10 cleaning tips for a germ-free kitchen

Washing your hands and wiping down countertops are good first  steps, but there's more you can do. © iStockphoto.com/Yvonne  Chamberlain
Washing your hands and wiping down countertops are good first steps, but there’s more you can do. © iStockphoto.com/Yvonne Chamberlain

By Jenilee Matz, M.P.H., Staff Writer, myOptumHealth

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Think your kitchen is squeaky-clean? Sure, it may appear spotless. But just because you don’t see any crumbs does not mean your kitchen is sterile. Billions of tiny germs may have made themselves at home in your kitchen sink, on your countertops, stove and everywhere else.

Germs live on every surface of your kitchen – from the buttons on the stove to your sink sponge to the coffee pot. But not all germs are bad. Good ones work hard in the digestive tract to keep us healthy. But others, like viruses that cause the flu and bacteria that cause foodborne illness, can make you really sick.

Washing your hands and wiping down countertops are good first steps, but there’s more you can do. Here are 10 tips for a germ-free kitchen:

  1. Wash your hands properly. Use warm, soapy water and rub hands together for at least 20 seconds. Thoroughly scrub hands, wrists, fingernails and in between fingers. Rinse and dry hands with a paper towel and use the paper towel to turn off the faucet. Wash your hands:
    • Before and after handling food or eating
    • After using the bathroom
    • After changing diapers
    • After handling animals and animal waste
    • After touching something dirty (for example, after taking out the trash or using a tissue)
    • Before and after caring for a sick person
    • Whenever they look dirty
  2. Use paper towels to clean kitchen surfaces. Make sure to use them for one task only. Wiping down one surface and then cleaning another with the same towel can spread bacteria. If you use nondisposable cleaning cloths, clean them in the washing machine often. If you use sponges, microwave them each day for 30 seconds or wash them in the dishwasher. Germs grow when materials are moist.
  3. Scrub your sink when cooking, especially if you are using it for different jobs while making your meal – like thawing chicken, preparing veggies and washing utensils.
  4. Use hot, soapy water to clean your pots, cutting boards, dishes, utensils and countertops before and after preparing food.
  5. Sanitize all kitchen surfaces once each week for added protection against bacteria. Don’t forget about door and cupboard handles, faucets and trash cans. Use a kitchen disinfectant or a diluted bleach solution (mix 1 teaspoon of bleach with 1 quart of water). The bleach solution needs to sit on the surface for about 10 minutes to be effective. Dry the surface with clean paper towels.
  6. Clean your can opener regularly.This is an excellent place for germs to hide and grow. Wash it with hot, soapy water.
  7. Disinfect the kitchen sink drain and disposal once or twice a week.Do so by pouring a diluted bleach solution (mix 1 teaspoon of bleach with 1 quart of water) down the drain. Bacteria can grow on food that gets stuck in the drain and disposal.
  8. Clean the inside of your microwave and refrigerator once each week. Wipe up spills right away and clean surfaces with hot, soapy water. Once a week, go through your fridge and throw out expired foods.
  9. Replace wooden items often. Wooden utensils and cutting boards can develop cracks where bacteria can hide.
  10. Be extra diligent about cleaning when someone in your home is sick to stop germs from spreading. Wash your hands and surfaces more often.

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