Kitchen filth doesn’t always lurk where you think it does.
NSF International, a public health and safety organization, conducted a study where they asked people to guess where the most kitchen pathogens hang out. The answers, which included places like microwave keypads, were mostly wrong.
On microwaves: “Those keypads are smooth, and germs like cracks and crevices,” says Lisa Yakas, a microbiologist with NSF International. So where does the gnarly stuff hide?
Your blender’s base
The rubber gasket that sits below the pitcher and forms a water-tight seal? Yeah, it made the top three of the NSF’s ranking, testing positive for Salmonella, E. coli, yeast, and mold. “People don’t take the blender apart to wash it after every use,” says Yakas. Even blenders with a “clean” function only wash the pitcher, not the base.
That knife block
The slots would earn a five-star rating on a germ AirBNB—and most people never think about washing them, says Brian Sansoni, a spokesperson with the American Cleaning Institute. Any residual bacteria from your blades will transfer to the block and grow. A good scrubbing with warm, soapy water and thorough air drying once a month will help. That said, it can be tough to reach all the way in to the base of the slots, and you might just want to invest in a magnetic knife strip.
Your rubber spatulas
These innocuous tools turned up E. coli, yeast, and mold—but only when they were constructed from two pieces (think wooden handle and removable rubber head). As with blenders, Yakas says, people don’t take them apart to clean, and bacteria lives and grows inside. If the idea of cleaning your spatula’s pieces doesn’t thrill you, stick with a spatula made of a single piece of molded silicone, like those made by GIR.
Wait, doesn’t it, um, clean itself? Like your bathtub (yeah, apparently you need to clean that, too), scrubbing removes mineral or grease buildup over time and helps prevent mold, says Sansoni. Many dishwasher manufacturers now make cleaning products that you can toss into the appliance and run it through an empty cycle once a month. (Bonus: this will help your machine last longer). Otherwise, he recommends scrubbing the rubber gasket with a toothbrush, wiping the residual crumbs off with a damp cloth, and pulling out the racks and checking the drain for stuck food particles or other blockages.
Those crisper drawers
NSF testing uncovered Salmonella, Listeria, E.coli, yeast ,and mold in refrigerator meat and vegetable drawers. Remove the entire drawer and washing it with warm water and a little dish detergent, says Yakas. Often, the bin bottoms are textured and germs cling to those nooks and crannies.
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