The Dirty Truth about Cleaning & Sanitizing your Kitchen
Many people try to follow the basics of keeping kitchen germs at bay.
Now, I’ll admit that I never gave kitchen sanitation much of a thought – I am already very clean, until I found out that a typical kitchen sink actually has more germs than a toilet seat.
Gag! So maybe I need to look into this a little more closely...
It might be hard not to turn into a germaphobe after hearing something like that, but bear with me; you don’t need to wear a hazmat suit while doing the dishes.
Cleaning & Sanitizing are Different Things
When you clean your kitchen, you are using soap and water to remove dirt and food from surfaces.
When you sanitize your kitchen, you are cleaning down to a level that you cannot even see, using chemicals to reduce germs to a safe or non-existent level.
Destroy harmful germs and bacteria that are hiding throughout your kitchen with these simple, effective tips and cleaning solutions, which are used throughout the country, in many professional restaurants and kitchens.
Make Your Own Homemade Kitchen Sanitizer
We might not see the germs and bacteria, but they are still there.
But luckily you can easily make a homemade disinfectant cleaning solution to kill the germs and bacteria that are hiding all over your kitchen.
In a large bowl or container, combine:
- One gallon of cold water
- One tablespoon of unscented, liquid chlorine bleach
Dip a clean, cotton cloth into the solution and begin wiping down all surfaces. Allow the solution to stay on the surface for a minimum of one minute to get the best disinfecting action. Wipe dry with a clean, cotton cloth.
If that's a problem, you can also put the solution in a spray bottle and mist the area. Be careful not to spray the solution on your clothing, carpet or any where else because it can remove color and permanently damage items it comes into contact with.
This recipe came from the CDC (Center for Disease Control). The CDC recommends using this homemade solution to sanitize countertops and the exterior of kitchen appliances.
The CDC also advises AGAINST adding more bleach than recommended to this sanitizing solution.
The Dirty Truth -- Sanitizing the Kitchen Sink
No one has the time to wipe down every square inch of their kitchen kill every single germ or bacteria living there.
The dirty truth is that the kitchen sink is germier than most bathrooms.
There can be more than 500,000 bacteria swarming in the drain (per square inch) alone.
I've read that the bacteria gets there from washing fresh vegetables. I want the germs off my vegetables, but it makes me feel a tiny bit woozy thinking about potential pathogens like salmonella, campylobacter and E. coli that can take up residence in the drain.
The way to stop that is to sanitize the sink once or twice a week, at least.
So here are some easy ways to stay on top of the dirtiest place in your kitchen. If you aren't a fan of spraying the sanitizer, try this easy method:
- After doing the dishes, rinse any remaining food particles out of the sink.
- Stop up the sink and fill it to the top with hot water (boiling hot, preferably).
- For every gallon of water your sink holds, pour a half a cup of bleach.
- Swish it around and let sit for a minimum of five minutes.
- Let the solution run down the drain, as this will kill any remaining germs that are hiding down there.
- Allow the sink to air dry.
For all of those people out there who use a sponge to clean your dishes or countertops: Improperly cleaned kitchen sponges are the #1 source of germs.
Poorly cleaned sponges used to wipe surfaces transfer bacteria from one item to another.
A BRILLIANT and EFFECTIVE way to keep your kitchen sanitary is to nuke your sponge in the microwave!
A medical study published in the Journal of Environmental Health concluded that putting your sponge in the microwave for two minutes on full power killed more than 99% of the germs and bacteria on the sponge.
To sterilize your sponges:
- This tip should only be used for regular cellulose (wood pulp) kitchen sponges.
- Only microwave wet sponges. This is important, as a dry sponge could possibly set on fire.
- To err on the side of caution, always run your sponge under water before putting it in the microwave.
- Do not microwave your sponge if it contains metal or steel materials.
- Two minutes is sufficient to kill 99% of germs and bacteria, but, depending on the strength of your microwave, four minutes is permitted.
- Your sponge will be extremely hot after it is done nuking, so it is best to let it cool off for a while before you even think about touching it.
