The dirty truth about bacteria in the kitchen

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There are many things we have learned from COVID-19. One is how important it is to wash our hands and to wash them frequently. Not washing our hands leads to the spread of germs. Keeping our homes clean and sanitized, especially in the kitchen, is also crucial in the prevention of viruses and bacteria. Now more than ever, it is vital to keep our kitchens properly cleaned and sanitized to prevent food-borne illnesses. Keeping your kitchen clean for food preparation will help prevent the spread of bacteria. Dangerous bacteria can lurk around countertops, surface areas of your kitchen, and on both large and small appliances. These bacteria can contaminate your food and cause serious illness. Bacteria may be on a surface even though it appears to be clean.

When it comes to your kitchen, there is a difference between cleaning and sanitizing. Cleaning involves soap and water, removes visible dirt, and removes most of the germs. Sanitizers, on the other hand, provide extra safety because they contain stronger solutions that destroy more disease-causing bacteria. Here are some tips:

Clean kitchen surfaces with soap and water. After cleaning and rinsing, sanitize the surface with a sanitizer. A good sanitizer can be prepared by mixing 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach per quart of water. A new solution should be made daily and placed in a spray bottle for easy use. Allow the surface to air dry after sanitizing. Wash your hands after the surface is cleaned or sanitized.

Paper towels are ideal to use for cleaning because they can be used once and thrown away, which prevents bacteria from multiplying and being spread throughout the kitchen. If you use dishcloths, they should be changed and laundered often. Sponges have nooks and crannies where germs can hide and spread from one surface to another. Thus, sponges should not be used. To prevent chemical contamination of your foods, never reuse cleaning product containers, and keep chemicals away from foods.

Keeping appliances clean is important because it will last longer and will help prevent the spread of bacteria. Large appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, and ovens need cleaning at least monthly. Use soap and water to wash the fridge. Do not use an abrasive cleanser or scouring pads because they can damage the surface. The greasy build-up may require the use of a heavy-duty cleaner or grease cutter and a soft cleaning pad.

Dishwashers are self-cleaning but check for large particles of food lodged in the filter. Ovens are often self-cleaning and help make spills easier to clean. After the oven has cooled from the cleaning process, wipe away the ash residue that is left. Be sure to ventilate the kitchen when cleaning the oven in case it gives off fumes or smoke. Unplug small appliances before cleaning and never immerse in water unless directions say it is permissible.

Be confident that your kitchen is clean and safe from bacteria. Cleaning the kitchen frequently makes the job easier and will make food preparation more enjoyable. And keeping sanitizer solution freshly made and handy will give you that extra protection from bacteria that can cause food-borne illness.

If you would like more information, please contact me at marnie@uga.edu. Also, be sure to check out our Facebook pages; search Candler County UGA Cooperative Extension or UGA Extension Emanuel County for Family and Consumer Sciences (FACS), Agriculture, and 4-H programs.

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