When you’re shaking off the winter with spring cleaning, it’s a great time to target harmful bacteria that can be on kitchen surfaces and even in your refrigerator. Salmonella, Staphyloccus, E. coli and Listeria are just some of the bacteria that may be hanging out in your kitchen. While you can’t see or smell foodborne bacteria they are everywhere, and they especially like moist environments. A clean and dry kitchen helps protect you and your family from foodborne illness.

Some cleaning tips you should practice year-round to make your kitchen and your meals safer include:

  • Your counters may look clean, but bacteria may be hiding all over your kitchen. Always clean surfaces thoroughly with hot water and soap. After thoroughly washing surfaces with hot water and soap, you can sanitize them with a diluted chlorine bleach solution or a disinfectant kitchen cleaner. Use a mixture of 3/4 teaspoon liquid unscented chlorine bleach per quart of water (or one tablespoon bleach per gallon of water). Let the solution stand on the surface for several minutes, then rinse with cold water and air dry or pat dry with fresh paper towels. Bleach solutions can lose their effectiveness over time, so discard unused portions after one week.
  • Kitchen towels and sponges provide a moist environment for bacteria to grow. Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. When done, throw away the towel. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine. If you use kitchen sponges, replace them frequently and consider placing them in the dishwasher to be cleaned weekly.
  • Clean your fridge of spills, bacteria, mold and mildew. Clean your refrigerator weekly to kill germs that could contaminate foods. To tackle bacteria, mold and mildew, clean interior refrigerator surfaces with hot water and soap. Rinse with a damp cloth; dry with a clean cloth. Manufacturers recommend against using chlorine bleach, solvent cleaning solutions, or abrasives as they can damage seals, gaskets and linings.
  • Food particles get trapped in the sink drain and disposal, creating the perfect environment for bacterial growth. Clean your kitchen sink, drain and disposal once or twice a week with warm water and soap. Disinfect your drain and disposal by pouring in a solution of 3/4 teaspoon chlorine bleach per quart of water.
  • Microwaves often get overlooked in day-to-day cleaning, but you can get your microwave clean with just a few steps. Heat a microwave-safe bowl filled with water on high for approximately 4 minutes. Remove bowl and use hot water and dish soap to wipe down the microwave interior. Dry with a fresh paper towel.

If you have more questions or concerns about food safety, contact your local University of Idaho Extension office food safety specialist or the following:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). TTY 1-800-256-7072.
  • The Fight BAC! at www.fightbac.org
  • Gateway to Government Food Safety Information at www.foodsafety.gov

Julie Buck, EdD, RDN, is a registered dietitian, who is employed as a Family and Consumer Sciences Educator at the University of Idaho Extension, Bingham County. She can be reached at 208-785-8060 or jhbuck@uidaho.edu.