Today, you and I are going to annihilate the germs and bacteria that are taking up residence in your kitchens tools, appliances, and gadgets. It’s time to send them packing to their evil lairs.
When it comes to cleaning your kitchen, how often do you do a really deep clean? You know, the kind where you find where you spend close to 6 minutes with a toothpick trying to scrape out the grunge between the kitchen faucet and sink. Not gonna lie, that’s my favorite thing to clean.
Yeah, I know; I’m weird. Tell me something I don’t know. Okay, I just like how the grunge curls up along the toothpick as I scrape it along the perimeter of the faucet housing.
I remember when I was in middle school (back in the prehistoric days when we etched our names in stone with a chisel) our science class had to walk throughout the school with a big cotton swab and a petri dish, trying to find the germiest spot in the school. Man, was that ever a rude awakening how gross things are. Perhaps that’s where some of my OCD steams from. Today,
How to clean and sanitize
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s talk cleaning and sanitizing. Some people think they’re both one and the same, but they’re not.
To break it down, cleaning is the act of removing dirt from surfaces and food particles from items such as but not limited to cutting board, utensils, pots, blenders, etc..
Where-as sanitizing is to reduce the number of germs to a safe level where they will not cause illness.
There are a few steps in both processes.
How to properly clean
- Wash the surface with soap (preferably an antibacterial one. My favorite is Dawn) and hot water. The water doesn’t have to be scalding, but it needs to be a bit hotter than warm.
- Either air dry it or wipe it off with paper towels. You do not want to wipe your clean dishes off with a dishtowel. Especially the one that’s been hanging on your stove. Think about it, you probably wiped your hands on the dishtowel after touching raw chicken without even realizing it.
Items needed for sanitizing
- Hydrogen Peroxide
- White Distilled Vinegar
- Sauce Pan
- Spray Bottle
- Food Thermometer
- Paper Towels
Before I tell you how to sanitize, there are a few methods you can use; however, I’m only going to share with you 3 of them as these three kill Listeria Monocytogens, E. Coli and Salmonella.
Please DO NOT use lemon-scented Clorox. The scent additive is not food-safe. You will want to mix 1 teaspoon to 1 quart of water. Soak your items for a minimum of 1 minute and a maximum of 3 minutes.
Hydrogen Peroxide (3%)
You will want to use this undiluted and soak for a minimum of 10 minutes and a maximum of 12 minutes.
White Distilled Vinegar (5%)
If you’d like to add baking soda to this mixture you may. Just use 1 tablespoon per 1 cup of vinegar. DO NOT add water to mix. Soak a minimum of 10 minutes and a maximum of 12 minutes.
Personally, I’d go with Clorox. Don’t worry, it’s not toxic to swallow it’s just an irritant. Please don’t think I’m giving you permission to down an entire bottle of bleach. I just know people freak out when you tell them to put bleach on something that will eventually touch food.
Danger Will Robinson (okay, I probably just dated myself here)!
NEVER and I mean NEVER mix vinegar and peroxide together. It creates peracetic acid, which is potentially toxic and can irritate the skin, eyes, and respiratory system. In layman’s terms, It’s bad news. It can corrode copper, brass, bronze, plain steel, and galvanized iron.
Important steps to kill germs and bacteria through sanitizing using hydrogen peroxide or vinegar.
- Heat either 1/2 cup of distilled vinegar or hydrogen peroxide in a saucepan to 150°F. If you don’t have a kitchen thermometer, remove from the heat when the steam starts to rise. You want it to be warm; not hot.
- Use a funnel and pour the warmed liquid into a spray bottle.
- Spray immediately on all items you wish to sanitize – kitchen counter-tops, sink, faucet, stove-top, etc…
- Let it sit for 1-to-2 minutes then wipe it off with a paper towel.
Room Temperature Method:
- Using a funnel, pour either 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide into a spray bottle.
- Spray onto all of the kitchen surfaces you want to sanitize. This method works great for the interior of the refrigerator.
