The dishes are all put away. You’ve wiped down your counter with a mild cleanser. You even added some elbow grease to get rid of the spaghetti sauce splatter that had your stove backsplash looking like a Jackson Pollock work of art in red. Your kitchen now looks spotless – but is it really germ free? Probably not, unless you’ve hunted down some of the surprising places where germs are lurking in your kitchen. Ready to uncover the germs? Here’s where they’re hiding.
Refrigerator vegetable compartments
Huh?! But it’s cold in there and only used to store veggies – why so germy? According to a 2013 survey from the NSF International (formerly the National Sanitation Foundation), that compartment can be harboring salmonella, listeria, yeast and mold. Part of the problem is that it’s a dark, moist environment. In other words, perfect germ territory. The NSF also found that since people are mixing raw and washed produce, there’s a greater chance for germs to breed. Ewww.
Kill the germs: Wipe down the drawers and the inside of your fridge weekly.
Let’s be honest. How often do you wipe off the can opener blades after removing the lid from canned tomatoes, peas and green beans? It doesn’t take much for all of that liquid to build up around the blades and – you guessed it – become a germ haven.
Kill the germs: Dry off the can opener blades after every use. Every use.
You may have already heard that your kitchen sponge is packed with germs. But did you know that it’s dirtier than your home’s toilet seat? Even more than the garbage can?
Kill the germs: Run your sponge through the dishwasher every week and/or microwave it on high for 30 seconds to kill germs. Even easier? Toss the sponge and replace it with a new one regularly.
Just think about everything you put in your kitchen sink in a day – from washing produce to rinsing off raw meats to mashing up leftovers that are going bad. It’s a smorgasbord of bacteria.
Kill the germs: Squirt a small amount of dishwashing liquid on a just-wet paper towel and then wipe down the entire sink. Dry off the sink (bacteria likes wet environments). Use anti-bacteria cleanser a couple times a week to keep it sanitized. Throw away the paper towel after cleaning. (Remember to wipe down the faucet handle, while you’re at it.)
With rubber seals on the bottom and sharp blades covering them, keeping your blender clean can be a challenge. But there’s a good reason to take your time to clean it – all those deep groves can be tough to reach and the ideal place for germs to hang out. Bacteria smoothie, anyone?
Kill the germs: After each use, run the blender with warm, soapy water in it. Next, follow the manufacturer’s instructions to take the blender apart and clean each individual piece. Dry.
Refrigerator ice dispenser
Like the vegetable compartments, mold and yeast can build up in the dark, moist environment of the ice drawer.
Kill the germs: Once a month, empty the ice drawer and use a mild cleanser to wipe it down and then dry it out. Don’t forget to clean the water dispenser spout on the refrigerator door, too.
All of those slices and cuts on the cutting board – whether wood or plastic – can become a breeding ground for bacteria. If you don’t adequately wash and sanitize the cutting board after chopping up raw meat, there’s a chance of cross contamination when you slice up cucumbers next.
Kill the germs: Sanitize with an anti-bacterial cleanser and dry before using. You can place plastic cutting boards into the dishwasher. Another tip? Have cutting boards for different items, like separate ones for meats and produce to minimize the chance of passing germs from one food to another. And once your cutting boards gets too many cuts, replace them.
Last week’s tuna sandwich, spilled-over fruit cups, a yogurt that expired a month ago, watermelon slices that were once red and now are speckled with white fuzz. These are all items I’ve found in my child’s lunch box. While you may be doing your best to keep your kitchen clean, your child may be bringing the germs right to the table via her lunch box.
Kill the germs: Teach your child to wipe the inside and outside of his or her lunch box before packing up a new meal. And remind kids to throw out everything from their lunch daily – preferably right in the cafeteria.
Did we miss anything? What other food-related gross-outs do you battle in your kitchen – and what do you do about them?
This post was originally published in 2017 and is updated regularly.