The start of a new year is a great time to do a health and safety check on our kitchens. For most families, the kitchen is the most popular room in the house. In our home it sure is. It’s used for food preparation, washing hands, chatting with friends over a cup of coffee or tea, and for our homeschooling family – science experiments. It’s also a place where all kinds of germs can lurk and grow, waiting for the opportune time to attack our bodies and make us sick – certainly not something we want in a food preparation area. With a little effort though, you can have a safe and healthy kitchen that makes it harder for those nasty germs to thrive. Try these simple tips:
1. Check your cutting boards and replace them if necessary. Plastic cutting boards are non-porous, making them easier to clean and sanitize than wooden ones. But they eventually accumulate hard-to-clean crevices and cuts from your knives. Bacteria and other germs can live in those areas, potentially contaminating your food and making you sick. Replace them if they have a lot of cuts and crevices. Wooden cutting boards that are splitting should also be replaced. If they are not split but have knife cuts on the surface, they can be sanded down, cleaned, and re-oiled.
2. Sharpen your knives. This is something I need to do. It may seem counter-intuitive, but a sharp knife is much safer than a dull one. Dull ones may slip more easily, leading to cuts or other injuries. Sharp knives offer you more control and you do not have to force the knife to do its job, making it safer for you.
3. Clean the can opener. Maybe it’s the microbiology courses I took in college, but I always clean my can opener after I use it. However, many people simply slip it back into the drawer after using it. It may look clean, but it’s not. Just think about all the tiny bits of tuna, tomato paste, canned soup, or bean broth still on that little circular blade as it cuts through the lid of your can of peaches. Then think of all the germs that were feeding on those bits of food and are now in your peaches. Need I say more? Just clean it. Now! And keep cleaning it each time you use it.
4. Look through your pantry and throw away any outdated food. As you purchase new items, use the FIFO system – first in, first out. It does not take much more time to put a new can or two behind the older one in the cupboard; and it will be safer in the long run.
5. Clean the refrigerator bins and shelves. While this should be done more often than once a year, you will be off to a good start if you clean it now. Fruit, vegetable, and meat bins can become dirty quickly. Clean them out now and keep them clean. Your food will be safer.
6. Starting today put your dishrags and dish cloths on a regular cleaning cycle. I replace our dishrag and dishcloth at least once a day, sometimes twice if I am in the kitchen a lot. Damp rags and towels are breeding grounds for all kinds of germs that can make you sick, and when you use them to wipe down your counter or dry your clean dishes the germs come along for ride and spread to the surfaces they touch.
7. Clean the filter on your range hood. Check your manufacturer’s directions on how to do this for your particular model. Some can be put into the dishwasher while others should be washed by hand to remove grease build up. If you have an over the range microwave, this applies to you too! Your kitchen will be safer when the filter is clean.
8. Thoroughly clean your blender. Take the pitcher completely apart from the gasket and blade. Clean all the pieces separately. We take ours apart each time we use it, but I know many people who do not. Food can seep down in between the gasket and blades and become a feeding place for harmful bacteria. It doesn’t take much longer to take it apart and clean it.
9. Do you have any rubber spatulas that come it two parts, where the handle comes apart from the blade? Slide the rubber blade off the handle and thoroughly clean each piece to get rid of any dried on food build up. Dry completely before reassembling.
Having a safe and healthy kitchen is important in keeping your family safe and healthy too. Do you have any other tips on what you do to keep your kitchen safe and healthy? Share with us in the comments below. We’d love to hear them!
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