Wednesday, May 13, 2020 / by Sarah Graham
Not to scare you or anything, but there are places in your kitchen that are dirtier than the average toilet. Even if you keep your kitchen clean enough to make Ina Garten smile, microbes lurk in surprising places. Here's where to find them and how to kill them.
Before you dice that chicken breast tonight, know this: The average cutting board has 200 times more germs than a toilet seat, according to a University of Arizona study. Why? Raw meat can leave fecal matter that gets cozy in the grooves left by your knife. Wash plastic or wooden cutting boards with dish soap and hot water twice a month, then spray them down with a bleach and water solution.
That sponge you're cleaning your dishes and wiping your counters with is the dirtiest thing in your entire house, according to a study by a group of German researchers. They found a crazy high amount of 45 billion microbes per square centimeter, mostly E. coli and other fecal bacteria. A sponge makes your toilet look like a surgical operating room. At the end of each day, zap your sponge in the microwave for 30 seconds. Toss them in the washing machine or dishwasher once a week.
The compartments where you store meat and vegetables are breeding grounds for germs, says the public health and safety organization NSF. The unwrapped veggies and dripping meat juices can leave behind disease-causing microbes like salmonella, listeria, yeast and mold. Once a month, empty the drawers, pull them out, and scrub them with hot, soapy water.
Coffee Maker Reservoir
You clean your coffeepot, but don't forget the reservoir. It's a breeding ground for disease-causing germs like staph, strep, and E. coli. Remove the reservoir once a month and wash it with hot, soapy water. Run vinegar through the coffeemaker regularly to clean the carafe and get rid of mineral buildup in the machine's pipes. Brew a pot of clean water when you're done to get rid of the vinegar.
Garbage is nasty but the container it's in is even nastier. The typical garbage can has twice as many germs per square inch living on it than a toilet seat. The food you threw in there leaks out of the trash bag, and lots of germy hands touch the lid. Wipe the outside of the can once a week with an antibacterial cleaner or a hot, soapy sponge. Once a month, haul the can outside, spray it inside and out with a mix of bleach and water and hose it out.
The blade on your can opener is a germ paradise, full of salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold. And it touches your food every time you use it. Since you don't want a dash of microbes along with those canned pinto beans, use a toothbrush and vinegar to clean it after each use. Wipe it dry so more bacteria doesn't colonize on the damp blade. Remember, germs adore moisture.
Pet Food Bowl
Lots of us feed our fur kids in the kitchen, but your pup or kitty's bowl can be crawling with germs. Here's how nasty it is: A toilet seat has 295 bacteria per square inch. A dirty pet bowl has as many as 2,110 bacteria per square inch. (And you worry when he drinks out of the toilet!) You wash your dishes after every meal, so wash your pet’s, too, with hot, soapy water.
Want salmonella, E. coli and a side of mold with your milkshake? Didn’t think so. But the nasty little creatures lurk on the gasket that’s under the blade to stop leaks. Take your blender apart after every use and clean it with hot, soapy water. You may be able to put the rubber ring in your dishwasher, but check the manual first so you don't melt it.
That lovely bowl of apples, bananas and oranges on your counter can have up to 11 times as many germs as your dog's bowl. The problem? Some of that fruit rots and bacteria gets on the bowl and spreads to the new fruit. Clean the bowl with soap and hot water or run it through the dishwasher before you restock the bowl.
The drawer where you keep the forks and spoons you put in your mouth every day has four times more germs than a toilet handle. It gets gross because we don't get all the food bits off the utensils. Those food bits grow bacteria, and since bacteria love the dark, a closed drawer is their dream home. Make sure you get all the food off your forks. And once every three months, empty the drawer and wipe it out with all-purpose cleaner or vinegar diluted with water. Dry it off before you put the utensils back in.
Salt Shaker and Pepper Grinder
Lots of hands touch your salt and pepper shakers or grinders, so they’re a haven for cold viruses. Blast the bacteria by wiping down these objects after every meal with a hot, soapy sponge. Wash your hands before meals to keep those viruses from taking up residence on the shakers or grinders in the first place.
The leftovers you store in containers with rubber lids leave food particles and other bacteria in the seal. An NSF study found the containers have traces of salmonella, yeast and mold, even when they're cleaned after every use. Once a month, soak the containers in baking soda and water for 30 minutes or spritz them with bleach and then wash them.
This handy dandy utensil can be teeming with E. coli, yeast, and mold. The germs build up where the paddle attaches to the handle. You can separate the paddle from the handle on some spatulas, and if yours is one of those, pull it apart and wash each piece after every use. If hand washing spatula parts isn't your game, buy a silicone one that’s all one piece, with no nooks and crannies that make nice home for germs.
Be honest, when was the last time you cleaned this? Yeah, never. Mold and yeast love darkness, so they grow in the slots where you store your knives. And if you miss food bits on your knives or put them in the block before they're dry, you're feeding the germs. Once a month, submerge the entire block in hot, soapy water and clean the slots with a small bottle-cleaning brush. Rinse it, turn it upside down and let it dry completely.