Do you dread cleaning the kitchen? There always seems to be a heaping pile of dishes waiting for someone to unload and reload the dishwasher. And the cycle repeats.

You know that once you get going, cleaning the kitchen doesn’t take terribly long, but in order to clean, you have to get over the mental hurdle.

All you need is a little motivation. That’s where this post comes in. Once you know why it’s so important to keep your kitchen clean, it’s easier to find time to get the job done.

In truth, there are many reasons why you should want a clean kitchen, and some will be individual to you and your family. But here are just a few of the common reasons why your kitchen needs to be the cleanest in the house.

Make appearances

If you’re worried about what other people think, this is one area where you should get busy cleaning. Whenever people come over, they usually end up in the kitchen. And since this is where all your meals are prepared, it looks a bit icky to have it a mess. After all, you’d be grossed out if you went to a restaurant that had a dirty kitchen. Your guests will be more understanding, but they will look at your food in a different light.

Set a good example

When life gets hectic, the kitchen is often the first room to show signs of distress. Cereal boxes pile up on the counter along with the dishes and everything else. And it’s completely understandable, especially when you have kids.

But when you have kids, you must know that you’re leading by example. The way you keep your kitchen today is likely how they’ll keep theirs when they grow up. If you let days or weeks go by without cleaning, you’re sending the message that this is okay.

Instead, ask your kids to pitch in and help keep the kitchen clean. They’ll learn healthy skills to last a lifetime.

Stop wasting food

When your kitchen is a disaster, you’re less likely to want to cook. And when you don’t cook, food goes to waste. Unfortunately, this can have a snowball effect that goes from bad to worse quickly. If you don’t clear out one rotting fruit or vegetable, the rest may perish faster too.

But when the rest of your kitchen is clean, and you’re cooking often, you’re more likely to be on top of rotating produce.

Make a habit of wiping down cutting boards, countertops and refrigerator shelves nightly after dinner (or task one of the kids with this job).

Make food prep easier

If you haven’t cleaned up dinner from the night before, that’s one more thing you have to do before you cook dinner. Not only does this add more time to dinner prep, but it seems to take a lot more mental energy. If you weren’t looking forward to cooking before, you’re now downright dreading it.

You’ll rush through cleaning, so you can get dinner on the table, and then leave another round of dishes in the sink for another day. It’s a vicious cycle. And the grime builds up over time because you’re never really doing a thorough cleaning.

But when you clean up after dinner each night, cooking is much more of a pleasure. You can get straight to food prep, and then you’ll have energy to clean up after dinner. It’s a much better and more productive cycle than playing catchup every night.

Be safe

A clean kitchen may be about appearances, but that’s not all it’s about. A cleaner kitchen is a safer kitchen. Spills on tile flooring could lead to a fall. Oil on the stove could cause a grease fire. And pools of bacteria from food prep can lead to food poisoning. The combination of electricity, heat, water, raw food and sharp objects make the kitchen one of the most dangerous rooms in any home.

A kitchen disaster can quickly turn a fun family dinner into a trip to the emergency room. Avoid it at all costs. But if you keep the kitchen clean, you can sidestep most of these disasters.

Help appliances stay new

When you go to sell your home, appliances are one of the things potential buyers will examine. But if you’ve let dirt and grime build up, the appliances won’t look or function as well as they could. And when the vents or filters get dirty, the appliance has to work harder to do the same job.

More efficient appliances last longer and look better. So, try to perform a deep clean on your appliances every few months. In-between deep cleanings, wipe appliances down with flour sack towels after every use.

Keep critters away

Dirty kitchens can attract all kinds of unwanted visitors, including cockroaches, ants, mice and rats. And it’s much easier to prevent these problems than it is to remedy them. Keep these critters away by maintaining and cleaning your kitchen regularly. This includes more than just wiping down surfaces and keeping the sink clear of dishes (although those things are important too). If you really want to make critters feel unwelcome, you’ll also need to clear the clutter from your counters, floors and cabinets.

Whether you love cleaning or hate it, the kitchen should be a priority on your chore list. A clean kitchen is a safe kitchen, and it’s also a lot more pleasant to cook in.