“Home” has taken on new meaning in 2020. Once a place to rest and recharge after work, school, and socializing, our homes are now makeshift offices, classrooms, gyms, studios—you name it.
Sheltering in place and social distancing means spending more time in our homes in general, so why focus on the kitchen specifically? The kitchen is where we spend most of our active time at home (even during normal life), and a global pandemic has only made this more true.
Of course, now more than ever, we know the importance of maintaining hygiene; it’s not just a matter of cleaning up spaghetti sauce splashes and wiping away sticky fingerprints. When considering hygiene in your kitchen, be careful to take all of the surfaces into account, from the floors to the countertops, appliances, cabinetry, faucets, and sink.
Many surface covering options contain harmful pollutants that we may be especially wary of when we spend more time at home. Ceramic tile contains none of the following contaminants and can help you create a healthy living environment:
- Volatile organic compounds (VOCs): Some VOCs emitted by nonceramic building products can contribute to a wide variety of health problems, including “sick building syndrome.” Because ceramic tile is produced (fired) at extremely high temperatures, producing what is called an “inorganic” material, it has zero VOCs.
- Allergens: Ceramic tile’s hard-fired surface won’t harbor dust mites and is also inhospitable to bacteria, fungi, mold, and other irritants that contribute to allergies.
- Formaldehyde: Some wood products may contain formaldehyde. Certain levels of formaldehyde can irritate asthma and other respiratory disorders, but ceramic tile does not contain formaldehyde.
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC): PVC is a resin used in vinyl flooring and is regularly a subject of concern among health experts and builders. Ceramic tile is free of PVC.
- Plastic: Ceramic tile contains no plastic and has none of the health or environmental concerns associated with plastic.
If the pandemic has changed how we clean (and how much), it has also changed how we use our home. Our kitchens carry the brunt of our homelife as we spend more time cooking and cleaning than ever before and rely on our kitchens for new activities that don’t have dedicated spaces. Many of us may have realized that our kitchens weren’t quite ready for the challenge.
The pandemic experience has likely increased your appreciation for an optimally functioning kitchen and any improvements you make to your kitchen will improve your daily life long-term (not to mention your home’s resale value).
Consider reflecting on your experience thus far and how to make your kitchen easier to clean, use, and maintain so that it’s supporting you, and not the other way around. We have a few ideas of our own to get you started.
Post-Pandemic Kitchen Checklist
Health and Cleanliness
The increased use that your kitchen is seeing requires what probably feels like constant cleaning. As soon as you clean up after one meal it’s time for another, and so the cycle repeats itself. Ceramic tile has healthy advantages that make living in a hygienic world easier:
- Easy to clean: Wiping with some soap and water is all that’s needed to clean up most messes — no harsh chemicals are necessary.
- Bacteria-resistant: Ceramic tile is resistant to the growth of bacteria and other microbes such as mold
- Antimicrobial: Options are available with antimicrobial properties that can suppress and even destroy harmful microorganisms, such as mold, fungi, bacteria, and viruses.
- Hypoallergenic: Ceramic tile contains no allergens and allergens in the environment such as dust, dirt, and pollen are easy to remove and can’t penetrate tile’s hard-fired surface.
You may have learned the hard way that being easy to clean is just as important for a surface as being stylish. In fact, you’ll probably find your surfaces less and less appealing the more you have to scrub them. Low-maintenance cleaning is crucial to a post-pandemic dream kitchen and ceramic tile is a model example of low maintenance. When you need more to clean or disinfect, follow our Ultimate Guide to Cleaning Ceramic Tile.
The more you use your kitchen, the more likely spills and mishaps are to happen — especially if you’re cooking while also responding to emails, getting the laundry done, or merely thinking through the million things you have on your mind. New-to-cooking chefs in the kitchen may also be more prone to accidents.
Your kitchen design can go a long way toward preventing incidents. Make sure your appliances are in working order, especially your range’s ventilation hood, and that there’s sufficient lighting for reading recipes and safe knife use.
Ceramic tile is an ideal option for improving kitchen safety. Slip-resistant tile options bring peace of mind in kitchens prone to spills and splashes from the sink, and ceramic tile’s fire resistance ensures that your tile won’t burn, melt, or give off toxic fumes when exposed to fire.
Dream kitchens naturally prioritize wellness, easy cleaning, and functionality over high-maintenance designs. With “all the time in the world,” you still want to spend your precious time well.
Ceramic tile is an efficient and beautiful choice for all of your surfaces, with limitless options for style plus the convenience and durability that generations have relied on:
- Stain resistance: Tile can handle all of the messes of everyday life without being easily stained.
- Water resistance: Properly installed ceramic tile is the time-trusted choice for use in wet environments, such as a bathroom, kitchen, patio, or pool.
- Scratch resistance: Tile stands up to years of heavy traffic and doesn’t easily scuff, tear, dent, puncture, or gouge.
- Low maintenance: Messes wipe up without harsh chemicals; most with just water!
- Fade resistance: Ceramic tile does not fade, so you can feel free to redecorate and move your furniture at any time.
You’ve probably thought more about your kitchen layout as you spend increased time there. Is your kitchen user-friendly or does the layout make it difficult to complete simple tasks? Consider details such as the location of:
- Spices, utensils, and other items you may need to grab quickly with respect to the stove
- Dishes with respect to the dishwasher
- Fresh food with respect to pantry staples and other food storage
Space is another element that can make or break a kitchen. Is the floorspace large enough to accommodate more than one cook? (We all know the saying “too many cooks in the kitchen,” and in this case it can be interpreted quite literally.) Also consider whether you have enough counter space for both meal prep and cleanup, and whether your kitchen is usable for family members who have physical limitations (drawers that are easy to reach and grip, appliance controls that are simple to operate, aisles that accommodate a wheelchair, etc.).
