Did you know the kitchen sink is the dirtiest, germ-i-est place in the house? More than any part of the bathroom. You probably disinfect your toilet more often than the kitchen sink.
Food particles, meat juice drippings, blood and dirt off vegetables can lurk not just in the sink itself, but especially in the drainer, and down towards the trap. These organic bits can harbor E. coli, campylobacter, and salmonella bacteria, all of which can make you quite ill. The damp, warm environment is the perfect setting for bacteria to grow. Raw poultry can be especially dangerous. In fact, it’s no longer recommended to rinse poultry prior to repackaging or cooking, simply because by putting it in the sink or on the counter, you spread more bacteria around the kitchen.
Probably just as dirty, if not more so, are the counters around the sink, and the sponge or dishcloth you use on the dishes. More on that in a minute.
So what can you do to clean and disinfect the sink? First scrub with a bit of dish soap to remove particles and and grease. Then:
- An easy home solution is 1 tablespoon of bleach in a quart of water. I put it in a spray bottle and keep handy. You can also buy on the the bleach sprays on the market. use the scrubber again, then wipe with paper towels which you can throw away.
- White Vinegar – it’s acidic properties help kill bacteria and molds. You can sprinkle baking soda in the sink, squeeze in the juice of a lemon, and scrub. Then pour in 1 cup of vinegar. It will foam and fizz. Rinse with hot water. It can help clean the drain of debris as well. Wipe with paper towels.
- Lemon and salt, or lemon and baking soda – here you can actually use the lemon as the scrubber. The lemon has the added bonus of some bleaching action, and will also keep copper shiny. Use plenty of salt or baking soda, making a paste and using the lemon to scrub. Rinse with hot water and wipe with paper towels.
The lemon, if you are using it and have a garbage disposal, it can be processed through the disposal to clean the lower pipes.
Remember to wash the sink strainer too! Top, bottom, and wipe around the sink drain where it sits. I often put mine right in the dishwasher. The strainers with the stoppers seem to get especially grimy. I finally gave them up and use ones that are just a mesh strainer . And the sink drain can be loaded with bacteria – wipe out with towels after cleaning and throw them away without touching the sink itself.
Notice that I suggest wiping out the sink/drain after cleaning with paper towels. I am not a big fan of using lots of paper towels, but certain times they come in handy. When cleaning the kitchen sink, you are picking up a lot of bacteria that has been loosened with the scrubbing. When rinsing the sink with hot water then dry with paper towels, they are picking up remaining germs. Toss the towels, toss the germs. If you prefer to use cloth wipes, immediately throw them in the laundry pile. Notice, we are not using the dish washing sponge or dish rag for this!
Sponges can be disinfected a couple way. I put mine in the microwave, dampened, and let it cook away for 1-2 minutes on high. Make sure it is adequately wet, so it won’t catch on fire. Caution: it will be hot when you take it out! I have also put sponges in the dishwasher with a load, letting the hot water of the dishwasher clean it.
Wash a dish cloth frequently. In fact, I recommend changing out the dish towels and a dish rag every couple of days. Ideally you would have one sponge or rag just for dish washing, and another for wiping counters and the stove, to avoid spreading germs. I keep Handiwipes around just for counters and the rest of the kitchen. I can wash them multiple times, and toss them as needed. But they last a lot longer than paper towels.
I also use a mild bleach solution on my counters. I do have granite, so I cannot use any vinegar solution. Things like vinegar and Windex are acidic, and will slowly etch granite or marble, ruining the polished surface, but can be used on other counter surfaces like laminate.
Don’t forget to clean and disinfect other items food comes in contact with – cutting boards, the faucet, and even the refrigerator.
And remember your hands may be a culprit in spreading bacteria around the kitchen too – onto handles, knobs, cooking utensils. I find myself washing my hands multiple times anytime I am making a meal or baking. When you are doing a thorough kitchen cleaning, include the cabinets doors, handles, stove handle and refrigerator handles you frequently touch with possibly germ-y fingers.
Lastly, I suggest never filling up the sink and washing vegetables for consumption in it. I keep a collapsible colander and a collapsible dishpan under the sink, just for the purpose of washing fruit and vegetables, as well as a scrubber just for them.
What do you do to keep your kitchen safe?