In most homes, the kitchen is the hub of activity. It’s where all the delicious food is, of course! But then, it’s also where you unpack your groceries and prep your meals, where the kids do their homework, and pets keep a keen eye on anything that lands on the floor! Since kitchens are most likely the busiest part of your house, it is imperative to maintain good kitchen hygiene. After all, you do want to keep your food safe and germs and illnesses at bay. Here’s a look at some easy-to-follow rules for kitchen hygiene and safety.
Good Hygiene Practices For The Kitchen
1. Wash Your Hands
This one sounds obvious and simple but is probably the most effective thing you can do to maintain good kitchen hygiene. Many illnesses spread from person to person when someone doesn’t wash their hands before handling food. In fact, 25% of all food-borne diseases arise from poorly washed or unwashed hands!1
So, before you touch any sort of food in your kitchen, whether raw or cooked, always make sure to vigorously wash your hands. Use a gentle soap and lukewarm water and scrub your hands – especially in between fingers and under fingernails – for at least 20 seconds. Rinse well and use a clean paper towel to dry your hands.
2. Sanitize Your Sponges And Dishcloths Periodically
It may not look like it, but dirty and contaminated sponges and dishcloths are the perfect host for rapidly growing bacteria. Every few days, soak your dishcloths and sponges for a few minutes in a solution of 1 tsp liquid chlorine bleach and one quart of warm water to clean and disinfect them. Change dishcloths and sponges every few months especially if they continue to smell bad despite disinfecting.2
3. Clean Your Counters
Kitchen counters see a lot of activity throughout the day. Between grocery bags, crumbs, spills, homework, and arts and crafts projects, your counter has a pretty rough life. It is important, therefore, to thoroughly clean your kitchen counter every week with detergent and hot water or a solution of water and liquid chlorine bleach. Leave the solution on for about 10 minutes and then wipe down with disposable paper towels.3
4. Sanitize Your Cutting Board
The average kitchen cutting board has around 200% more fecal bacteria in and on it than a typical toilet seat!4 Let that sink in for a bit!
Cutting boards can indeed be hotbeds of bacteria activity so it’s critical to keep them clean. After each use, wash your cutting board with warm soapy water, rinse well, and wipe down with a paper towel. Once a week, sanitize your cutting board with a solution of 1 tbsp liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Gently pour the solution on the cutting board, allow it to sit for about five minutes, rinse with warm water, and dry with a paper towel. The FDA also recommends that you use one cutting board for bread and fresh produce and another for seafood, raw meat, and poultry to avoid cross-contamination.5
5. Clean Your Refrigerator
Your fridge can be a breeding ground for bacteria if you don’t clean it regularly. Wipe off any spills inside the fridge immediately and give it a once-over with some warm water and a small squirt of dishwashing liquid every week. You can also use a solution with 2 tbsp of baking soda in 1 quart of warm water and use this to wipe down your fridge.
Cleaning your fridge regularly also lets you detect hidden items in the fridge that are well past their prime. Make sure to toss out all food that is past its “use by” date. Also clear any spoilt veggies or debris from food and produce.
As a general rule of thumb, you should also thoroughly clean your fridge once in three months or so. For an effective deep clean, take out all the shelves and clean the interior walls with hot water and a mild liquid detergent. Rinse gently with water and wipe with paper towels. You can clean shelves in the sink with hot water and detergent too. Make sure to scrub any stains or spills.
6. Handle Raw Meat With Caution
Always be sure to separate raw meat, seafood, and poultry from other items in your shopping cart, grocery bags, and the fridge. Also designate a cutting board just for these items to avoid cross-contamination with fruits and veggies.6
If freezing meats to use later, put them inside plastic freezer bags, seal, and store in the freezer until ready to use. When you need to thaw meat, remember to do so either in the fridge overnight, in a bowl of cold water, or in the microwave – never at room temperature on the kitchen counter or in the sink.7
Never dry your hands using a paper towel that was previously used to clean raw meat or raw meat juices. Doing so can transfer bacteria from the juices onto your hands, eventually spreading throughout the house!8
It is also extremely important to cook meat, seafood, and poultry to the right internal temperature to destroy harmful bacteria. Using a food thermometer comes highly recommended. The following is a handy guide for internal cooking temps, as recommended by the FDA:
- Poultry: Cook to 165°F
- Egg dishes: 160°F
- Pork, lamb, veal, and beef: 145°F
- Ground meat: 160°F
- Shrimp, lobster, scallops, and crabs: Until the flesh is opaque and glistening9
The FDA also recommends that you refrigerate leftovers containing meat, seafood, and poultry within two hours of cooking, or within one hour if outside temps are in the 90s.
7. Clean Fresh Produce
Grocery store shelves where fresh produce is stocked are rife with dirt and bacteria that can cause food-borne illnesses. So it’s vital to clean fresh produce as soon as you get them home. Clean fruits and vegetables that have thick skins with a vegetable brush to scrub away harmful microbes. Veggies like broccoli and cauliflower should be soaked in water for about two minutes before cleaning. To clean leafy greens, soak them in a large bowl of cool water or a solution of water and vinegar for about five minutes. Rinse well and drain with a colander.
You can use commercially sold fruit and vegetable rinses as well, but research shows that they are not any more effective than using a homemade water-vinegar solution.10
Other Quick Tips For Kitchen Hygiene
- Keep your refrigerator at or lower than 40°F to slow down the growth of bacteria.
- If hand-washing your dishes, allow them to air dry instead of wiping with a dishcloth to keep bacteria at bay.
- Don’t leave out dirty dishes to pile up in the sink.
- Wipe down the inside of the microwave every 1–2 days using a hot water and vinegar solution.
- Clean splatters and grease spills from the stove-top after each use.
- Wipe down cabinet door handles, fridge door handle, faucets, and sinks with anti-bacterial disinfectant spray whenever you can.
- Lastly, and we’re going to repeat this: always wash your hands before handling food and definitely after handling raw meats. Yes, it’s that important!
|↑1||10 Steps to a Safe Kitchen. Brown University.|
|↑2||Sanitizing kitchen sponges. Michigan State University.|
|↑3, ↑8||Food Safety for Moms-to-Be: Lifelong Food Safety – Clean. US Food and Drug Administration.|
|↑4||Food and hygiene facts. National Health Service.|
|↑5||Cutting Boards and Food Safety. US Department of Agriculture.|
|↑6, ↑7, ↑9||Safe Food Handling: What You Need to Know. US Food and Drug Administration.|
|↑10||Best Ways to Wash Fruits and Vegetables. The University of Maine.|