Got germs? There are so many places for germs to hide in your home — and your kitchen may be the worst. We found five places where germs hide the most, and we know how to stop them in their tracks.
Germs and bacteria are everywhere in your home, but they are particularly fond of hanging out in the kitchen. While most people know to use a separate cutting board for raw meat and to wash hands thoroughly after handling eggs or raw chicken, there are a few other bacteria-infested places in your kitchen you should be aware of.
Throw in the towel
You may be saving money — and landfill space — by using a dish towel for cleaning up around the kitchen, but at what cost? Dish towels have been shown to be contaminated with MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus), a resistant staph bacteria that can cause life-threatening infections. Your handy dish towel is also home to E. coli and other bacteria from coming into contact with food drippings on your countertop. Stop using your dish towel for anything other than drying freshly washed dishes, and change to a fresh towel every few days. Single-use paper towels are safest for drying hands after washing them and for cleaning up spills on your countertop.
Sticky icky seal
How often do you even notice the seal around your refrigerator? As long as it's keeping your food cold, you probably don't think twice about it. Researchers at the University of Arizona tested the seal around the fridge in 160 homes and found that 83 percent of the time, mold was present. Since the refrigerator door is opened and closed often, there is potential for molds to spread, affecting people with allergies to mold and possibly contaminating food. The easiest way to clean the seal is to wipe the whole area down with a disinfectant every week.
Buttons and handles
Two of the most-often handled places in your kitchen are the faucet handle and the microwave buttons. Your hands are dirty when you turn the faucet on — so you can wash them — which leaves germs behind for the next person. Your microwave sees plenty of action all day, from the first cup of coffee to the late-night snack. Wipe down handles and buttons every day with a disinfectant to keep germs from spreading in the first place.
Your kitchen sponge is the master of many tasks — and harbors many germs and bacteria. The little nooks and crannies that soak up hot, soapy water also hide germs and give them a place to multiply. Designate one sponge for wiping countertops and another for scrubbing out the sink to keep from spreading bacteria from one surface to another. To disinfect your sponge, wet it thoroughly and microwave it on high for a minute or two to kill anything lurking inside. You can also run your sponge through the high-heat cycle on the dishwasher to kill germs. Replace your kitchen sponge every two weeks.
Think about your sink
Assume your sink is the cleanest place in the kitchen? Think again. Sure, you are constantly running hot water and soap into the sink as you wash hands or scrub dishes, but your sink is also the place you stack dirty dishes, rinse whole chickens, soak leftover-coated pans and toss utensils that have come in contact with raw meat. Your sink should be wiped down with disinfectant at least once a day to keep bacteria from growing, or at least after every time your sink has come in contact with raw meat or dirty dishes. Use warm, soapy water and a soft nylon scrubber to clean your sink, then wipe it down with a cloth soaked in white vinegar. Be careful to avoid abrasive cleaners or bleach on stainless steel sinks to avoid ruining the finish.
Best germ fighters
We rounded up a few of our favorite germ-killing products you can use in your kitchen to keep surfaces clean and your family healthier.
More cleaning tips