If you were asked to list the places in your house that you thought had the most germs, the first two places you might think of are the bathroom and the kitchen. It seems like those two locations can never stay clean long enough for you to actually enjoy all the cleaning you just did!
Well, you wouldn’t be wrong.
Studies have been done in an effort to find the germiest places in the house, and one study concluded that out of eight locations tested in the home, the kitchen held the top two dirtiest places!
It also found that those who clean with the intent of making their house “look clean, smell nice and remove germs” were micro-biologically unsuccessful in their efforts.
In other words, their homes were still bacteria laden even after a “good” clean.
In a 2011 study and a follow-up study in 2013, NSF International, an independent public health organization, performed tests in the kitchen to determine where disease-causing bacteria like E. coli, listeria, salmonella and staph, yeast, and mold spores were most likely to grow.
These germs can cause a variety of health issues from simple irritation for those with spore sensitivities to hospital-worthy health issues.
It is important to know where these nasty (and potentially harmful) bacteria are hiding in order for us to be aware of where we are missing when we clean. It is equally important to understand how to properly clean those areas so that the bacteria, yeast, mold, etc. are no longer present and growing.
Kitchen cloths/sponges ranked number one on the list of dirtiest places in the house in the study mentioned above. It was found that a whopping 86% contained moderate or heavy bacterial growth.
This isn’t very surprising since sponges are used on multiple surfaces and to clean dirty dishes while cloths are used to wipe hands and other potentially contaminated surfaces. The interaction with multiple surfaces can allow for a collection of contaminants.
After using cloths, make sure they are hung well to dry and wash them frequently (about every other day) in hot water so that any collected bacteria will be killed regularly.
To disinfect wet sponges, place them in the microwave and heat for one minute and then let dry in a ventilated holder. This should allow for a quick “zap” to kill any collected bacteria without requiring you to use a new sponge for each day.
Faucets seem like an unlikely culprit for bacterial growth, but if you think about how often you touch the faucet and handles after having come in contact with raw foods, it may not be so surprising. If multiple people regularly use the kitchen faucet, it is even more understandable that they could be a breeding ground for bacteria and an easy site for bacterial transfer.
An easy way to kill germs here would be to use a solution of water and bleach (while wearing gloves, of course!). Use one tablespoon of bleach combined with a quart of warm water to thoroughly clean your faucet.
This one goes right along with the kitchen faucet. Even though your hands may not touch the inside of the sink very often, the transfer of germs from used dishes creates an area that is easily susceptible to contamination.If you rinse any meats or produce in the sink, this can also spread disgusting contaminants like fecal matter.
And, if you use your sponge to wipe down the sink, this can also transfer the bacteria that the sponge is holding or transfer the bacteria in the sink to the sponge which might then get used on other surfaces in the kitchen, further spreading contamination.
Clean the sink with the same solution you would use to clean the faucet. This should be done once a day allowing for thorough removal of contaminants.
Make sure the bleach mixture runs down the drain as well so that the insides of the pipes are cleaned too. NSF International recommends running any kitchen sink strainers through the dishwasher at least once a week as well.
With the amount of traffic that flows into the kitchen, specifically looking into the fridge for the perfect snack, it is no surprise that the door handle would carry large amounts of bacteria. E. coli, staph, salmonella, mold spores and yeast were all discovered on the door handle during an NSF study. Bacteria from foods handled during meal preparation can also be transferred to the fridge as prep foods are taken out and put back.
Using a disinfecting wipe, give the handle and the entire door a daily wipe-down to keep the germs at bay.
Rubber door seal
Even if you regularly clean your fridge, this is an easy area to overlook. NSF studies found that many door seals contained listeria.
Using a vinegar solution while cleaning the entire fridge, be sure to wipe down these seals and dry well with a towel to prevent mold and yeast growth.
Vegetable and meat storage bins
The bins that hold vegetables are very likely to become contaminated with bacteria, including salmonella, listeria, yeast and mold spores, that may be on raw produce. Because of this, and in spite of the fact that bacterial growth is slowed (but not killed) in colder temperatures,
it is crucial to clean these bins regularly and before new produce is placed in the bins.
The bin(s) that contain your deli meats and cheeses is less likely to contain as much bacteria as a vegetable drawer, but NSF studies still found an alarming number of E. coli and salmonella in this drawer.
Remove the bins from the fridge frequently, and clean them by placing and washing them in warm, soapy water. For disinfecting and removing any foul odors, soak the bins in water and baking soda. Allow the bins to air dry completely before placing them back in the refrigerator.
