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5 Surprising Germ Hot Zones in Your Kitchen

Tim Boyer's picture
Kitchen germs

Have you ever came down with a slight case of the stomach flu that only lasts 24 hours? In many cases, that flu you've felt is actually food poisoning from some surprising germ hot zones in your home―the topic of a recent episode of The Dr. Oz Show.

“I came across a study that blew my mind—20% of food-borne illnesses come from mistakes in our kitchen. And many of these mistakes even I make,” says Dr. Oz as he tells viewers where to find these kitchen cleaning mistakes and what you can do about them.

With Dr. Oz is special guest Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist from the National Sanitation Foundation who studies the types of disease-causing germs such as E. coli, salmonella and listeria that can appear in the home.

With Dr. Oz, Ms. Yakas reveals the 5 following common hidden germ hot zones that most people never think about when cleaning their kitchen:

Germ Hot Zone #1: The blender

“In a blender we found things like E. coli, salmonella, yeast and mold,” says Ms. Yakas as she points out that blenders are often used every day with dairy products used in making smoothies. The problem with blenders is that just washing it out in hot water is not enough because of a hard to reach area near the blender blades.

“This is the culprit,” says Ms. Yakas, holding up a rubber gasket that goes under the blender blades. “This is where we find a lot of germs.” She explains that what few people realize is that the blade section of a blender usually disassembles, allowing a thorough cleaning of the hard to reach rubber gasket. Her advice is to totally disassemble the blade section, wash the components in hot soapy water, and then dry each component separately and completely to prevent trapping moisture where germs can grow.

Germ Hot Zone #2: The coffee maker

“It’s the reservoir—the place you put in the water in,” says Ms. Yakas who points out that the water basket in coffee makers is one mistake people make when it comes to cleaning their kitchen. Because the water basket is constantly moist and dark, it is an excellent breeding ground for bacteria and mold.

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Ms. Yakas states that the best way to clean a coffee maker is with white vinegar. Her recommendation is that once a month you should fill the water basket with undiluted white vinegar and let it sit for 30 minutes before turning on the coffee maker and allowing the vinegar to work its way through. Then, repeat the process with 2 runs of clean tap water to flush away the vinegar smell before making your next cup of coffee.

Germ Hot Zone #3: Dish washing sponges

“The sponge is the number one germiest spot in most homes,” says Ms. Yakas. “And yet, it’s the easiest to sanitize.” Her recommendation is that rather than throwing away your used sponges fairly often that people can actually sanitize them by cooking a wet sponge once a day in a microwave for two minutes. She says that doing this and throwing your used sponges away every two weeks―or as needed if overly dirty―will suffice toward helping keep your kitchen germ-free.

Germ Hot Zone #4: The kitchen utensil drawer

The kitchen utensil drawer is home to many cooking instruments that offers a safe harbor for bacteria. One example Ms. Yakas provides is the rubber spatula. She points out that many people do not know that a lot of rubber spatulas actually come apart between the rubber head and the handle where bacteria can become trapped and flourish. She recommends that the best way to clean a spatula is to separate the head from the handle and wash it in hot soapy water and allow both pieces to dry thoroughly before putting the spatula back together.

“If it’s a one-piece design or the pieces don’t come apart, you will want to pay close attention to the ridge or the area between the head and the handle,” says Ms. Yakas.

Another germy utensil is the can opener where food particles can be trapped in the area around the blade and the gears. She tells viewers that to really get into that area you need to use hot soapy water and scrub into it with a toothbrush to clean it effectively.

Germ Hot Zone #5: The refrigerator

The fridge is especially problematical because of the risk of cross contamination as you introduce food from the grocery store onto the food that is already in the fridge. Ms. Yakas tells viewers that the meat bin, the vegetable bin, the rubber door seal and the ice maker are the areas you need to keep especially clean.

Her recommendation is that all bins, the door’s rubber seal and even the emptied ice maker can be cleaned with a mild soapy detergent and warm water. And, that the temp should be maintained no higher than 40 degrees Fahrenheit to slow down bacterial growth. Furthermore, she suggests that when keeping different vegetables and meats in their respective drawers, that the items should be bagged separately to prevent cross contamination and to prevent juice from meat leaking out and contaminating other foods.

For an informative article about killing off germs while house cleaning, click on the titled link “How to clean the dirtiest place in your home.”

Image Source: Courtesy of PhotoBucket

Reference: The Dr. Oz Show― “The Germiest Places in Your Home Revealed.”