Germiest spots in the kitchen

Signs of spring are showing up in the Pacific Northwest and it has us thinking about some pic girl surgical maskspring cleaning. Thrive Market recently posted a blog piece on how filthy the average refrigerator is and it is worth a quick read (click here). They pointed out that the produce drawer is incredibly germ-laden (as in worse than a toilet seat) and that those germs can get into your food. Their article got us thinking about additional kitchen germ hot spots that are often missed and we have listed them here along with some cleaning suggestions. Be sure to remember these spots in your spring cleaning routine, and once you see how easy they are, keep them up year round to keep the germ count down in the kitchen.

Light switches– one of the dirtiest places in the home because of frequent use. At least once a week, wipe them down with a paper towel sprayed in household cleaner or rubbing alcohol.   In addition, stove knobs, cupboard and drawer handles and microwave buttons would benefit from a quick wipe down.

Kitchen Sink- a real hotspot in the kitchen full of germs from meal prep, hand and produce washing, rinsing chicken, etc. The sink should be cleaned nightly with a green household cleaner and don’t forget the faucet, handle and sprayer. If some scouring is necessary, baking soda works well.

Sponges and Dishcloths– these hold a ton of germs and should be frequently washed or replaced. Microwaving wet sponges and dishcloths on high for 30 seconds kills most bacteria. Dish scrubbing brushes also require daily cleaning and can be run through the dishwasher. Dishtowels also hold a large number of germs, especially if they are being used to dry hands. Dishtowels should be changed frequently and household members should be encouraged to dry their hands on paper towels instead.

Countertops- these hold quite a few germs, especially when you consider how many miscellaneous items are placed on them (grocery bags, food, dirty backpacks and handbags, etc. Click here to see how dirty your handbags and backpacks really are!). Additionally, if counters are being wiped down with a dirty dishcloth or rag, they can be really nasty. Be sure to clean regularly with a green household cleaner and always with a clean rag or paper towels.

 Garbage Can- even if you use a bag in your can, meat juices, food, etc. can build up. Weekly, take the garbage can outside and hose it down. Fill partially with vinegar and water and scrub it down. Allow it to soak for 20-30 minutes to disinfect. Rinse and allow to dry completely before bringing it back inside.

 Cutting Boards- experts usually agree that meats, seafood and poultry should be cut on a separate cutting board from produce to avoid cross contamination. Clean cutting boards with hot soapy water and let air dry completely. Plastic boards can usually go through the dishwasher.

 Blender gasket– any appliances that should be disassembled to be properly cleaned can harbor germs if they aren’t cleaned correctly. If your blender is dishwasher safe, put the blender, blade and gasket in the dishwasher after each use.   Otherwise use hot soapy water on the disassembled items and dry completely before reassembling and using. For those that use a Vitamix, cleaning instructions are available here.

Reusable Grocery Bags- these carry loads of germs! USA Today reported on a study that found 99% of reusable bags had bacteria, about half with coliform bacteria and some with E. coli indicating fecal contamination. The report also mentioned that a Norovirus outbreak amongst a soccer team in Oregon was traced to a reusable shopping bag. It is recommended that reusable bags go through the washing machine at least weekly.

 Can Opener- these can carry germs from our hands and from the various foods in which they come into contact. If appropriate, run through the dishwasher after each use. If washing be hand, pay special attention to the blade and be sure to use hot soapy water. Dry thoroughly.

 Food storage containers– these should be thoroughly cleaned after each use to avoid mold and yeast. Wash in the dishwasher, or if washing by hand, pay careful attention to the grooves in the lid and the seal.

Salt and Pepper Shakers- these can harbor bacteria and viruses, including the common cold, and should be frequently wiped down with a green household cleaner or rubbing alcohol.

Fridge Ice and Water Dispenser- these have been found to hold some nasty germs. For regular day-to-day cleaning, wipe down the buttons and housing with rubbing alcohol or household cleaner. For a deeper clean that is recommended monthly, offers instructions to clean the germs out of the tubing here.

Knife block- these hold a number of germs that are transferred from knives and dirty hands. Monthly, remove all of the knives and turn the block upside down to shake out debris. The block can be washed in hot soapy water. Also, diluted hydrogen peroxide can be used to sanitize the block. Ensure that the cleaning solution is in contact with the knife slots for one minute, then rinse thoroughly and dry upside down. Ensure that knives are clean and completely dry before being placed in the block.

Pet Food Bowls- these should be washed daily in the dishwasher, or by hand in very hot soapy water. They can be disinfected weekly by soaking in vinegar. Rinse thoroughly and allow to air dry.

Why does my house stink?

The title of this post is a question we are regularly asked. Quite frequently the answer to pic dust pollen moldthe question actually lies underneath of the home. Something many people don’t realize is that approximately fifty percent of the air you breathe on the main floor of your house comes from the crawlspace. This is because of something known as stack effect (a great picture and explanation is available here), which basically means that as the heated air in your home rises and escapes, a vacuum is created that sucks cold air through the crawlspace. (It can also contribute to cold floor syndrome.) As that air circulates into your living area, any odors from rodents, moisture or garbage below could be to blame for your house’s unpleasant aroma.

pic ratAnother source of a home’s bad odor can be the result of crawlspace pest infiltration. Once inside the space, rodents love to nest and tunnel through the home’s insulation. Not only do they destroy the insulation’s R-value by compressing it, but they also soak it in waste creating a very strong odor. If you look underneath your home and see droppings on the vapor barrier, it is a good indicator of infestation and a very likely source of malodor. Removing the soiled insulation and sanitizing the space as part of a crawlspace cleaning job would greatly improve the home’s scent. It should also be noted that rodents sometimes carry dangerous diseases like Hantavirus and King County Public Health Department has indicated that exposure to rodent waste can trigger asthma attacks. If your crawlspace needs cleaning, confirm that the professionals you hire can do the job in a safe and sanitary manner and ensure that they offer rodent exclusion to prevent the rodents from returning to your newly cleaned crawlspace.

In a previous post about insulating for warmth, we explained how most crawlspaces in the Pacific Northwest are vented to the outside of the home. The purpose of the vents is to move air in and out of the crawlspace, however temperature fluctuations can create moisture causing mold, fungus, and other toxins to grow, none of which contributes to a great smell indoors. The moisture can also be particularly problematic for people with mold allergies.

Finally, garbage and debris are often found in crawlspaces and are leftover from the structure’s original construction. This is problematic because it can collect mold and fungus creating its own aromas. Further, garbage and debris are attractive to rodents and wood destroying insects.

Obviously, not all odorous homes can look to the crawl space as the source of the problem. Our homes become unclean from daily activities like cooking, bathing, breathing, washing clothes, pets, trash, and bringing in toxins from outdoors (read about how your shoes could be making you sick in this post). Without regular cleaning and proper ventilation, your home is likely to be a honk. Regularly airing out your home as part of your cleaning routine can help get rid of stale air. Some green cleaning tips for common household smells is available on This Old House.