A clean kitchen can help prevent illness

February 08, 2011|Lynn Little

Staying healthy can start in the kitchen.

Handwashing is recognized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  as one of the most important means of preventing germs from spreading.

Here are some tips:

  •  Wash hands frequently in hot, soapy water.
  •  Wash hands before and after handling raw and cooked foods.
  •  Use separate cutting boards for different kinds of foods.Slice and dice vegetables on one board and cut up raw meat, fish and poultry on another.
  •  Disinfect counters on a daily basis and each time after handling or preparing raw fruits and vegetables, meats and poultry.  
  •  While shopping, place foods that can attract bacteria, for example, raw fruits, vegetables, meats and poultry,  in disposable bags provided by the market or vendor to prevent cross contamination.
  •  When bringing home groceries place reusable or other grocery bags on the floor or alternative surface (a chair or stool, for example), rather than risk potential contamination on the kitchen counter, island or tabletop.
  •  Wash reusable grocery bags regularly.
  •  Follow manufacturer's instructions when cleaning any appliance. If spattered food remains in a microwave, heating 1 cup of water (in the microwave) to create steam can help soften debris and simplify cleaning.
  •  Clean keypads and touch screens on appliances, cabinets, hardware and ceiling fans periodically.
  •  A kitchen sink might look innocent yet the sink drain can harbor more than 500,000 bacteria per square inch. Mix 1 tablespoon of chlorine bleach with 4 cups of water, put on protective gloves and scrub the basin of your sink before pouring the solution down the drain to clean it twice a week.
  •  Kitchen sponges harbor germs. Instead of relying on just one sponge for kitchen clean up consider assigning one to the sink area, another for the counters and another for cleaning up spills and other messes. Add your sponges to the dishwasher, including the drying cycle, to sanitize them, or use dishcloths and towels that are changed on a daily basis, laundered and disinfected in hot soapy water with a little chlorine bleach added to the wash cycle.

Keeping your family safe from germs in the kitchen is as easy as replacing sponges weekly, dish cloths and hand towels daily, thoroughly cleaning all surfaces before and after food preparation and washing your hands frequently.

For more information on handwashing, visit the CDC's website at

Lynn Little is a family and consumer sciences educator with University of Maryland Extension in Washington County.
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