- This MUST sit for a minimum of 10 minutes before wiping it off with a clean paper towel.
Now that you know how to sanitize, here are few kitchen items where germs and bacteria can be found.
Some will be obvious, and then some you’ll be like what the heck!
Most people do wash out their blender/mixer, but did you know if you didn’t pull out the gasket (the seal ring) and blades food particles could rot and cause bacteria to grow (salmonella, yeast or mold). Always unplug your blender/mixer first before cleaning all the parts. If you use a manual hand mixer, make sure you clean the area where the whisks attach, like cake batter, and other food particles can get lodged in the elements.
The best way to sanitize a blender is to put the vinegar, hydrogen peroxide or bleach and water and turn on the blender. Then take the entire blender and/or mixer apart and soak the detachable parts and clean each piece. If you decide to just let the pieces soak in your kitchen sink, make sure it’s been cleaned out and there are no food particles lying around.
Can Opener – manual and electric
When you’re done using your can opener, always rinse it off with antibacterial dish soap and water, even if you don’t see any visible food particles. The dirt from the lid of the can may get lodged in the blade allowing bacteria and germs to contaminate your other utensils if it’s not washed off properly.
Another preventative tidbit would be to wash the can’s lid with hot soapy water before using the can opener. Growing up, I was taught to just rinse the lid, but let’s be real here; you never know what touched the top of the can before you brought it home.
If you just have a hand-held can opener you can wash it with antibacterial soap and put it in the dishwasher at least once a week.
I’m so guilty of this. I’m not perfect. That’s right, you’re hearing it here first. I tend to forget to throw out the used coffee filter after my coffee has been made. I only drink coffee at home on the weekends, and by the time the next weekend rolls around, I have a lovely mold bloom starting to form. Yes, you’d think I’d remember to empty it and wash out the reservoir. I do, but then I get side-tracked and forget.
It’s easy enough to just clean out the carafe and the basket (when you remember, but let’s not forget about the little-perforated drip area that allows the water to flow into the reservoir.
Have you ever seen how mucked up it gets with the splattering of coffee? That moisture is a breeding ground for yeast and mold.
The best way to sanitize a coffee maker is to run distilled white vinegar through the entire machine. Depending on the size of your coffee maker, fill the carafe to the half-way point with vinegar. If you have a 10-cup coffee pot, fill it to the 5-cup level on the carafe. Pour the vinegar into the water reservoir area.
You only have to do this one-time, but if you do it twice (with a fresh batch of vinegar, that wouldn’t hurt). Rinse with fresh water 3-to-4 times to clear the machine. I opt for 3-to-4 times because no one wants their coffee smelling like vinegar.
How many times have you tossed your mail, handbag, grocery bags, the package that was left outside on your front porch directly onto your counter-top?
If you’re anything like me, I’m sure you’ve done it plenty of times. It’s now time to prepare for dinner, so you clear off the counter, but did you take some antibacterial spray and clean it off first?
It’s okay. I’m not here to judge; I’m just here to make you aware there can be some hidden germs and bacteria lurking around wanting to take a ride on the turkey sandwich you just fixed, without you even knowing it.
As a rule of thumb, try to keep some antibacterial wipes on your kitchen counter. I prefer the Lysol ones over Clorox, but either one is a great choice.
I don’t like the clutter or the expensive of those wipes, so I keep my Spic and Span Everyday Antibacterial Sprays under my kitchen sink. This is the BEST STUFF EVER! You can find it at Dollar Tree for a buck or Walmart for .88 cents.
Only wipe your counters up with PAPER TOWELS. Sponges are a no-no. I’ll get to that in a bit.
Before I start on this one, you need 2 cutting boards in your home. One for meat and one for fruits and vegetables. Personally, I like to cut on some cheap dollar store plates which I can toss in the dishwasher after washing them off in hot soapy water. Yes, I’m a double-duty washer.
