The 10 Dirtiest Spots in Your Kitchen

Do you think your kitchen is sparkling clean? It’s not so easy. “Moisture and food particles make it the perfect environment for growing germs that can make you sick,” says Kelly A. Reynolds, a Ph.D. environmental microbiologist from Arizona University’s Zuckerman College of Public Health in Tucson. “If you’re not killing them, you can go from 10 microbes to millions within 24 hours.” The more germs are present, the more likely you are to be infected by one. Follow this checklist for cleaning to get rid of all the bacteria in your kitchen.

Your Kitchen Sink

“There can be millions of pathogens (disease-causing germs) clinging to the sink, the seal of the drain and the rubber gasket around the garbage disposal,” Dr. Reynolds says—The doctor Dr. Reynolds. When you cook correctly, it reduces the chances of getting foodborne illnesses, bacteria like salmonella, found in most of the chickens you buy at home. It could remain in the sink after washing the food items that contain it if you touch your face after you’ve touched the sink and you’ve transferred the germs.

The best way to handle it is to clean your sink immediately after washing raw meat and vegetables and pet bowls, and at least once a day, even if you do not clean dishes for your pet or food. Apply a disinfectant (look at an EPA registration number, which is printed in tiny font at the bottom of the container) which kills most bacteria and viruses on the sides of your sink, the faucet, and the sink’s bottom and strainers. “Don’t just wipe and go. Leave the product on the surface for the contact time recommended on the label,” says Dr. Reynolds.

Your Sponge, Dish Rag, and Dish Brush

The healthcare organization NSF International recently discovered that over 75% of dishes, pots, and rags are contaminated with diseases-causing Coliform bacteria, such as E. coli. “Using the same dishrag day after day spreads the microbes,” says Robert Donofrio, Ph.D., director of microbiology at NSF International. A dirty rag contaminates any surface it comes in contact with, which means that if you eat off the surface, it is possible to get sick.

The best way to deal with it: Replace dishrags daily. Wash them in hot water and dry them in hot, which kills bacteria. Replace the sponges every couple of days or put one into the microwave, ensuring it’s not damp so that it won’t ignite–for a couple of minutes each day advises Dr. Donofrio. If you have a dish brush, use a spray daily with disinfectant before putting them in dishwashers, suggests Dr. Reynolds.

Your Hands

If you’ve broken an egg, or handled unwashed food items, poultry or meat that is raw, or your pet’s bowls, hands could transmit germs that cause disease to the following surfaces you touch, says Dr. Donofrio.

The best way to handle it: Plan. “Get out everything you need, such as the knife, the cutting board and the pot, so you’re not opening cabinet drawers and contaminating surfaces” after you’ve eaten the food, according to the doctor. Donofrio. After completing your dirty work, wash all over the tops and bottoms of your hands. Do this in between your fingers and beneath your nails. Rub for 20 minutes (hum “Happy Birthday” twice) and then wash. Dry using a clean cloth or paper.

Your Coffee Maker

Coffee isn’t the only thing that is brewing the reservoir. The NSF found mold and yeast in more than half the reservoirs of coffee makers they examined. “These organisms can cause allergic responses in some people,” says Dr. Donofrio. It can make your coffee taste unpleasant, Dr. Reynolds.

How to fix it: Once a month, refill the reservoir with vinegar and let it sit for at least 30 mins. Perform a run with the vinegar, followed by several purifying water runs. After each use, clean the coffee pot’s parts (such as a brew container) and allow them to dry. While single-serve coffee makers were not examined the way that Dr. Donofrio suggests the same procedure for them.

Your Handbag, Backpack, Briefcase, or Computer Bag

They are placed on dirty surfaces, such as the shopping cart’s seat, baby diapers, and food items that are raw, creating germs. You then throw your bags onto the kitchen counter once you return home. “Anything you carry with you all day can pick up germs,” Dr. Reynolds said. “In fact, about half of women’s handbags have fecal bacteria on them.” (Yuck!)

The best way to handle it: Because no product disinfects fabrics, ensure you keep the things you use daily from areas where food preparation is taking place, advises Dr. Reynolds. If your bag is made of leather and you use a disinfectant wipe, rub it across the bottom weekly. However, test it in a concealed area to ensure that it doesn’t cause damage to the material.

Refrigerator and Cabinet Handles, Stove Knobs, and Light Switches

“We often forget about these areas because they may not look dirty,” says Liz Trotter, owner of American Maid Cleaning in Olympia, WA. But any place you come in contact with often throughout the day is very likely to be infected.

How to use it: Wipe down these areas as part of your regular bathroom cleaning routine, advises Trotter. Store cleaning supplies in a bucket beneath the sink so they’re always available. As a minimum, you should swipe the disinfectant on these surfaces at a minimum of every month, and then immediately after touching them after handling food items that have not been cleaned, as well as raw meat, poultry, and other things, suggests the doctor. Reynolds.

Your Garbage Can

However careful you are, regardless of how diligent you are, food particles and meat juices, and other unpleasant things can accumulate in your trash container. “That’s why it gets smelly. The odor is the mold or bacteria multiplying,” Dr. Reynolds. When you touch the lid, other surfaces can spread germs.

The best way to deal with it is: Once a week, bring your trash can outside or bring it into the shower, according to Dr. Reynolds. Spray it inside and out with a disinfectant. Let it sit for the time suggested on the label, then rinse it and let it air dry. Be sure to clean the cabinet handle and the door when your garbage disposal is a pull-out model Trotter.

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