7 Do’s & Don’ts to Combat Kitchen Germs
The kitchen is the heart of the home, the place where your family and guests most love to congregate. Unfortunately, due to its combination of food prep, warm temperatures, and moisture, this room tends to be equally popular as a germ hangout. Keep bacteria at bay with these 7 simple kitchen do’s and don’ts.
1. Sponge or Dish Cloth
DON’T hand wash dishes using a sponge or cloth unless you finish up with a hot water final rinse, according to microbiology expert Dr. Charles Gerba. His research has found that there are 10 million bacteria on every square inch of your kitchen sponge (eeww!), and about a tenth of that figure on your dish cloth.
DO clean your dish cloth or sponge frequently; keep a few on hand to switch off. Germy cloths are easy to throw into the washing machine every time you do a hot water load. Sponges should be sanitized in the dish washer or microwave – make sure they are wet before microwaving to avoid fire hazard – and discarded after a month of use.
DON’T forget to take care of your kitchen sink’s faucet handles and drains. These are two areas which accumulate a massive amount of bacteria.
DO wipe all parts of the kitchen sink well with vinegar and baking soda for natural sanitization. (CAUTION: To prevent corrosion, vinegar should not be used on stone sinks or countertops.) If you have a removable sink strainer, pull it out and scour thoroughly, especially the grimy underside. Scrub the inside of your sink drain with a toothbrush or narrow bottle brush.
3. Cutting Board
DON’T just give your cutting board a quick rinse after use. Whether it is made of wood or plastic (the jury is out as to which is more hygienic), the board should be cleaned and disinfected after each cutting session.
DO sanitize cutting boards with white vinegar. Swab with hydrogen peroxide after chopping raw meat, poultry, or seafood – which should be prepared on their own dedicated cutting surface. Plastic boards can go in the dishwasher.
4. Poultry Handling
DON’T wash poultry before cooking. While rinsing raw chicken or turkey under running water removes some surface bacteria, these organisms can end up all over you, your sink and counters, and everything nearby. Instead, put the meat directly into your pan or roaster; any bacteria will be killed by cooking to an interior temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit.
DO buy from a reliable source. Store fresh poultry in the refrigerator and cook promptly (within 2 days, according to the USDA). Defrost frozen fowl below 40 F, not at room temperature. If your refrigerator is not cooling your food sufficiently on scorching Texas summer days, an expert Dallas handyman can find the problem’s source.
5. Garbage and Compost Storage
DON’T place wet garbage or compost in a bin without a tight-fitting lid indoors, as this leads to unpleasant odors, as well as attracting insects and other pests.
DO use covered trash cans with a step-on pedal to minimize your hands’ contact with germs. If you produce relatively small amounts of compost, store in the freezer in a closed container until you can take it out to the main pile. Wash your hands with soap and warm water every time you handle garbage or compost.
6. Hand and Dish Towels
DON’T continue using kitchen towels indefinitely. Whether for drying dishes or wiping your hands, damp, soiled towels are a breeding ground for all sorts of nasties, including E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus.
DO keep a good stock of separate cloth towels for hands and dishes. Launder frequently at 90 degrees F, on a regular cycle.
7. Beverage Bottles
DON’T reuse plastic water bottles. Not only is it possible for chemicals to leach into your beverage, plastic drink bottles are usually manufactured with narrow necks. This makes them almost impossible to clean adequately.
DO opt for an easy-to-clean, eco-friendly, wide-mouth stainless steel or glass bottle.
Laura Firszt writes for networx.com.
Updated September 12, 2018.