The kitchen is exposed to contamination since this is where you bring in unwashed, raw food, such as meat, fruits, vegetables, and poultry. There’s also the obvious mess, like dirty dishes, used utensils, unclean ovens, and sticky floors. These can attract pests, bacteria, and other microorganisms that you don’t want near your family.
Among the many places in your kitchen where germs can hide, here are the five hot spots you should give particular attention to, according to the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF).
Sponges, Dishcloths, and Scrubbing Brush
These are the items you use to clean your dirty dishes, utensils, and appliances. Naturally, these collect food particles, oil, tallow, and other food remains. If you leave your dish sponge unclean and damp, it can become a breeding ground for pests and bacteria. NSF adds 75 percent of these items have coliform bacteria (e.g., salmonella, E. coli).
Always clean your sponges and dishcloths after using them. Wash them using hot water to get rid of the stubborn food particles. You can load your vegetable and sink brushes in the dishwasher for more thorough cleaning. Don’t forget to replace your sponges regularly.
The countertop is where most of the kitchen activity happens: chopping veggies, cutting meat, prepping shellfish, and more. This is also where you do mundane tasks, like placing your grocery bags or propping up your phone when you want to watch a cooking tutorial video. All these items that go onto the countertop leave behind dirt and cross-contaminate each other. NSF says 32 percent of kitchen countertops harbor coliform bacteria.
Skip the dishcloth and sponge when cleaning your countertop since these may only spread more bacteria. Opt for a paper towel and a disinfectant spray. Don’t forget to get into the corners and the spots under small appliances, like coffee maker, toaster oven, and others. At least once a year, schedule a professional tile and grout cleaning service to get into the nooks and crannies of your countertop.
Don’t think that just because water runs through your kitchen sink, it’s already clean. This is where you rinse raw meat, poultry, and fish, so the juices get stuck in the crevices while traveling down the drain. Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, says there are more fecal bacteria in a sink than in a flushed toilet. The NSF adds 45 percent of home kitchen sinks have E. coli or some kind of coliform bacteria.
Wash the sink with hot, soapy water after every meal preparation. Clean the whole sink, the handles, and the faucet with disinfectant wipes, since these can get splattered when you rinse raw food.
Most of the meal prep happens on the chopping board. Dr. Gerba says that because cutting boards are frequently exposed to raw ingredients, they have 200 times more coliform bacteria than a toilet seat.
Wooden chopping boards are especially notorious for harboring all sorts of bacteria. Softwood has larger grains that split apart easily, forming crevices where bacteria can thrive.
You should have at least two cutting boards: one for fruits and veggies and the other for meat. This will prevent cross-contamination during meal preparation. Also, choose chopping boards made from hardwood since these are sturdier and easier to sanitize. Wash each board with warm, soapy water, rinse thoroughly, and then dry with a paper towel. Don’t leave the boards dripping wet because bacteria love moist environments.
Be mindful of how you maintain your kitchen. Don’t forget to observe proper food preparation techniques to prevent food contamination. Pay extra attention to the hot spots that germs and bacteria love to dwell in. If you’re unsure about how to clean a certain item, warm, soapy water is your friend.