Keeping your kitchen clean is a 24/7 job, especially when you have kids. After you've scrubbed every inch of your counters, your little ones can come wreak havoc on your pristine palace in a matter of moments. Plus, there are likely gross things you're doing wrong in the kitchen that you don't even know about.
The kitchen is likely the room you clean most in your home, second only to the bathrooms. It's the place you prepare food for your family, so you have to be super conscious of germs every time you step foot in there: wash your hands, wash the kids' hands, bleach everything, etc. It can feel like a never-ending responsibility. (Although, there is such a thing as being too clean, as not exposing your kids to germs can actually hurt them in the long run.) But there are a surprising number of things people do every day that are actually really unsanitary, putting them at risk of spreading bacteria. Even the most germ-conscious types might not know about some of these no-no's.
Read on for gross things you're likely doing wrong in the kitchen; they may make you want to rethink your cleaning routine. It's all about keeping your family healthy and safe.
1. Washing raw chicken
It's a common cooking practice to rinse chicken in the sink before you cook it, but the seemingly harmless move can have serious repercussions for your health. As the CDC explains, washing raw chicken can increase the likelihood of contaminants like Campylobacter, Salmonella, and Clostridium perfringens bacterias spreading throughout your kitchen and to other foods. Stop this practice immediately, and disinfect your sink and countertops if you've rinsed chicken in the kitchen recently.
2. Not cleaning under the fridge
You probably sweep your kitchen regularly, especially if you have babies or pets running around, but forgetting to clean under the fridge can put your family at risk. Dust can accumulate in shocking amounts under the fridge since it's a hard to reach area, as Life Hacker points out, particularly if you have pets, as their hair can pile up there. The dust and hair can collect bacteria or increase your allergies, so make sure you give under the fridge a good scrub next time you spring clean.
3. Not washing towels
According to CBS News, kitchen towels may be the best breeding ground for germs in your home, with some germs putting you and your family at risk of food poisoning. Experts say you should change your kitchen towels every day to avoid these risks, especially if you're cooking raw meat. Using paper towels can also help, but the environmental damage of everyday paper waste adds up.
4. Thawing food on the counter
Many recipes call for ingredients to thaw before you cook them, but your method of thawing might be unsanitary. As Taylor Wolfram, MS, RDN, LDN told the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, "harmful foodborne pathogens multiply rapidly when foods are in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F. Instead, always thaw foods in the refrigerator, cold water or in the microwave." I know I'm guilty of letting food thaw on the counter, but I'll definitely be changing my habits now.
5. Not washing your hands enough
It's common knowledge that washing your hands is important when you're handling food, but most people don't do it often enough or for long enough to really get rid of germs. You probably remember to wash your hands before starting to cook, but it's crucial to wash them again once you're done, after you handle raw meat, after touching a pet, etc. Foodsafety.gov provides a helpful list of times to wash your hands in the kitchen that you can use for reference. And to make sure you and your kids are thoroughly cleaning, you can sing the Happy Birthday song twice through as a timer, or you can get kids SoaPen, the engaging soap pen that makes washing hands fun.
6. Not replacing sponges
Sponges collect massive amounts of bacteria, which makes sense considering they're what you use to clean other things in your kitchen. But because they collect so many germs, they have to be replaced often, and I doubt you're replenishing your stock as often as you should be. Melissa Maker, host of a cleaning YouTube channel and founder of the house cleaning service Clean My Space, told Taste of Home that it's best to replace sponges once per week, especially if you start to notice your sponges retaining an odor. You can also clean your sponges with bleach to keep them longer, but buying fresh is the only way to guarantee you won't accidentally spread germs throughout your kitchen. Good Housekeeping also has a handy list of when to clean or replace household items that can help.
7. Relying on the sight and smell test
My parents always taught me to smell my milk before I pour it, believing my nose would be a better indicator of possible expiration than the arbitrary date on the label. But according to Country Living, "harmful bacteria can exist on the food without affecting its sight, smell or appearance at all," so you should make decisions about leftovers based on how long you've had them instead of how they look. It's still good to look and smell, but you should be using the time something has been in the fridge as your main judging point.
8. Giving your pets free reign over the kitchen
One of the worst things you can do for your kitchen's cleanliness? Let your pet rule it. Animals have different germs than people, so exposing your family to your pet's germs can be dangerous, with the kitchen being a high risk zone. The Center for Disease Control recommends storing your pet's supplies out of the kitchen, and clean their items as far away from the kitchen as possible: "Never clean supplies in the kitchen sink, food preparation areas, or the bathroom sink." Also make sure you wash your hands before cooking if you've interacted with your pet, and keep them off kitchen surfaces. (Your cat might look cute on the counter, but the germs aren't worth it.)
The key to keeping your kitchen clean and family safe is to prevent the spread of germs as much as possible. Think about the way you clean, and if there are ways you can better protect your family, it's definitely worth it to do.