Commercial kitchens are designed to withstand high traffic, nonstop use, and accommodate large amounts of food, but that’s usually not the case for residential kitchens. The increased demand your kitchen has experienced during the pandemic may have brought to light certain shortcomings. For example:
- Many people are buying more groceries during a single trip to avoid frequent trips to the store. Do you have sufficient pantry space to accommodate larger grocery runs? Is that storage easy to reach and keep clean?
- Eating every meal at home means more dirty dishes, and families are probably running the dishwasher more often. Perhaps a larger (and potentially energy-efficient) option would allow for less frequent use.
- Are your other appliances powerful enough for frequent use? Do you have enough fridge and freezer space, and is your oven properly sized for making large family dinners?
- Are your counters designed to endure frequent use without being damaged? Look for materials that resist damage from moisture, scratches, and stains, such as ceramic tile countertops.
[Related: Five Ways to Make Your Home Remodel Pay Off]
Post-Pandemic Dream Kitchen Design
High-functioning hygienic kitchens don’t have to be strictly utilitarian. As you spend increased amounts of time in your kitchen space, make sure your surroundings fill you with joy (thanks, Marie Kondo).
Keep these five (pandemic-enhanced) activities in mind when designing your kitchen.
1. New Culinary Pursuits
It all starts with cooking more. Restaurants are closed or operating at lower capacity, and many of us are avoiding takeout and delivery to minimize interactions with others. Instead, you might be cooking from scratch at home, sometimes to recreate the options you’re missing from your favorite restaurants and sometimes to make good use of newfound additional time.
Ceramic tile’s scratch, dent, stain, scuff, water, fade, and flame resistance prepares your kitchen for increased traffic and creative kitchen pursuits. So, go ahead and jump on the sourdough bread bandwagon!
2. Remote Work
You may find yourself relying on the kitchen more for remote work if you do not have another space in your home as an “office.” What used to be the occasional all-nighter at the kitchen island might now be your usual 9 to 5 location, making sufficient outlets, WiFi, space, and extra organization necessary.
There’s nothing like being stuck at home to make you realize just how much you hate looking at and cleaning those dated countertops. Ceramic tile provides the versatility needed for any of your dream kitchen plans. You may choose to update one key feature (like replacing those countertops with porcelain tile panel/slab countertops), embrace a remodel with the latest in transitional design, or opt for an outdoor kitchen or indoor-outdoor kitchen (a kitchen that extends outside to open up the space to the outdoors).
Pro tip: You don’t want last night’s dinner dishes on display during your Zoom call so be sure to tidy up before connecting. (Ceramic tile makes a great backsplash and backdrop for Zooming!)
Your (and your kitchen’s) involvement in learning is now more than just getting homework done before dinner. Lessons may also involve creative projects that take over the whole kitchen. As well, teachers recommend that parents take advantage of this time to teach their children key life skills and home economics, including cooking and cleaning tasks. Ceramic tile’s easy maintenance helps these endeavors be less stressful.
Pro tip: Since water is often all that is needed for cleaning up a spill on ceramic tile, kids can clean up their own messes without the worry of using harsh chemicals.
4. Family Time
Your family may be spending more time together in the kitchen in general, with no school, sports practices, or date nights to get people out of the house. The kitchen will see more traffic in and out as you think up craft projects and cooking experiments to keep everyone occupied and eat more meals together as a family. Personal space may become an issue if an area that was once just Mom or Dad’s domain is now being shared with aspiring, nothing-else-to-do sous chefs or eager taste-testers. As you plan your dream space, consider everyone who is using the space and what kitchen elements and style reflect the family best. Ceramic tile offers an infinite variety of shapes, sizes, colors, textures, and patterns to create your one-of-a kind kitchen.
5. At-Home Entertaining
The reopening of restaurants and bars doesn’t necessarily mean we will be socializing in the same ways as before. We’ve gotten used to considering our homes as safe places and this inclination might not change as we ease up on social distancing. We may prefer the controlled environment of at-home entertaining, including patio get-togethers and backyard barbecues. Whatever “entertaining” looks like at your house, your kitchen needs to be up for it! In addition to ceramic tile’s durability and easy maintenance, tile offers styles for your floors, backsplash, countertops, cabinetry, and kitchen island or bar to coordinate all of your kitchen decor and appliances for that special WOW-factor when we reunite with friends and family.
Pro tip: Ceramic tile’s easy-to-clean surfaces mean you will be spending more time with loved ones, as well.
Kick Off Your Kitchen Plans
Extra free time during quarantine may have given us time for a host of creative kitchen pursuits. Perhaps you finally baked your way through the Great British Baking Show’s many recipes, planted your own home garden, or became a zero waste household. Or, maybe you are part of the majority that feels lucky to have just kept mind and body together through homeschooling and a Zoom-filled work calendar.
As we regain a bit of mind space to turn our dream kitchen wish list into a to-do list, consider ceramic tile’s superior hygiene, low maintenance benefits, durability, safety advantages, and design possibilities as your high-functioning kitchen’s best friend — pandemic or not!
Download our free Tile Buying Guide now to get started!