These Are the Dirtiest Places in Your Kitchen Gallery
March 23, 2018
You’ll never believe the places germs are hiding
These Are the Dirtiest Places in Your Kitchen
The kitchen is where some of our dearest sensory memories are born. The smell of sautéed garlic, the taste of slow-cooked chili, or the texture of fresh pasta dough can transport us back to delightful periods of our past.
But this most sacred of spaces is also one of the dirtiest. A study conducted by the sanitation standards organization NSF International found that 36 percent of kitchen items tested contained some coliform bacteria, and 100 percent of the items harbored yeast and mold. Although bacteria are impossible to avoid altogether, many crevices and appliances common to kitchens were covered in particularly dangerous strains such as salmonella, E. coli, and listeria.
Even the most inconspicuous of kitchen devices can house scary germs. Who would ever think that the salt and pepper shakers or refrigerator door handle could be a serious source of bacteria? Fortunately, once you identify the dirtiest places in your kitchen, you’ll be able to clean them with ease. You don’t even need to introduce harsh chemicals or toxins to clean effectively. All it takes is some disinfectant, hot water, clean paper towels, and a couple tablespoons of vinegar to disinfect almost any kitchen counter, appliance, or gadget. Here are the places in your kitchen that need cleaning the most.
Holly Van Hare and Michael Serrur contributed to this story.
Blenders are tremendously useful tools, but they are tricky to clean. Some of that carrot ginger soup or chai-banana power smoothie inevitably finds its way into an impossible-to-reach crevice. The blender gasket — the circular piece of plastic adjoined to the blade — is rarely sanitized or scrubbed. A 2013 NSF International Household Germ Study revealed that 36 percent of these gaskets contain traces of salmonella and 43 percent of them carry yeast or mold.
Whether it’s breaking open a can of crushed tomatoes or liberating some refried beans from their aluminum prison, the can opener is both useful and practical, but this basic kitchen appliance requires extra love and attention. Merely rinsing the can opener under warm water won’t necessarily do the trick. To completely sanitize a can opener and remove any remnants of salmonella, E. coli, yeast, and mold, place it in the dishwasher after each use. If a dishwasher is unavailable, wash it in hot, soapy water and air dry.
The kitchen countertop, the place where fresh fruits and vegetables and other ready-to-eat food items are set to rest, is frighteningly dirty. An NSF study found that one in three countertops was riddled with harmful coliform bacteria. Wiping the countertop with a used dishcloth or sponge only exacerbates the problem. To effectively clean a countertop, spray it with kitchen cleaner or disinfectant and wipe it down with a paper towel.
Cutting boards are like an all-inclusive resort for bacteria. When you dice up raw chicken or beef, salmonella and other coliform bacteria nestle into crevices or imperfections on the cutting board. Cutting boards, especially wooden ones, need to be washed in hot, soapy water after each use. To eliminate remaining germs and ensure safety, put the cutting board into the dishwasher or disinfect it with bleach or kitchen cleaner. Different cutting boards should always be used for meat and vegetables in order to avoid cross contamination. Here are nine tips that will help keep your kitchen germ-free.
It’s common to do laundry once every two or three weeks, but how often do you throw your kitchen dishcloth into the wash? A study conducted by NSF International found that 75 percent of dishcloths and sponges contain some form of coliform bacteria such as salmonella or E. coli.
Drip Coffee Pot
This might be a scary thought, but you should be cleaning out the coffee reservoir (the compartment that holds the water) on a regular basis. The damp and dark area is the perfect place for mold to hang out and grow, but don’t rush out and buy a completely new appliance just yet. Properly cleaning the coffee reservoir is easy; simply pour in equal parts water and vinegar and let it sit for 30 minutes, then turn the coffee maker on and let the vinegar solution drip out. Rinse the machine out with water before brewing another pot of coffee.
Unless you’re a really messy chef, your knife block probably doesn’t get covered in food. However, according the NSF study, the deep recesses of your knife block are hiding all sorts of mold, yeast, and even some bacteria.
How many times per day do you use your microwave? Whether you’re reheating pizza or reviving store-bought sushi, you probably don’t wash your hands before you press the buttons. You’re in a rush to eat your delicious food! Which is fine — but remember, you should disinfect the buttons now and again so you don’t contaminate your hands right before you eat.
Refrigerator Vegetable Crisper
Vegetables are the foundation of many healthy diets, but the vegetable crisper is far from the cleanest place in the kitchen. The vegetable crisper is dark and moist, offering optimal conditions for bacterial growth. To properly clean the compartment, remove the drawer completely and wipe it with a clean cloth and a mix of detergent and warm water. To prevent off odors from developing, use some warm water and baking soda.
Refrigerator Door Handle
Although it doesn’t touch any food directly, the refrigerator door handle is still one the dirtiest places in your kitchen. After handling raw meat or even wiping down the counter with a sponge, the next place your hand usually touches is the refrigerator door. Just like the bathroom door knob is a serious source of germs, the refrigerator door handle should be properly cleaned, ideally with disinfectant wipes.
Reusable Grocery Bags
They may be fabulous for the environment, but they aren’t so hot for you. For instance, reusing a bag that once carried raw meat poses the threat of cross-contamination. If you are going to use these environmentally conscious totes, make sure that all food placed into the bag is properly covered, they are washed once a week, and they're kept out of the trunk of your hot car.
Rubber spatulas are durable and multi-functional (they may even be one of the best kitchen appliances), but they still need to be thoroughly cleaned after each use. When the rubber portion of the spatula is scratched or scarred, bacteria are able to hide in the crevices. Many rubber spatulas are dishwasher safe, so don’t be afraid to toss it in with your next load of dishes.
Salt and Pepper Shakers
“I need to clean my salt and pepper shakers” is a phrase you will hear as often as you’ll hear someone declaring their love of the dentist or speeding tickets. Nobody ever thinks to wipe down these cute, innocent-looking kitchen tools, but their surface is a magnet for germs.
It may come as a surprise, but the sink is the slop-bucket of the kitchen, and is most likely one of the most common places you forget to clean. Everything — from leftover spaghetti sauce to chunks of mashed potato — is dumped into the sink, which rarely gets any sort of scrub down. The sink effectively becomes a bacteria cauldron of all the germs you never thought to wipe away. You should especially clean your sink if you choose to wash your chicken in it — but you really shouldn’t be doing that anyway.
Sponges are designed to clean dishes, but they are more likely spreading germs and bacteria back on to plates, bowls, and pans. The sponge’s porous material makes it the perfect breeding ground for germs and bacteria. When cleaning a surface used to prepare raw meat, the sponge potentially picks up dangerous strains of bacteria like salmonella, which thrives in damp, moist crevices. These moisture-loving bacteria are also probably growing in these areas of your home — the ones you most often forget to clean.