Kitchen Hygiene: Challenge Accepted
So you think you are a hygiene expert who keeps all tabletops sterile? Chances are your kitchen harbors myriads of germs despite your efforts to keep it clean. It’s not that you are a bad housekeeper – it’s just that microbes are everywhere. Just imagine: the sponge you use to wash the dishes is home to much more germs than there are on your toilet seat.
The seeming cleanliness of our kitchens is misleading: behind these shiny tabletops and glowing teapots, there is an army of germs that is difficult to crush. Is it even possible? And what rules should be followed without worrying unduly about the microbes hiding in the objects which are supposed to be clean?
Are antimicrobial wipes worth it?
When it comes to wiping down tabletops and other surfaces, antibacterial wipes prove to be almost useless, as they remove the germs for such a short time that the benefits are not that significant.
A team from NSF carried out a study in which they analyzed what germ hot spots there are in the average kitchen.
The investigators recruited 22 families to swab the 30 items found in their kitchen that are usually used most often. These included counter tops, sinks, cutting boards and other surfaces.
The findings suggest the germiest place is not worktops, but sponges and dishcloths: coliform bacteria, which are used as an indicator of cleanliness, were present on 75% of sponges, 45% of sinks, 32% of counter tops and 18% of cutting boards. Using antibacterial wipes did not help much: the germs and fungi returned within one hour and colonized the “clean” surfaces again.
Sponges and dishcloths are the best places for bacteria to thrive, as there is water and they are almost always moist. While most bacteria of this type are not that dangerous, they are used as a faecal contamination marker.
Rumor has it that the toilet seat is the place where most germs can be found. It’s just wrong: while one square inch of the average toilet seat is home to only 50 bacteria, in sponges there are 200,000 more, or 10 million, to be exact. As far as dishcloths are concerned, the figure is 1 million.
How can I keep my kitchen clean?
The first rule is not to become obsessed with cleaning everything all days long – it’s called mysophobia. Many germs growing in our rooms are not dangerous, and some of them even contribute to our health. Also, if the environment is sterile, our immune system will be dormant and fail to react to an enemy when it eventually breaches the wall of antimicrobial this and that you have built. Still, it does not mean you should avoid washing hands and cleaning the house.
Here are several tips that can help you keep your kitchen clean:
- Washing raw chicken is actually not a good idea. Such an approach will not eliminate most of the germs from the meat, but the droplets you will cover everything around with will be contaminated, and it will be easier for microbes to get to other items in the room.
- Clean your sponge once a week to kill the germs that inhabit it. You can do it by soaking it in bleach and water for 5 minutes and rinsing it afterwards (kills 99.9% germs), microwaving a moist sponge for a couple of minutes (99.9%), washing it in a dishwasher (99.9%), or soaking your sponge in vinegar for 5 mins and rinsing it (99.6%). It is recommended to change sponges once in 2-3 weeks.
- Avoid wearing shoes at home so as not to bring more germs inside.
- Obtain separate cutting boards for different kinds of food, say, one for meat and another one for all other foods.
- Wash dishcloths often to prevent germs from growing.
One more advice: do not flush wipes down the drain, as it causes fatbergs!