Your kitchen may be the dirtiest room in your house. But by following a few tips in the kitchen, you can reduce the time you spend cleaning and help keep your family healthy.
Dangerous bacteria can be invisible, odorless — and all over your kitchen.
Keeping a kitchen well maintained involves some basic rules and a routine that you can build in as you cook. Follow these tips for cleaning to ensure a safe kitchen.
Kitchen Smarts Start at the Store
A clean kitchen starts at the grocery store. Don’t buy leaking, bulging, damaged, or dented cans, or jars with cracked or bulging lids. That can indicate potential contamination with Clostridium botulinum toxin, which can cause a potentially deadly illness called botulism.
Also, avoid bruised or damaged fruits and vegetables and items with damaged packaging. Transport potentially drippy items like meat in separate plastic bags from the store to your kitchen.
General Tips for Cleaning in the Kitchen
Kitchens need cleaning and sanitizing. Time-saving tips for cleaning include:
- Using a combination detergent/disinfectant that both cleans and kills germs is more efficient than using a general cleaner and then a separate product to disinfect.
- Use pre-packaged sanitizer cloths on doorknobs, refrigerator door handles, microwaves, kitchen phones, computers, and remote controls.
- Use paper towels and throw them away after wiping up potentially germy messes. Reusable dishtowels and rags should be washed in the washing machine and dried in the dryer to kill bacteria. Sponges can be disinfected by running them through a dishwasher cycle.
- Diluted chlorine bleach is an excellent kitchen sanitizer. Make small amounts using one tablespoon of bleach to a quart of water. Apply the bleach solution to kitchen surfaces and let it stand for a few minutes before rinsing with clean water. Be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands from the bleach, and discard any unused solution and wash your hands after cleaning.
Tips for Kitchen Cleaning, Piece by Piece
Use these specific tips for cleaning in the kitchen:
- Sink drain. Soggy food particles breed bacteria. Clean kitchen drains at least weekly by pouring bleach solution down the drain.
- Dishwasher. Wash full loads to save energy, but don’t overload the dishwasher or it won’t clean effectively.
- Conventional oven. When using the self-cleaning feature, use it immediately after cooking — the oven will be pre-heated.
- Range tops. Use a non-abrasive cleaner according to package directions and wipe up spills immediately.
- Microwave oven. Wash removable turntables in the dishwasher or with warm water and soap, and then dry. Boil a cup of water inside to loosen cooked-on food, then wipe food particles with a damp sponge or cloth. To remove lingering odors, wash the interior with 1/4 cup of baking soda dissolved in a quart of water. Then rinse it with clean water and dry with paper towels.
- Refrigerator. Clean your refrigerator monthly with soap and water and clean spills immediately. Use grease cutter if necessary, but avoid abrasive cleaners that may leave scratches, which can harbor bacteria.
Kitchen-Safe Food Prep
Wash your hands and remove jewelry before preparing food so meat juices and bacteria can’t collect on rings, watchbands, or other items. Wear gloves if your skin is cut or irritated.
Prevent cross-contamination — when food becomes tainted with bacteria from utensils, cutting boards, or other surfaces — by preparing ready-to-eat foods separate from raw foods, and using separate cutting boards and plates for cooked and raw foods. Cutting boards that can be placed in the dishwasher for disinfecting are best.
Preventing Problems in the Kitchen
The best way to reduce kitchen cleaning time — and dangers — is to prevent spills and other messes. For example:
- Cook with lids on to save energy, reduce splattering, and lessen the likelihood of spills.
- Cover all liquids in the refrigerator to prevent spillage.
- Cover marinating foods and place them in the refrigerator where it’s less likely for bacteria to grow.
- To prevent spills, replace weak or breakable containers, like flour bags, with plastic containers.
With a little advance planning, you can avoid bacteria growth and spend less time cleaning your kitchen.