

Solution: Remember this simple golden rule (mamy households swear by it!): Whoever cooks doesn't have to clean up.

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