Wooden cutting boards should NEVER be used for meat. Although I love wooden cutting boards, germs and bacteria seem to finds its new home tucked between all the crannies the knife made. This is just a personal preference, but I don’t like putting anything wooden in my dishwasher (even utensils) as I feel it weakens them, causing small microscopic perforations.
To avoid cross-contamination between meat, fruits and vegetables, please invest in 2 separate cutting boards. If all you can find are two that look alike, grab yourself a sharpie and write on the handles “meat” on one and “veggies” on the other.
Dishcloths or Dishtowels
These are the number 1 culprit of cross-contamination in my book. Most people will touch the dishcloth before and after washing their hands.
Have you ever done this?
You scooped some ground beef out of the container and put it in a bowl. Now you grabbed the dishtowel without thinking and wiped your hands off. You then turn on the faucet, wash your hands, then dry them with the same dishcloth you touched after you scooped up the ground beef.
You basically defeated the whole purpose and you have now had the bacteria from the beef back on your hands. Without thinking, you then open up the cupboard to get out the spices, and the story just keeps going on. You get the point, right?
Some people will wipe up a spill with the dishcloth, then wash their hands, then take that same dishcloth and re-contaminate themselves by touching the dishcloth (as shown in the example above). If this isn’t bad enough, some people will leave their dishtowels hanging on the handle of the stove wet. Not only does this produce mold, but it’s contaminating the handle of the stove.
Do yourself a favor, use paper towels. Yeah, I know, they’re ridiculously priced, but in the long run, it’s a lot cheaper than getting a bill for your week-long stint at the hospital for giving yourself food poisoning.
How to sanitize dishtowels
- Soak them in vinegar for 15 minutes before putting them in the washing machine.
- Wash them on hot and add 1 cup bleach to your washing machines well. Make sure there is an over-abundance of water in the machine. If you’re washing a small load of dishtowels, set your machine level to medium.
- Do not wash your dishtowels with your regular household towels unless you don’t plan to use fabric softener.
Contrary to popular belief, the dishwasher does not have magical powers that will make the stuck-on food particles vanish into thin air or dissolve with your dishwashing soap. Dishwasher soap companies have snowed us for years.
Yes, the dishwasher soap will clean your dishes and it may just soften up the food you left on the pate, but where do you think that hard crusty food goes? It’s too big to go down the drain, so it hangs out at the bottom of your dishwasher.
Have you ever seen residual food particles lying at the bottom of your dishwasher? That’s food that didn’t magically vanish (even if you did use Cascade) and it’s stuck in your drain impeller.
Here’s the gross part. You have a piece of last week’s steak lodged in the drain impeller and now you load the dishes up and run the cycle again. Even though the water is really hot, it’s hitting the rotting meat and splashing its bacteria all over your dishes.
Wait a minute Stacey, the heat of the water and steam will kill all the germs and bacteria.
Well, yes it will, but, it’s going to grow again and how do you truly know your dishwasher is heating the water at the proper temperature?
Play it safe, and clean the drain impeller after every washing. You don’t have to remove it; just remove the visible particles of food.
How to sanitize a dishwasher
Unless you have mold growing in your dishwasher, do not use bleach. To effectively sanitize your dishwasher, pour a cup of white distilled vinegar on the bottom of an empty dishwasher and run it through one full cycle. Do not add any detergent to this. Just add vinegar and turn it on. Also, make sure you set it to steam dry.
Handles, Knobs, and Touch-pads
When you think about where germs and bacteria are living in the kitchen, this is the most overlooked spot. Odds are you have a lot of handles, knobs, and a touch-pad or two in your kitchen.
While you’re in the midst of cooking, you’re turning the stove one, pressing the buttons on the microwave, and opening the spice cabinet. During the process, your hands touched the raw food you were preparing.
You can leave a bevy of germs like E. coli and Salmonella on them without even realizing it.
After you’re done preparing your food, take an antibacterial wipe and go over everything you touched.
