For many, the bathroom is considered the germ sanctuary of any household. But in truth, it is the kitchen that harbors the greatest number of bacteria – more than any other room in your house.
Well, all rooms and practically every place on earth is a potential breeding place for germs but those that thrive in the kitchen are the ones responsible for illnesses from the common cold, to flu up to other more dangerous diseases.
But even in the kitchen, not all places are created equal, and today we’ll talk about the germiest places in the kitchen itself, so that you can clean them ASAP and make sure that you pay special attention to them in the future.
Let’s run some facts first:
- In a microbiological study conducted by Rusin, Orosz-Coughlin, and Gerba, they stated that reported that more than bathrooms, the kitchen is more heavily contaminated with fecal coliforms.
- The University of Arizona conducted research in 2014 and they found that 895 of household towels and dishrags had coliform bacteria and some, E. Coli – both, potentially life threatening microorganisms.
So, just where do we unintentionally harbor these microscopic critters? Here are the top 10 germiest places in your kitchen that need cleaning and disinfection asap!
1. Refrigerator (Vegetable Bin and Water Dispenser)
It is almost a certainty that many of us wipe our fridge spotless clean from time to time, but is that enough? In most cases, it is, but you still have to be careful!
Consider cross-contamination from the produce that you store. When you chuck a head of lettuce in, check for rotten leaves as a single one can liquify and damage the rest of the vegetables in your bin. Contaminated food can spawn salmonella, listeria, yeast, mold, and various types of bacteria.
Unreplaced and unclean carbon filters in the fridge’s water dispensers can also cause coliform and salmonella to thrive. Remember to check and replace it when necessary!
Another area which many of us fail to notice is the fridge door gasket which ensure that the temperature is as cold as it should be. An unclean or brittle gasket will allow warm air to leak in and cause food contamination as well.
2. Coffee Makers
Germs, mold, and yeast – yes, your coffeemaker’s water reservoir could be a home for these critters according to the NSF International study of kitchen products in 2011 with a 50% rate of contamination.
While non-disposable filters are great, dirty coffeemaker filters are also a go-to place for germs.
To address these problems, manufacturers suggest to always empty the reservoir and keep the lid open or detached to dry out the inside.
If your unit has a pot, make sure to wash and dry properly. Never forget to scrub your filters clean and take notice of the cleaning cycle recommended. Usually, a light concoction of vinegar and water through a brewing cycle would suffice.
And if you know that you won’t forget to clean them properly in order to avoid potential problems, we have already shared a list of the best Keurig coffee makers – or, if you prefer, the best Keurig coffee machine alternatives.
3. Can Openers
Each time you use this trusty kitchen tool, small food bits can get stuck to the blade. Many of us simply wipe it off and never think that bacteria latch onto these particles and feed on it, guaranteeing contamination in the next can we open.
Therefore it is impreative to make sure you wash your can opener alongside your dishes. If you have an electric one, remove the lid holder and cutting wheel from time to time and soak in hot soapy water, then let it dry. If necessary, give it a good scrubbing.
4. Dishwashing Sponge
Are you washing dishes in the toilet? Well, you might as well do that since a dishwashing sponge has more germs than your lavatory, as a German research team Scientific Reports have disclosed.
So instead of cleaning your dishes, pots, pans, and utensils, you are actually swabbing them with germs!
Disinfecting measures include hot, soapy sponge soaps, bleach baths for your sponge and some even microwave these babies (just make sure to remove any metal bits to avoid a fire).
But let’s take it a step further, its’ highly suggested you have spare sets of sponged so you can clean and disinfect a sponge THEN dry them before putting them back to reuse.
Make sure they’re washed well. Never think twice about replacing a suspicious-looking (or smelling) sponge. You can read more on how to clean a dirty kitchen sponge here.
5. Kitchen Blender and Tabletop Food Processors
So, you have kitchen equipment that has gaskets and receptacles? They are the perfect hiding places for mold, yeast, E. Coli and salmonella.
Often taken for granted, we must remember to take them apart after every use and give them a good wash. According to Dr. Oz himself, these babies can house up to 640,000 colonies of bacteria when left unclean! Yikes!
6. Cutting Boards
The tiny grooves from a well-used cutting board are perfect hiding spots for a multitude of germs – particularly if you use the same board to slice raw meats and produce. You may be cultivating bacteria that cause food poisonings like E. Coli and salmonella.
It helps to have a dedicated board for meat and a separate one for produce. But that said, it is still imperative to make sure you clean these with a thorough scrub and hot, soapy water.
Soaking in bleach may also help. But don’t hesitate to replace your board once it becomes too well worn. In case you’re wondering whether to use wood or plastic to avoid germs, there are pros and cons to each, but the bottom line is giving them a good disinfecting after use.
This is one place that is usually high and dry in our cooking area. Do we need to check them for germs? The answer is, YES!
Always update your food storage area – empty them periodically and go over expiration dates and the contents of bottles that have left unused for quite some time.
You can have moldy spices and nuts in storage. Breadcrumbs or other fine foodstuff like flour or cornstarch may have pooled on the cupboard corners and floor harboring fuzzy green mold.
Open your dried pasta, packaged food, rice, and flour as unused ones may host yucky weevils. So remember to regularly check on them and clean if necessary.
8. Knife Blocks
We love just how nice and orderly these knife stands look on our countertops. The knives are slotted in to keep us safer. But when we fail to properly disinfect them, knife blocks cause more harm than good.
After washing your knife, you stick the still-wet tool into its place in the block. Though the bacteria in these crevices may not be enough to get you THAT sick, why take the risk?
Shake your knife block while upside down and empty periodically to dislodge crumbs and food debris. You can soak them in warm water, bleach and dish soap then dry well before reusing.
You can also use distilled white vinegar or hydrogen peroxide in the soapy solution. Investing in a magnetic knife strip to wipe knives clean also helps.
9. Rubber Spatulas
Always remember to take apart two-piece rubber spatulas before washing them. Chances are, these tools often have whatever you were mixing deposited in the neck and receptacle inside.
You do not want to add last week’s cake batter into today’s pastry mix plus a hearty helping of germs. If you have one-piece spatulas, make sure to get the bits stuck to the corners as these are hotbeds of bacteria and mold.
10. The Kitchen Sink and Counter
We save the best for last and thrown in the kitchen sink – and the counters as well! Countless studies continually remind us how dirty these kitchen areas are even if they appear to be clean.
The kitchen sink is where we deposit used dishes and cooking utensils, wash and rinse produce and meats. It is not unheard of that sometimes babies and pets are being bathed in them as well. Don’t do that, though!
Nonetheless, this area is the receptacle of many bits of trash that simply don’t go away when flushed down the drain. You will need to sanitize the sink to prevent bacterial spread with a good washing down with bleach and water. And please don’t forget to sanitize your drain cover, nozzle and filter!
Kitchen counters are an unseen horror as well. This is where we often place our handbags as we arrive home – and some of us have just set it down on a public toilet!
We place grocery bags on countertops that have come from supermarket floors and the trunk of the car. These are aside from the usual germ-friendly substances that we leave on them like juices from chopping meat, bits of chopped vegetables or tiny pieces of food.
A good thorough wipe, wash and disinfect with your favorite cleaning solution will do the trick!
There’s no need to get obsessive about your kitchen’s cleanliness. Good kitchen cleaning habits will do wonders, though.
Changing home habits such as taking care not to dump everything you brought from the outside onto food preparation areas will also lessen germs spawning in spaces they shouldn’t grow. Again, germs are everywhere. We just need to keep calm and know where to clean and disinfect.