It is recommended that you microwave your sponge every other day, as bacteria can grow quickly.
Keeping Bacteria and Germs at Bay
Our kitchens are a breeding ground for harmful bacteria and germs. A multitude of factors contribute to the overall filth; dirty hands, raw meat, old dishes and a full trash can are some of the more obvious culprits.
Here are a few basic precautions you can take to keep your kitchen germ-free:
Use Disposable Gloves
Keep a box of gloves in an easily assessable place somewhere in your kitchen. Use latex-free gloves, called nitrile.
It took me a while to remember that I had gloves available to use – but after a while, you will be using them regularly and your hands will thank you!
Use disposable gloves when:
- Handling raw meat, poultry or seafood
- Handling raw eggs (or cracking them)
- Taking out the trash
- Doing the dishes
Use Wet Wiping Cloths
Wet wipe clothes clean, sanitize and disinfect – all in one! They are convenient, disposable and trust me when I say that just one cloth will last for quite some time.
If you want to kill the harmful germs and bacteria living in your kitchen, simply grab a cloth and start wiping away.
Don’t forget to wipe these especially dirty areas:
- Counter tops
- Faucet handles
- Refrigerator door handles
- Exterior appliance surfaces
Preventing Kitchen Germs
Okay, so you aren't a restaurant owner (although sometimes it can feel that way with all those mouths to feed), but that doesn't mean you shouldn't abide by the same strict rules that restaurants adhere to. After all, they are there to protect us.
A majority of the germs and bacteria in our kitchen come from handling raw foods (meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, etc.)
Here are some basic food safety tips to keep your kitchen germ free:
Wash Your Hands
Thoroughly wash your hands before, during and after preparing food. As well as before and after eating your meal and taking out the garbage. Now, this may seem like a no-brainer, but, it is vital to keeping your kitchen sanitary.
The CDC recommends washing hands for a total of twenty seconds. If you don't have a timer handy, just sing "happy birthday" twice through, while doing all of these steps:
- Wet hands with warm water and lather with an anti-bacterial soap (which is important if you are handling raw foods).
- Water and soap alone will do little for your hands - it is the physical rubbing action that will sanitize and disinfect your digits. So get to it!
- Do not forget underneath your fingernails, as this is where germs and bacteria are known to hide.
- Pat hands dry with a clean, cotton cloth.
Avoid Cross Contamination
I know - this one also seems like a no-brainer, but it needs to be addressed. Most people do an amazing job at remembering to wash their hands, but tend to forget (guilty as charged) the importance of separating foods and proper food handling.
Harmful disease causing bacteria and germs can be spread from your food to other food, or from your food to your dinnerware (which you then eat out of or with!), or even from your food to other places in your home.
It almost feels like we're fighting a never-ending battle with an invisible monster...but, that doesn't mean that you can't do your part to keep your kitchen and family safe by avoiding cross-contamination.
- Use designated cutting boards
- Clean areas used for food preparation completely in between uses.
- Keep dishes used for raw meat apart from cooked meats
Keeping Your Kitchen Clean and Sanitized
I'll be the first to admit that I don't always practice what I preach. After all, it is hard to remember to sanitize your kitchen when it looks perfectly clean to begin with.
Cleaning is always easier if your family members are on-board with the cleaning schedule. Let them know what you are doing to sanitize your kitchen, why it is important and how they can help you.
Keep your essential sanitizing supplies in a common-sense location (in other words, away from small children and pets), but where they are easily accessible to those who will be cleaning:
- Wet wiping cloths
- Disposable latex-free gloves
- Antibacterial soap
- Unscented, liquid chlorine bleach
Make a schedule and tape it to the refrigerator to remind yourself when everything needs to be disinfected. At least once a week for your sink, every other day for your sponge, after cooking a meal for your countertops, etc.
Knowledge is power when it comes to killing the bacteria and germs that are crawling around your kitchen. With the proper equipment and techniques, you can successfully eliminate any threat that is hiding in your kitchen.
Good luck and happy sanitizing!
Image courtesy of Nancy Hugo, CC BY-ND.