I don’t have a knife block, but I had heard some television show called The Doctors, did a comparison test between a bathroom floor and a knife block. Okay, first of all, who would ever come up with a hair-brained idea to compare those two separate areas? According to the show, a bathroom floor near the toilet has fewer germs than your knife block.
Apparently, the bathroom floor they tested was not one where a household of little boys lives.
First of all, I don’t believe something some sell-out physicians (if they even are actually physicians) tell me. If I’m going to believe this, I want to find an article in the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) or any other publication filled with scholarly articles from board-certified physicians or renowned scientists, not some hokey TV doctors. Here is a link to the 2012 video. As of writing this, I still have not found scientific evidence proving this is a fact.
You should watch the video, it’s pretty comical.
How to sanitize a knife block
- Hand wash in hot soapy water.
- Using a very small brush, scrub the slots where the knives go in.
- Spray the entire block with your choice of either hydrogen peroxide, bleach or vinegar.
- Let sit for the amount of time per the heated or unheated method.
Kitchen soap dispensers/ bottles
All I have to say to this one is, when we pick up the soap bottle or pressing the pump dispenser to wash our hands after preparing our meal, we’re using our gross soiled hands.
I just made some hamburger patties, and now I need to wash my hands. Oh hello, there Dawn detergent bottle sitting next to my sink. Here, let me pick you up with my gross hands so you can dispense your antibacterial soap onto my hands.
Ick! I’m sure you never paid any attention to this….until now, that is.
How to sanitize kitchen soap dispensers
Wipe the entire bottle including the dispensing pump with an antibacterial wipe after each use.
There are 3 areas of the exterior of a refrigerator that will harbor bacteria and/or mold growth, that most people seem to not pay that much attention to.
The door handle (this falls within the knobs, handles and touch-pad area).
If your refrigerator has a water dispenser if it’s not dried and cleaned off after each use, it can cause mold to grow.
The grill/vent area that is located at the base of the refrigerator seems to be a catch-all for dripped liquids and food particles. Although food normally does not touch this area, clean it, because there’s a lot of bacteria forming there.
How to sanitize a refrigerator
- Remove all food from the refrigerator.
- Take out the shelves, bins and anything else that is not a fixed item in the interior of the refrigerator.
- Clean each one with hot soapy water and dry using a paper towel. Once dry, spray down with your choice of sanitizer.
- Scrap off all the sticky mess with hot soapy water. Dry with a clean paper towel, then spray down with your choice of sanitizer.
- Once everything is dry, put it back in the refrigerator, then repeat the same process for the freezer; however, put all of your frozen food in an airtight cooler before sanitizing the freezer.
- Wipe down the grill, water dispenser and handles with the same mixture. Let air dry or wipe down with a clean paper towel.
Salt, Pepper and Seasoning Shakers
The salt, pepper and seasoning shakers are probably one of the most overlooked items in the kitchen that are harboring a party of germs and bacteria.
While you’re preparing your meal, you grab the salt, pepper or seasoning shakers with your soiled hands. Most of us do this, but this is the number one way of cross-contamination.
Always wipe them down with a disinfecting wipe before putting them away, and wipe them off every time you do your kitchen cleaning.
The Kitchen Sink
How do you typically clean your sink? With a kitchen sponge right? Most people will just rinse the sink out, but by not using an antibacterial cleaner, your efforts are, in a manner of speaking, useless.
When you use a sponge that has already been used, all you’re doing is spreading the bacteria that’s already on the sponge.
Now, not to be gross or judgmental, but how many times have you washed a bunch of grapes only to have one fall in the sink which looked clean, and you either put it back with the rest of the grapes in a bowl or in your mouth?
I’m not judging you. We’ve all done it. We just need to be a little more cognizant of our actions. Unless you sanitize your kitchen sink there will always be small particles of food that remain there rotting.
One of the most under-looked areas of the sink is the side that’s closest to you and the water aerator. When you clean your sink, don’t forget about the side that closest to you.
