If you regularly avoid these dangerous kitchen safety habits — you’re a true kitchen genius. But if you don’t, you might be setting yourself or your family up for serious food-borne illness!
So if you want to keep the doctor — and the doctor bills — away, here’s what not to do to keep your kitchen germ and worry-free!
7 unsanitary kitchen habits to avoid
1. Not sanitizing your kitchen counter often enough.
Dr. Charles Gerba (also known as Dr. Germ), is a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He says that a typical kitchen counter is dirtier than a toilet seat and says that people do not clean their kitchen counters as often as they should.
‘In most cases, it’s safer to make a salad on a toilet seat than it is to make one on a cutting board,’ he says.
In order to clean your kitchen counter adequately, he recommends wiping down with a disinfectant kitchen cleaner and paper towel, and then throwing the paper towel away after use.
2. Rinsing — but not sanitizing — your cutting board.
Many people do not use a different cutting board for meats and other items such as fruit and vegetables, or worse — do not sanitize their cutting boards at all.
According to Dr. Garba, ‘There’re 200 times more fecal bacteria from raw meat on the average cutting board in a home than a toilet seat. Most people just rinse their cutting board, but poultry and raw meat can leave behind salmonella and campylobacter.’
He says in order to keep your cutting boards germ free, use one for meats and another for vegetables. As far as cleaning is concerned, he says to clean the board with a kitchen disinfectant or put it in the dishwasher.
3. Not changing out your sponge, dishcloth or scrub brush often enough.
Sponges, dishcloths and scrub brushes can be teeming with bacteria, especially when left wet as they often are in the sink.
Dr. Gerba’s advice is to ‘replace dishcloths every week and throw the sponge into the dishwasher or microwave it on high for 30 seconds.’ This will kill any bacteria and keep you and your family safe.
4. Not sanitizing the bottom of your sink.
“People always forget about the bottom of their sink but it’s one of the dirtiest places in the kitchen, almost as bad as the toilet,” says Kelly Reynolds, Ph.D., director of environmental health sciences at the University of Arizona.
The practice of rinsing raw meat can lead to a slimy film swarming with bacteria that can hide in crevices in and around the sink.
“There’s more E. coli in a kitchen sink than in a toilet after you flush it,’ says Dr. Gerba. ‘The sink is a great place for E. coli to live and grow since it’s wet and moist. Bacteria feed on the food that people put down the drain and what’s left on dishes in the sink.’
He says vinegar and lemon can kill some bacteria, but not all, so the EPA recommends using a stronger cleaner. Try using either a disinfectant spray, or filling your sink with water and bleach once a week.
5. Cooking when you’re sick.
This one seems like a given, but some people do still cook for others when they’re sick.
Dr. Pritish Tosh, an infectious infectious disease specialist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota says, ‘Cooking when you’re sick, especially with a diarrheal illness, is how you cross-contaminate foods and cause outbreaks of diseases like norovirus.’
If you can, avoid cooking when you’re sick, or wear a face mask and thoroughly wash your hands and other surfaces when cooking.
6. Not sanitizing the bottom shelf of your fridge.
The scary thing about refrigerators is the condensation that can drip down to other shelves of the fridge from meat products.
To fight this, Dr Gerba recommends, ‘Wipe down the bottom shelf every two or three weeks with a disinfectant cleaner that’s made for the kitchen. To avoid cross-contamination, put raw meat on the bottom shelf and tuck raw produce into a drawer away from everything else.’
7. Letting cats or other pets walk on kitchen counters.
Our pets are adorable, but when they walk on kitchen counters or dining room tables, it isn’t so cute.
Dr. Reynolds says, “Cats carry the pathogens that cause toxoplasmosis from their litter box, which doesn’t hurt the cat but it really hurts people, especially pregnant women because an infection can cause major birth defects in the fetus.’
How to avoid this? Try to keep cats off the counters as much as possible, (try these tips from the Animal Humane Society), and definitely wipe them down with antibacterial spray afterward.
Read more: Study: It may be better to sleep with a pet