When it comes to food poisoning, sometimes the culprit may not be on your plate, but in your kitchen drawer. Case in point: In Washington State, 17 people were sickened by a deli slicer contaminated by salmonella. Deli slicers and other kitchen utensils can sometimes be difficult to clean, or simply overlooked. While you may not have a deli slicer in your home, illness-causing bacteria can survive in many places around the kitchen and could unintentionally spread bacteria to your food and family. Wash these often-forgotten items to ensure a clean kitchen.
Don’t forget to clean:
- The can opener: When you open a can, some of its contents can seep out and get on the can opener, creating a potential breeding ground for bacteria if not washed before its next use. A can opener should be washed in hot, soapy water after every use, just like you would any other kitchen utensil.
- Cutting boards: Cutting boards are a major source of cross-contamination in busy kitchens, as placing ready-to-eat foods like vegetables on a cutting board or surface that held raw meat or raw poultry can spread bacteria and make you sick. Simply wiping down cutting boards isn’t enough. Designate cutting boards for raw meats and ready-to-eat foods, and remember to clean them properly in the dishwasher or with hot, soapy water and dry well. Sanitize cutting boards with a chlorine bleach-water solution after each use (mix 1 tablespoon of liquid, unscented bleach in 1 gallon of water) and allow to air dry.
- The dishwasher: It may sound ironic to clean a machine that’s made for cleaning, but your dishwasher catches all kinds of junk throughout the day and can get very dirty. Clean the rubber gasket in the main door, the soap door and the trap (the removable piece under the lower sprayer). You should also run your dishwasher with a cup of white vinegar every few weeks to destroy mildew and reduce odor.
- Sponges: You should sanitize sponges more often than you may think, luckily it’s quick and easy! Microwave a moist sponge for one minute or pop them in the dishwasher with a drying cycle. Learn more.
- Buttons and knobs: How many times a day do you open your kitchen cabinets? Push start on the microwave? Open the refrigerator? Turn on the sink? It is inevitable that these commonly used buttons and knobs are going to collect unwanted bacteria. Wipe down all kitchen surfaces, including buttons and knobs, with an antibacterial wipe several times a day.
- Coffee maker: This often over-looked appliance should be washed at least once a month. Run a 50/50 mix of water and white vinegar through your coffee maker to reduce the growth of mold and bacteria. Also, don’t forget to empty the filter and clean the pot and filter basket after every use.
- Refrigerator: This highly used appliance is the home for your perishable food items and can be a breeding ground for bacteria. In order to avoid food poisoning, make sure to clean your refrigerator often, including the drawers and coils. Spending just 15 minutes every six months cleaning your refrigerator coils can eliminate 70 percent of refrigerator malfunctions, extend the appliance’s lifespan, and keep it running at maximum efficiency. Learn more about what’s lurking in your refrigerator.
- Blender: Blenders are one of the top-three germ-ridden places in your kitchen, according to the 2013 NSF International Germ Study. If they are not cleaned properly, they can harbor foodborne pathogens including Salmonella, E. coli, yeasts and mold. To clean, unplug the blender and remove the blender jar from the base. Remove the blade and liner from the bottom of the blender jar. If dishwasher safe, place all the pieces in the dishwasher. If not, hand wash the liner, blade, jar and lid with hot, soapy water, rinse, dry and reassemble. Clean after each use.
- Kitchen sinks: Kitchen sinks harbor lots of bacteria because they love the wet environment and old food particles trapped in the drain. Clean the sink basin daily with a scrub and disinfectant made for the kitchen to kill the harmful pathogens.