It May Look Clean, But is Your Kitchen Safe?

Is my kitchen safe?

Is your kitchen safe? Would an auditor say your kitchen is safe? It may look clean, but your kitchen may not be as safe as you hoped it would be. This article will cover the top 5 hot spots in the kitchen that have potential for spreading disease. Unfortunately, “Despite good efforts by most to keep their homes germ free, over 65% of colds, 50% of all cases of diarrhea and 50% to 80 % of food-borne illnesses are caught in the home”, according to Dr. Mercola. (6) 

In my past life, a large amount of my time was spent auditing hospital kitchens. With a scrupulous eye I would walk the kitchen with the California Food Code as my standard, looking for anything that may cause potential harm. So needless to say, I’ve developed some neurotic tendencies when it comes to kitchen cleanliness.  At home I don’t follow all the rules I once held as standard, for that would be a little extreme, but the principles stay. For example, there were to be NO towels lying around anywhere (they had to be in a bucket of sanitizing solution) because towels are the top spreader of germs in a kitchen. Now, you won’t find a red bucket in my kitchen, but I do change the kitchen towels at least once a day. Let me tell you why. 

Hot Spots in the Kitchen

Hand Towels

Drying your hands is actually a more important part of the germ removal process than you think. “If hands are only shaken dry after washing, some bacteria are likely to remain.”(1) This means that the residual bacteria left on hands after washing is transferred to the towel.

Residual bacteria left on hands after washing is transferred to the towel.

Great news for your hands, but bad news if your hand towel rarely gets washed. Dr. John Hanlin, Vice President of Public Health for Ecolab suggests changing frequently used towels every couple days.(2) And heaven forbid you use that dirty kitchen towel to dry dishes. Air-drying is always the best choice when drying dishes. Invest in a drying mat like The OriginalTM Dish Drying Mat XL Microfiber Absorbent Machine Washable Fast Drying 18″X24″ Multipurpose.

Kitchen Faucets, Refrigerator Handle and Stove Knobs

Kitchen cleanliness is essential in daily life, especially if you have young children at home. According to a study called Bacterial Contamination In The Kitchen: Could It Be Pathogenic?, the most contaminated place in the kitchen is your faucet handles, followed by the stove knobs, towels and refrigerator handle.(3) 

The most contaminated place in the kitchen is your faucet handles, followed by the stove knobs, towels and refrigerator handle. 

This only makes sense, when your hands are dirty what do you touch to wash them? The faucets! Aah, if we all could afford a new Moen motion sense faucet, right? (Make sure to put one on your dream kitchen list.) So if you are running short on time, be sure to wipe these items first with a natural or commercial cleaner. And remember, in order to properly sanitize, spray and leave it for 10-30 seconds before wiping! If you’ve got more time, go ahead and wipe down the salt n’ pepper shakers, olive oil bottles, soap dispenser and frequented cupboard handles. 

Cutting Boards

In commercial kitchens it is required they have different cutting boards for different food items to prevent cross-contamination. Meat, poultry, fish, produce, and ready-to-eat items all get their own special boards. Is it necessary to follow this practice at home? I don’t think having five different cutting boards is quite necessary, but I do keep one separate, exclusively for the raw stuffs. After rinsing off, I spray it down with bleach, wait 30 seconds, then put it in the dishwasher right after I use it. And our scrub brush is not allowed to go near it! Worried the rest of the family will get confused? Buy one that is a completely different color and style as all the others, and if necessary, store it in a separate area.

Internal Food Temperatures

If there is one kitchen tool I can recommend you get to keep your family safe, it is a decent digital food thermometer.

I would recommend one like ThermoWorks ThermoPop Super-Fast Thermometer with Backlit Rotating Display (Red). In 2013 the CDC reported 19,056 cases of foodborne infection, with 4,200 resulting in hospitalization and 80 in death (4). Incidence was highest among those under the age of 5 and over the age of 65. So all you moms out there, please be sure to temp your babies’ food to make sure it’s fully cooked and safe. Peace of mind knowing you aren’t giving them a big plateful of Salmonella is priceless. Cooking potentially hazardous foods to recommended temperatures can greatly reduce the risk of getting a food-borne illness. Refer to this chart from the CDC especially when cooking for children or older adults. And take note, it’s a time and temperature relationship: eggs are safe when they are at 155F for 15 seconds.

temp chart

via the cdc

Refrigerator Temperature 

Keeping cold foods cold is right up there on the priority list. How cold should my refrigerator be? It needs to be at or below 42 degrees Fahrenheit. And the only way to know this is to have a small thermometer inside your fridge at all times. The reason for this is because bacteria grow rapidly between the temperatures of 42 and 135 degrees F. It’s called the temperature danger zone, so avoid leaving your food in this temperature range for any length of time (over 2 hours). 

If you are conscious of these 5 hot spot areas, your kitchen will be safer than before. Remember, according to Dr. Mercola, “Despite good efforts by most to keep their homes germ free, over 65 percent of colds, 50 percent of all cases of diarrhea and 50 percent to 80 percent of food-borne illnesses are caught in the home”. (6) Don’t let your family be one of these statistics, cover your kitchen’s 5 hot spots!

Disclosure: Any links to outside products are affiliate links and I may be marginally compensated if purchased. Don’t worry though, I’d never promote something I dislike or wouldn’t purchase myself. 


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    • March 3, 2015

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