Office Kitchen Etiquette for Every Employee

Now that Halloween is behind us, the holiday office party season will be in full swing and there is no better time like the present to review some simple office kitchen etiquette for every employee. When your current employer decided to hire you, they didn’t also hire your mother to clean up after you at work and the myth about kitchen fairies has officially been busted. As we all know, it is common courtesy to wash your own dishes, pick up your own trash, and replace the empty paper towel roll with a new one. In general, the after-hours cleaning staff does not step foot in the office kitchen, with the exception of emptying the garbage can; so it’s up to all the employees to keep it clean.

  • It’s best to wash and dry your own dishes shortly after using them. Do not let them soak in the sink for more than a couple of hours.
  • If there is not a garbage disposal, do not put food down the drain. Scrape any leftover food into the trash first before washing your dishes and rinse the sink thoroughly after washing them.
  • After doing your dishes, wipe up any excess water around the sink.
  • If you spill something on the counter, wipe it up.
  • Likewise, if you spill something on the floor, wipe it up immediately to avoid someone slipping and falling.
  • If you are cooking something in the microwave, use a plastic cover so food doesn’t splatter. If food does happen to splatter, wipe down the inside of the microwave when you are finished.
  • When using the toaster, be sure to shake the crumbs out when you are done and wipe the area around the toaster as well.
  • If you use the last of something, replace it immediately; examples are plastic utensils, paper towels, sugar, creamer, stir sticks, etc. If there are no replacements available, notify the office manager.
  • If the fridge is crowded, do not shove employees’ lunches around to make room for yours. Try rearranging items to make more room and follow the next two bullets to ensure the fridge remains in good condition.
  • Do not leave food in the fridge for more than a day. A fresh lunch should be brought in daily or taken home each night if not eaten that day.
  • If there is rotting food in the fridge, don’t be afraid to throw it away even if it isn’t yours. The employee who brought the food in has clearly forgotten about it and will not be offended if you trash it.
  • If party food needs to be stored in the community fridge, try to give employees enough notice so they can clear out the shelves to make space for large dishes, platters, or desserts.
  • Leftovers from parties or meetings are only fair game when left on the community kitchen counter or when the office manager sends an email saying to help yourself.
  • If there is not enough coffee left in the pot for at least one cup, either brew a new pot (using the correct pot, a decanter with a black top indicates regular and an orange top indicates decaf) or turn the burner off and rinse the pot out. No one wants to smell rotting coffee throughout the office.
  • If the kitchen garbage can is overflowing, do not keep piling trash on top to create the leaning-tower-of-trash. Either bag it up yourself or contact the office manager to have building management do it.
  • After an office party, offer to help clean up. Usually the same employees end up cleaning, so it would be a nice change of pace for others to volunteer to pack up leftovers, wipe down tables, wash some dishes, or move furniture back to its original position.

There should be no evidence left behind that you were ever in the kitchen or that a party took place. As a general rule, leave the kitchen in better condition than you found it. Do you have any rules to add to the list, an office kitchen etiquette story, or a pet peeve you’d like to air out? Share your story with us or leave a comment!