If your refrigerator has a water dispenser, you may be aware that it could grow mold because of the moist environment, but you may wonder how to effectively clean the area.
First, check the manufacturer instructions manual. This may have some useful disassembly tips to make the cleaning process easier. If not, or if you want to try a different cleaning method, cycle vinegar through the system (similar to cleaning the coffee pot).
Just make sure you run enough water through to remove the vinegar taste before drinking the water again (although vinegar is not harmful to the body so ingesting it will not pose a threat).
The coffee pot is an easy place to forget to clean well. According to a study performed by NSF, coffee pot reservoirs contained more bacteria, specifically mold and yeast, than a toilet seat.
Just the thought of drinking delicious coffee from a mold and yeast infested reservoir is enough to make any coffee drinker set their cup down for good.
Thankfully, that doesn’t need to be the case if you know how to effectively clean this commonly loved machine.
Most coffee pot manufacturers recommend an intense cleaning every 40 to 80 brew cycles, or about once a month.
To clean it without using any harsh chemicals, add up to four undiluted cups of vinegar into the water reservoir, allow it to sit for half an hour and then run the vinegar through the machine.
Rinse the vinegar out by running two or three cycles of fresh water through the coffee maker or until the vinegar odor is gone.
Every time you use the stove top, these knobs get used. While you probably think about
washing your hands before touching any food products for meal prep, you may not realize that touching these knobs with unwashed hands can transfer germs and bacteria as well. It is easy to forget to clean them on a regular basis, but is important to do if you use the stove regularly!
Refer to your stove’s instruction manual to determine how to remove the knobs. Remove them once a week and wash them in hot soapy water, allowing them to dry completely before putting them back onto your stove.
This may not seem like a likely candidate for germs, but when you are opening a variety of canned foods, germs on or in the cans can be easily spread. An NSF study found yeast, mold and traces of E. coli and salmonella.
Since you will likely already have a vinegar solution on hand for cleaning other kitchen surfaces, go ahead and use that mixture with a toothbrush to thoroughly clean your can opener (whether manual or electric).
If the can opener is particularly gross, soak the whole opener (if it is electric, read the manual for disassembly instructions) overnight in a bowl of vinegar, scrub with the toothbrush, rinse and let dry.
Because these tend to be used so frequently and, often, by many people, your salt and pepper shakers can be some of the more common mediums for transferring germs both to and from foods and people.
Make sure you wipe them down after each meal when they are used. This can be done easily when you wipe the table off after eating. For the prevention of spreading germs via these tabletop items, wash your hands before and after dinner as well.
Even though you probably do not touch your knife block regularly, even during meal preparation, NSF studies found that the knife block, specifically the slots used to hold the knives, can contain trace bacteria (such as yeast and mold spores). These bacteria are then transferred to your cleaned knives and then to the food you use those knives to cut.
Depending on the material from which your knife block is made, you may want to research the best cleaning instructions, but for most knife blocks, hot soapy water will do the trick.
Use a small cleaner to reach into the slots. After it has been scrubbed, it is recommended to dilute one tablespoon of bleach into a gallon of lukewarm water and either soak the entire block or fill each slot and let sit for one minute. Rinse the block and then allow to dry completely before placing the knives back into their slots.
Countertops are one of the most obvious locations for the spread of germs and bacteria. With all of the food preparation that occurs on the counter as well as the contact that is made with a host of other items, counters should be cleaned daily, if not multiple times per day.
Cleaning the countertops should involve more than just wiping a wet counter off with a paper towel. It is best to use a kitchen cleaner (at the least, hot, soapy water) once a day and to dry the counter with a microfiber cloth.
Some routine times were mentioned for specific areas of the kitchen, but it is important to understand that cleaning these areas irregularly will not be enough to kill and keep away disease-causing bacteria, yeast and mold.
One study says that you must have a regular cleaning routine in order to effectively keep these germs away.
You can either follow the recommendations for each location in addition to a one-day-a-week deep clean of the kitchen or you could break up the cleaning by making a schedule of what items to clean on which days of the week. Either way, being diligent to do clean the kitchen thoroughly will provide a healthier environment in which to live.
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About the Author:
Emma Deangela is the best selling author of The Alkaline Diet Program and 80/20 Fat Loss. She has helped over tens of thousands of men and women to lose weight and transform their health with sound nutrition advice. Learn how you can lose weight fast – How to lose weight by adding these alkaline foods.
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