Using your cheese grater is pretty straightforward. Cleaning it, on the other hand, can be tricky. That’s because the specialized grooves that are great at shredding your cheese (and other eats, like fruits and vegetables) are also great at trapping chunks of food in hard-to-see, hard-to-reach places. Then, even if you manage to remove all of the excess bits, it can be difficult to eliminate the resulting greasy streaks.

Here to help is Becky Rapinchuk, cleaning expert, and author of the books Simply Clean and The Organically Clean Home. Follow Rapinchuk’s advice for cleaning your box or rasp grater, and this handy kitchen tool will be properly polished and ready for more shreddin’.

Cooking dinner shouldn't be complicated

Rinse your grater as soon as you can.

As with many kitchen tools, it’s best to clean your grater immediately after every use so that food remnants don’t have a chance to harden on the surface. This will make the cleaning process much easier and less time consuming, and you can do so with soap, warm water, and a scrub brush (not a sponge, as the grater could tear up the sponge). Of course, the reality is you’ll probably have a situation (or two) when you leave your dirty grater on the counter for hours and an easy clean is no longer an option. Or, you may have thought you gave it a good quality buff up, but then notice pesky residue later on. For advice for either scenario, keep reading.

Address crusted-on food with a slice of bread, or a soapy soak.

If, say, you left your used grater out overnight and food scraps have solidified on the surface, rinsing it with water may not be your best option, especially if the food in question is cheese. “Getting it wet isn’t necessarily going to clean it because it kind of gums up the cheese,” explains Rapinchuk. Her workaround: take a hard piece of bread (either a stale piece or an end piece should work, she says) and run it along the grater from bottom to top. Going in the opposite direction that you grate food items will help pick up lingering remnants.

Don’t attempt this with a soft piece of bread as that is “just going to gum up the grater,” says Rapinchuk. A harder piece, on the other hand, creates friction against the crumbs, which helps dislodge them. Just make sure that it’s a full slice of stiff bread so that there’s an adequate buffer between your hand and the sharp blades of the grater. “Use common sense […] to keep your hand away from the grater,” says Rapinchuk.

That said, you may not have a hard piece of bread on hand, in which case Rapinchuk recommends soaking your grater in a dish of warm, soapy water for about 10 to 15 minutes. (Don’t let it soak for longer periods of time, as it could rust.) Then, use a scrub brush to remove any gummed-up gunk.

For any residue stuck on the inside of the grater, it’s probably best to use a scrub brush to tackle that, versus a piece of bread, says Rapinchuk.

More on cleaning your home:

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  • How to Deep Clean Your Freezer

Cut the grease with dish soap or white vinegar.

To address bothersome greasy streaks, turn to dish soap, says Rapinchuk. Drizzle the soap over your grater and then use a scrub brush to massage it around the surface. Another, slightly more potent option: white vinegar and a dishcloth. Soak a small amount of vinegar on the cloth and then use it to wipe greasy areas. Just make sure you wipe the cloth in the opposite direction that you would grate your cheese to avoid tearing the cloth. Afterwards, simply rinse the grater with water to remove any vinegary or soapy scents.

Consider a run in the dishwasher.

Rapinchuk says she sometimes washes both her box grater and rasp grater in the dishwasher in the harshest conditions (i.e. the highest heat, sanitizing cycle), and there’s never been any damage to the tool. That said, check with your grater’s manufacturer to make sure your specific make/model is dishwasher-safe. Also, it may be a good idea to remove any food remains before you throw it in the dishwasher, in case your machine isn’t able to tackle them.

Let it air dry.

After washing your grater (either by hand or in the dishwasher), shake off excess water in the sink and then let it air dry. Trying to dry it manually puts you at risk for cutting up your kitchen towel—or worse, your hand.

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