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The Top 10 Dirtiest Things Hiding in Your Kitchen and Some Cleaning Tips

Although most people assume that the bathroom is the dirtiest area in the home, the kitchen might actually surprise you with the dirtiest and germiest things lurking in plain sight. In 2011, the National Sanitation Foundation conducted a study to determine which areas of the home had the most germs, and the kitchen ranked the highest. Study participants were asked to swab various parts of their homes, which were then tested for coliform bacteria (including E. coli and Salmonella), yeast, and mold.

Despite how clean your kitchen may appear, it can still harbor germs, bacteria, dust, and dirt. While some of these items can be cleaned, others are best replaced. If you’re curious to discover what’s lurking in your kitchen, check out our list of the top 10 things plumbers find in the kitchen.

1. Kitchen Sinks

Even though your sink appears to be clean, it may harbor bacteria and germs in its crevices and garbage disposal. As per the NSF research, 45% of the tested kitchen sinks contained coliform bacteria, which could be a sign of fecal contamination. 

It is recommended to disinfect the sink, including the faucet handle and spray nozzle, at least once a day, preferably after dinner and before manually washing dishes. You can use anti-bacterial kitchen cleaners for this purpose.

2. Dish Towels

Even if dish towels don’t have an odor, they can harbor bacteria and germs from wiping counters or drying dishes. Additionally, moisture from wiping up spills can cause mold and mildew to grow on them.

To avoid this, it is recommended to use fresh towels each time you wipe your counters or dry dishes, and avoid using the same towel for both. After use, hang towels to air dry completely, then wash them once a week in hot water with bleach to eliminate bacteria and germs. This practice will help to keep your kitchen cleaner and healthier.

3. Sponges

The kitchen sponge is a breeding ground for bacteria and germs, making it the filthiest thing in your kitchen. Like dish towels, sponges can harbor mold and mildew due to their slow drying time.

To avoid cross-contamination, use separate sponges for dishwashing and counter cleaning, and keep them color-coded to differentiate. It’s recommended to replace sponges every week, regardless of their condition. Wash them with bleach and hot water along with your dish towels once a week to kill bacteria and germs.

Interestingly, the NSF study found that more than 75% of sponges and dish towels contained coliform bacteria.

4. Kitchen Counters

Have you ever thought about all the different items that get placed on your kitchen counters, such as backpacks, purses, mail, or grocery bags? Do you clean your counters after putting these items away and before using the counter to prepare food? 

Most people do not, and this can lead to transferring bacteria and germs onto the counters and, ultimately, onto the food. According to the NSF study, 32% of kitchen counters had coliform bacteria on them.1

To prevent the transfer of bacteria and germs onto your food, it is important to use an anti-bacterial and food-safe cleaning product to spray and wipe off the counters before preparing food. It’s a good idea to make this a daily habit, even if you’re not cooking, to help keep bacteria and germs in check.

5. Coffee/Tea Maker Reservoirs

Bacteria, germs, mold, and mildew can thrive in the reservoir of your coffee or tea maker due to the moisture and warmth. As the water doesn’t fully dry out, it provides an ideal environment for these harmful organisms.

To prevent the growth of bacteria, it’s recommended to clean the coffee or teapot with anti-bacterial soap after every use. Additionally, open the lid of the reservoir to let the air inside and allow it to dry out. It’s advisable to clean your coffee or tea maker thoroughly once a week, following the instructions given by the manufacturer.

6. Wooden Cutting Boards

While wooden cutting boards can be visually appealing, they are harder to maintain and sanitize than plastic ones. Wooden boards cannot be effectively cleaned in a dishwasher or easily sanitized. After cutting up raw chicken, bacteria such as Salmonella can be left on the wooden surface even if you wash it off.

It is recommended to use wooden cutting boards for fruits and vegetables, which are less likely to leave harmful bacteria on the surface. For beef, poultry, pork, and fish, it’s best to use a set of plastic cutting boards that can be easily sanitized in the dishwasher.

Interestingly, the NSF study found that 18% of cutting boards contained coliform bacteria.1

7. Can Openers

Consider how often you use your can opener and how many different cans you open with it. If your hands were not clean, the bacteria and germs can transfer onto the handles. Keeping the can opener in a drawer with other utensils can also lead to cross-contamination of bacteria and germs.

Make it a habit to wash your can opener after every use. Many types of can openers are dishwasher safe and can be placed on the top rack. Alternatively, you can wash it in hot, soapy water in the sink. If you have an electric can opener, use anti-bacterial wipes to clean it, but remember to unplug it first.

8. Salt and Pepper Grinders/Shakers

Do you remember the last time you washed your grinders or shakers? Often, we just refill them without cleaning them first. However, since they are frequently touched while cooking and eating, it is important to wash them before refilling to avoid spreading germs and bacteria.

9. Refrigerators

Refrigerators can harbor forgotten science experiments, with mold, mildew, and fuzzy growth often found on spoiled food. To avoid contamination, it is recommended to discard plastic containers or reusable plastic bags that have held spoiled food. Glass containers should be washed in the dishwasher on the sanitation cycle to kill germs and bacteria.

To maintain a clean and organized refrigerator, it is advisable to clean it on a weekly basis. Discard leftovers, expired condiments, and other foods before they turn into science experiments. Only buy fresh fruits and vegetables that will be consumed during the week, and check the expiration dates of packaged items, discarding them when they expire.

To keep the refrigerator clean, use anti-bacterial wipes to wipe down drawers, doors, and handles. Many drawers can be removed for washing with hot, soapy anti-bacterial dish soap.

10. Touchpads, Handles, and Knobs

Food, bacteria, germs, and dirt can accumulate on your kitchen appliances, cabinets, and drawers. It is common for people to touch these surfaces while preparing food, which can transfer bacteria from one surface to another.

To prevent the spread of bacteria, it is important to use anti-bacterial wipes to clean touchpads, handles, and knobs after preparing food. This should be done daily after every meal.

Need Help? Call on the Experts!

We hope our cleaning tips for the top 10 dirtiest items in your kitchen were helpful in keeping your kitchen clean and preventing the spread of germs and bacteria. If you need help with kitchen sink plumbing problems, kitchen faucet repair, or a clogged kitchen sink, our team of experienced kitchen plumbers at MET Plumbing & Air Conditioning is available to help. Contact us at 281-603-9949 for service in the greater Houston, Katy, Cypress, Sugar Land, Spring, and The Woodlands areas.

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