Three Steps to a Safer Kitchen

Our kitchens can be one of the germiest places in the home. In a 2011 germ study conducted by NSF International, 22 families were asked to swab 30 places in their homes. The study revealed that three of the top five germ hot spots in the home were in the kitchen. Fortunately, you can take a few simple steps to help you have a safer kitchen.

Wash Your Hands

Proper handwashing is essential to help reduce the spread of illness, especially during food preparation.

To properly wash your hands, first thoroughly wet your hands with warm water (not cold). Then, apply liquid or clean bar soap. Rub your hands vigorously together for at least 20 seconds, scrubbing all surfaces thoroughly including between fingers and under nails. Then rinse well and dry. It's the soap combined with the scrubbing that helps to dislodge and remove germs and dirt. Visit for more handwashing tips.

Keep the Kitchen Clean

Kitchens can be one of the most dangerous places in the home because of the potential presence of bacteria on raw foods. In addition to washing hands before beginning food preparation, wash your hands after handling any raw food product so that you don’t transfer bacteria from one food to the next.

Dishes and utensils need to be thoroughly washed with hot soapy water and rinsed after using. Use cutting boards made from nonporous materials and wash them thoroughly after using and when switching from one food product to the next.

Kitchen sponges and dish rags generally tend to be hot spots for germs. To help reduce germs, place wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes once per day and replace often — every two weeks or more as needed. Dishcloths, towels and rags should be sanitized by washing on the clothes washer's hot water cycle with bleach. Replace these items every one to two days.

Countertops should be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water and rinsed before preparing food and again after finishing food preparation. Use only cleaners designed and tested for use in food preparation areas, as others may leave harmful residues.

Avoid Cross-Contamination

Improper handling of foods can create an environment perfect for cross-contamination. To avoid this problem, keep all work areas clean and use separate surfaces for different types of foods.

Separate raw foods from cooked or ready-to-eat foods, both when shopping and at home. Place raw meats in plastic containers or bags and store them near the bottom of the refrigerator to keep juices from dripping on to other foods. Store ready-to-eat foods and produce on upper shelves above uncooked foods.