Tackling germ hot spots in the kitchen

The room with the most germs in your home is the kitchen. The bathroom also is also home to bacteria and viruses. Do you know where the most germs are lurking? Pay special attention to these germ hot spots, identified by NSF Consumer Information. Keeping these areas clean takes little time, as long as you remember to do them. When teaching kids and teens how to prepare their own food, include instructions on how to properly clean these trouble areas.

Kitchen Sponge - My sister cringes when she sees me using any type of kitchen sponge. Because we don't have a dishwasher, I do use sponges, the type with one soft side and one scrubbing side to wash dishes. I also microwave sponges for two minutes and replace them weekly, although NSF International advises replacing sponges every two weeks. I figure mine get more than their average use because we don't have a dishwasher and we make all of our meals at home. If I had a dishwasher I would also clean my sponges in there.

What I don't do is clean the kitchen counters with sponges. I will use paper towels and a spray cleaner, either a commercial one or a homemade mix of vinegar and water or super diluted bleach. I also don't use sponges on cutting boards for meat.

Alternatives: If you want to skip the sponge completely, use washable dishcloths and clean them in the washing machine with bleach.

Stove Knobs - My sister and I got into a world of trouble when we were teenagers because one of the stove knobs went missing. Permanently. We were cleaning the kitchen and had removed the knobs. To this day I will soak stove knobs in a soapy sink while I clean the stove top, to remove any bacteria or residue from uncooked and cooked foods. They are easy enough to clean, rinse and dry, just try not to lose one.

Alternatives: When cooking, remember to clean your hands after touching any raw meat or eggs. It can be tempting to just grab for the knob, or even the spices, but clean your hands first.

Kitchen Sink - I once read a recommendation that you should not rinse chicken before cooking because it increases the chance of cross-contamination. I have never not rinsed a whole chicken or boneless chicken breasts before cooking. I tend to trim excess fat from roasting chickens after rinsing. Even boneless and skinless chicken sometimes has strips of skin left which I will trim before cooking. Rinsing the chicken in a clean sink is a fine thing to do, as long as you clean the sink when you're done.

Clean out the sink and remove any dishpans first. Keep the waste basket nearby to toss the packaging and excess fat, without having to walk it across the kitchen. I place the pan I am going to use for cooking near the sink, sometimes with a sauce or marinade already in the pan. After I am done with the chicken, I use bleach and paper towels to clean the sink, around the sink, and the faucet.

Tip: If you have a water filter attached to your faucet, snap it off before handling any raw meat near the sink. This can keep raw chicken juices from landing on the filter.


NSF International