by Pat Cummings, Certified Clinically Clean® Specialist
Are you doing a lot of holiday cooking and baking? We hope you are having fun. We also hope you’re staying safe by heeding these 7 hot spots for germs in the kitchen.
1 Refrigerator Handles
The 2011 NSF International Household Germ Study found that refrigerator handles were one of the places in the home that carried not only coliform, yeast and mold, but also staph bacteria. These handles are touched multiple times a day, probably by multiple people. But it’s the cook in the family who has the biggest opportunity to leave germs behind.
Think about it. You’re making a pot of soup. You go to the fridge to gather your veggies and return to the cutting board where you chop and dice. Next you want to use up some leftover rotisserie chicken.
Back to the refrigerator where you get out your chicken. You begin pulling chicken off the bone to add to your soup. And you get the bright idea to slice some mushrooms!
Back to the fridge with hands you just used to pull chicken. You grab your mushrooms, peel and slice. And voila. Soup’s on. But so is bacteria on your refrigerator handles.
It’s a good practice to clean your refrigerator handles daily, and always after preparing a meal.
2 The Kitchen Sink
You know the expression…everything including the kitchen sink…to describe including nearly everything possible? It’s an especially appropriate phrase to describe the number of germs in the kitchen sink. From dirty dishes and leftover food particles to raw juices from meat and vegetables that you may rinse before preparing. The kitchen sink is one of the hottest spots for germs in the kitchen.
Make sure you clean your kitchen sink after preparing food or soaking dishes, pots and pans. Use hot soapy water to scrub. Then sanitize with a food-grade sanitizer according to package directions.
It’s a misconception that because the sink is an area where things get cleaned, that it is clean. After you wash the dishes, remember to deep clean the whole sink, including the faucet.
According to the NSF Germ Study mentioned above, after three weeks of use, 70% of sponges start to exhibit bacteria, including E. coli and salmonella.
We realize sponges are convenient, especially in the kitchen. But they are bacteria collectors, especially for food borne pathogens. And in spite of what you read, microwaving them won’t kill all of the germs.
If you want to be safe, and we know that you do, keep the sponge away from raw meat or poultry juices. Instead use paper towels that you can throw in the trash.
Also don’t keep your sponges around for too long. Replace at least every two weeks, and if you use it a lot, replace once a week.
Clean your sponge daily. The easiest way to clean a sponge is to put it in the dishwasher on a heated dry cycle.
4 Hand Towels & Microfiber
Cloth hand towels and microfiber towels absorb more than rinse water. They can harbor germs in the kitchen. Let’s say you’re mixing batter (which includes a raw egg), you get some on your hands and what’s the first thing you reach for? Yep, the hanging towel.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends having a fresh stack on hand to start with a new one each day that you throw into the hamper every night to be washed with hot water.
5 Cutting Boards
Before you start trimming that steak on your cutting board, make sure the surface is clean. Cutting boards should be cleaned in hot soapy water, especially after being used for raw food items. It’s even recommended to have a separate cutting board for food that will be cooked and food that won’t. The cutting board is the one item in your kitchen that is most likely to harbor illness-causing germs.
6 Knobs and Handles
In the NSF study, light switches were found to have coliform, yeast and mold. Disinfect light switches often with spray or wipes. Be sure to follow the package directions for keeping the surface wet in order to kill germs as advertised. Some products need to stay wet for a full 10 minutes.
A handle that often gets overlooked is the one on your can opener. The NSF found traces of salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold on the can openers tested. A can opener should be cleaned after each use in the dishwasher or by hand in hot soapy water, with attention on removing any residue.
7 Salt and Pepper Shakers
They get handled by everyone in the family, while eating! And yet, how often do you clean, sanitize and disinfect them?
A study by the University of Virginia found that salt and pepper shakers were the top kitchen surface for the presence of rhinovirus, more than remote controls and faucets. Remember to wash and disinfect shakers regularly when cleaning the house.
When cooking, time and temperature are keys to keeping foods safe. Between 40 and 140 degrees is the “danger zone” for bacterial growth, and four hours is the maximum time any food should be in the zone! While reheating will kill the bacteria….it won’t touch the toxins they can produce! Stay safe and have a happy holiday however you may be celebrating! See you in the New Year on DisinfecTips.com!