Many years ago I prepared a bag of Success Rice. In order to drain the water from the packet, I placed the bag in the kitchen sink leaning it against the part of the sink that was closest to me. With a spoon, I smashed the bag against the wall of the sink to release the water.
It wasn’t until the following week, I noticed all the dried and stuck-on food that was living along the wall of my sink.
I never saw it, so, therefore, it didn’t exist.
Thankfully I didn’t get sick from it, but now I make a point out of cleaning all four walls of the sink during my nightly sink cleaning routine. The easiest way to do this is to scrub it with hot soapy water, followed by wiping it down with an antibacterial wipe.
Have you ever noticed the flow of the water coming out of your kitchen faucet isn’t as strong as it was in earlier months? That’s more than likely due to mold and rust clogging the holes of the aerator. Always make a point to either wipe down or spray the aerator with antibacterial spray during your nightly cleaning.
How to sanitize a kitchen sink
It’s kind of a futile effort since the kitchen sink is the number one used spot in the kitchen. Just because it’s the most used, it doesn’t mean you need to neglect it. On a daily basis, wipe it down with an antibacterial wipe, but at a minimum, thoroughly sanitize it – along with the garbage disposal – at least once a month.
How to sanitize a garbage disposal
Use 1 cup baking soda followed by 3 cups of distilled vinegar. Once the bubble ceases, run hot water through the running disposal for 3 minutes.
Spatula & Other Cooking Utensils
After using a spatula or any other cooking utensil; how often do you actually wash it off with hot soapy water, then put it back in the utensil holder? Let’s be real, some people have been known to just rinse it off and not use hot soapy water. If you do that, please stop! Once you use a utensil for any purpose it’s contaminated and should not be rinsed off and put back either in your utensil drawer or holder.
According to the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation), spatula’s made of rubber are 36% more likely to be contaminated with small levels of E. Coli and approximately 43% mold and yeast. Just think, you mix up some cake batter with your rubber spatula, rinse it off and put it back in the utensil holder where it intermingles with your spaghetti lifter, serving spoons, and tongs. You may have to rinse off the cake batter, but rinsing alone does not remove the residual salmonella.
If you don’t have a dishwasher in your home, please sanitize your cooking utensils at least once a week.
A Kitchen Sponge
I have 3 words for you. Don’t use them.
Per the NPR, in regards to a study published in Scientific Reports, it was noted they found 363 species of bacteria. Eww, gross! They compared that to “stuffing all the people who live in Manhattan into the Rockefeller ice rink”.
In essence, your kitchen sponge is the dirtiest germ-filled item in your kitchen. The kitchen sponge has more germs and bacteria on it as your toilet.
If you’re going to use sponges, I would highly recommend you buy a few packs from the dollar store and throw them out after each use.
If you’re like me and you don’t use sponges but use a scrubbing brush instead, all you need to do is clean it with warm soapy water. The bristles on the brushes are made from synthetic fibers and as far as I’ve been able to research it, they don’t harbor germs or bacteria. Still, from a safety standpoint, I do soak mine in a mixture of vinegar and baking soda on a weekly basis. (1 cup vinegar to 1/4 cup baking soda).
How to sanitize a sponge
Throw them out..that’s how. Sure you can pop it in your microwave in a bowl of 1 cup water to 1/2 cup vinegar, but for as cheap as they are, if you’re going to use them, sanitize them every evening, then change them out every week.
Although this list is in no way complete, I hope it opened your eyes a little bit. I know we all clean our homes and some of us are a little OCD (I raise my hand here) when it comes to cleanliness.
If you’d like to get down and really read the nitty-gritty on how to disinfect a kitchen sponge, you’ll totally want to read, Why Sponges are Horrible and Should Be Burned.
Awareness is the key to living a healthy life.
So, do you think I may have missed any hiding spots where germs may lie? Share in the comment below!
Until we meet again,
For more information, please visit the following sources:
urmc.rochester.edu – University of Rochester Medical Center
niddk.nih.gov – National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases