Even if you keep a clean kitchen, there is a good chance harmful bacteria like E. coli and salmonella may be lurking in a few easily-overlooked areas, according to new report from the public health group NSF International. But for the most part, all you need is warm, soapy water and a little elbow grease to keep these areas clean and germ-free.
The report, which examined common kitchen items in the homes of 20 families, found the presence of pathogenic bacteria, mold and yeast in several unexpected places. Here are the areas they identified and instructions for how to clean them:
- Refrigerator vegetable compartment: Clean monthly with warm, soapy water.
- Refrigerator meat compartment: Clean monthly (or whenever you see spilled meat juices) with warm, soapy water.
- Blender gasket: After each use, completely disassemble the bottom of the blender and clean and dry the parts separately, either by hand or in the dishwasher.
- Can opener: Wash and dry in the dishwasher or by hand with warm, soapy water after each use.
- Rubber spatula (especially two-piece spatulas): If it is a two piece spatula, separate the top and handle. Wash and dry in the dishwasher or by hand with warm, soapy water after each use.
- Refrigerator water dispenser: Clean the waterspout weekly and the refrigerator water dispenser system once or twice a year. Check your refrigerator manual for the recommended cleaning method.
- Refrigerator ice dispenser: Turn off icemaker, empty the ice bin and wash the bin with warm, soapy water monthly.
- Knife block: Shake out crumbs and loose debris, then use a small brush to clean slots with warm, soapy water. Dry thoroughly. Clean knife block once a month and be sure to clean and dry knives before putting them back in the block to avoid the buildup of mold and bacteria.
- Food storage container with rubber seal: After each use, clean both the lid and the container in the dishwasher, or by hand in hot, soapy water, making sure to scrub around the seal and any grooves where the lid touches the container.
As one of the microbiologists involved in the study noted, this list isn't meant to scare people into an antibacterial frenzy, but rather to inform home cooks of tools and appliances they should be paying special attention to while cleaning. This list is particularly important if you are cooking for the very young, the elderly, or anyone who is pregnant or has a compromised immune system.