Everyday Kitchen Habits That You Should Stop Doing

A hygiene expert has highlighted several kitchen habits that some people may not think twice about but could be helping to spread germs.

Hygiene in the kitchen is important, not least because an estimated one in six Americans (around 48 million people) get sick from foodborne diseases annually, with 3,000 of these people dying, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

"Cleaning is an important step in preventing these illnesses," Brian Sansoni, senior vice president of the American Cleaning Institute, which represents the U.S. cleaning products industry, told Newsweek.

Kitchen Habits That Are Unhygienic

According to Sansoni, keeping the same sponge for too long is among the worst things you can do when it comes to hygiene.

"This is by far one of the germiest things in the kitchen and should never be used for more than a couple of months before replacing," Sansoni said.

Another common problem is using one dish towel for everything, which can also help to spread germs.

"It can be easy to grab a dish towel for anything from drying dishes to wiping down counters and only wash it when it looks dirty. However, this can spread germs around the kitchen without you even realizing," he said.

Finally, some people might simply rinse items or their hands with water without properly cleaning them.

"Just because you've run something under the faucet does not mean it's clean," Sansoni said.

More Hygienic Practices

When it comes to your kitchen sponge, make sure you replace it every two to eight weeks, depending on how much you use it.

"You can clean it in between by soaking it in a solution of one quart of water to three tablespoons of chlorine bleach, then let it air dry," Sansoni said.

Regarding dish towels, it is a good idea to keep several on hand so you can put one in the laundry after use or at the end of each day with a replacement ready, according to Sansoni.

A woman washing dishes
Stock image: A woman washing dishes. Kitchen sponges are a breeding ground for germs and should be replaced frequently. iStock

"If you use a dishcloth to clean up a spill, especially for something like raw meat juices, put it in the laundry immediately," he said.

The expert also recommends cleaning with soap or a detergent for food and kitchen hygiene.

"Wash your hands, as well as hand-washed kitchen items, thoroughly with warm water and soap, then rinse and dry," Sansoni said.

Kitchen Hygiene Recommendations

The American Cleaning Institute provides several recommendations for maintaining a hygienic environment in the kitchen:

  • Keep kitchen surfaces as dry and clean as possible to help control the growth of moisture-loving bacteria, mold and mildew.
  • Promptly clean up crumbs and other food scraps after preparing or eating food. Wipe up spills before they have a chance to dry.
  • Clean and disinfect cutting boards and kitchen countertops before and after preparing food to help reduce the threat of foodborne illness.
  • Disinfect sink areas to kill germs as well as mold and mildew that can trigger asthma attacks.
  • Use a disinfectant (antibacterial) cleaner to clean countertops and kill bacteria that may be found in raw meat, poultry or fish.
  • Clean refrigerator walls and shelves using a nonabrasive, all-purpose cleaner or a solution of baking soda and water.
  • Sweep or vacuum the floor first, then mop starting at the farthest corner of the room and working your way toward the exit. Use a cleaner that's right for your floor type.
  • Use an abrasive cleanser for hard-to-remove soils like food particles and grease residues in sinks. Read the label first to see whether the cleaner is recommended for the finish.