We all think our bathroom is the dirtiest place in our home. However, according to the National Sanitation Foundation International, it is actually our kitchen that is the dirtiest place in our home. Here are the 10 dirtiest spots in the average kitchen, plus expert advice on how to banish germs.
- Sponges and Dishcloths
According to a study by the NSF, more than 75 percent of dish sponges and rags have some sort of coliform bacteria–a family of bacteria that includes Salmonella and E. coli and is an indicator of potential fecal contamination.
EXPERT ADVICE:Microwaving your sponges and dishcloths on high for about 30 seconds will kill most bacteria.
You may think that this is one of cleanest spots because everything gets washed in the sink, right? Think again. 45 percent of kitchen sinks were found to have coliform bacteria.
EXPERT ADVICE:Disinfect the sink with a kitchen cleaner and just to be safe, don’t apply the 10-second rule when you drop food in the sink.
- Refrigerator Vegetable Compartment
Dark moist environments tend to breed germs, even in the refrigerator. Produce should always be stored on a separate shelf above meat, poultry and seafood to avoid raw juices dripping onto the produce. Avoid cross-contamination by separating ready-to-eat and unwashed produce. Also, keep them separate in your grocery cart, during food preparation, and when using kitchen tools and appliances.
EXPERT ADVICE:To effectively clean the compartment, first remove the drawer from the refrigerator if possible. Then, wash the bin using a clean sponge or soft cloth and a mild detergent mixed with warm water. Rinse with tap water and wipe dry with a paper towel. To help control odors, use warm water mixed with a baking soda solution (about 1-2 tablespoons of baking soda to 1 quart of water). Rinse and wipe dry.
- Refrigerator Meat Compartment
It’s another dark moist environment that’s a breeding ground for bacteria. Store meat and seafood on a separate shelf below produce to avoid raw juices from dripping onto the produce.
EXPERT ADVICE:“Clean monthly the same way you clean the vegetable compartment and whenever you see any spilled meat juices.
- Cutting Board
In a study by the NSF, 18 percent of cutting boards were found to have coliform bacteria.
EXPERT ADVICE: Use separate cutting boards: one for produce and one for meat, seafood, and poultry to avoid cross-contamination. Wash each one in hot soapy water and dry with a paper towel since bacteria thrive in moist environments.
- Blender Gasket
Appliances and utensils that are not properly disassembled and cleaned can harbor microorganisms.
EXPERT ADVICE:To clean properly, completely disassemble the blender, removing the jar, lid, plus the blade and gasket at the bottom and place them all in the dishwasher after each use. If the pieces are not dishwasher safe, hand wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water, then rinse and dry before re-assembling.
- Kitchen Countertops
32 percent of kitchen countertops were found to have coliform bacteria, according to an NSF study.
EXPERT ADVICE:Wiping down countertops with dirty sponges and dishcloths increases the chance that this area will be a germ hot spot in your kitchen. Break out the kitchen disinfectant again and use disposable paper towels to clean up this area.
- Can Opener
Simply rinsing this tool isn’t enough to safeguard it from germs because it comes into direct contact with food.
EXPERT ADVICE:To effectively clean, place the can opener in the dishwasher after each use (if dishwasher safe). If hand washing, wash in hot soapy water, rinsing thoroughly with clean tap water before air drying after each use. If hand washing, pay special attention to the area around the cutting blades to be sure all food residue is removed.
- Rubber Spatula
For two-piece spatulas, it’s important to separate the handle from the spatula portion before cleaning.
EXPERT ADVICE:If they are dishwasher safe, place both sections in the machine after each use. If hand washing, wash in hot soapy water, rinsing thoroughly with clean water. For one-piece spatulas, hand wash it thoroughly in hot soapy water, paying special attention to the area where the handle joins the spatula. Rinse thoroughly and dry.
- Food Storage Container with Rubber Seal
Containers that have not been cleaned thoroughly have high counts of yeast and mold which may make food spoil quickly.
EXPERT ADVICE:If dishwasher safe, place both the container and the lid in the dishwasher and wash after each use. If hand washing, wash both the container and lid in hot soapy water, paying special attention to the area around the seal as well as any grooves where the cover attaches to the container. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.