With the gorgeous weather of spring comes the arduous task of
spring cleaning your closet, garage — and kitchen. Even if the room appears clean, there are hidden areas that carry potentially dangerous germs. In fact, more than 20 percent of foodborne illness cases happen from food that’s eaten at home, according to National Sanitation Foundation International. Keep yourself and your family safe by focusing on these five areas:
1. The Blender Gasket
Your blender may have taken a beating this winter if you’ve been on a green smoothie binge. The blender gasket — or that rubber ring — alone can carry salmonella, E. coli, yeast and mold, NSF reports.
How to clean it: After unplugging the blender, take all the pieces apart and either run them through your dishwasher or clean them with warm, soapy water. Be careful not to cut yourself on the blade.
2. Your Vegetable Drawer
The vegetable drawer is at the top of the list of dirtiest places in your kitchen since it’s a breeding ground for salmonella, listeria, yeast and mold, an NSF study on household germs found. The bacteria listeria is particularly dangerous for anyone in your family with a weak immune system like kids under age 5, pregnant and breastfeeding women, older adults and people with illnesses like cancer or HIV.
How to clean it: First, remove the drawer from the refrigerator if possible. Then, remove all the food inside it and wash the bin thoroughly with a clean sponge or cloth and mild dish detergent mixed with warm water. Rinse the bin with tap water and dry it with a clean paper towel or cloth. If the drawer smells funky, wash it with 1 to 2 tablespoons of baking soda mixed with 1 quart of water. Again, make sure to wipe it dry with a clean paper towel or cloth. Repeat monthly.
3. Your Rubber Spatula
Rubber spatulas are the second germiest place in the kitchen, NSF finds, thanks to improper cleaning that attracts E. coli, yeast and mold.
How to clean it: If your one-piece rubber spatula is dishwasher safe, run it through the dishwasher after every use. Otherwise, wash it by hand with hot soapy water. Make sure to get between the handle and the spatula head, which is where microorganisms tend to hide out. For a two-piece spatula, separate the handle from the spatula before placing it in the dishwasher. To wash it by hand, separate the pieces and wash them thoroughly in hot soapy water before rinsing them with clean water.
(Thinkstock) How to Disinfect Germ Hotspots.]
4. Your Food Storage Containers’ Rubber Seals
Have you been toting lunch to work daily? Your food storage containers with rubber seals may be harboring illness-causing microbes like salmonella, yeast and mold if you’re not washing them properly.
How to clean it: If the container and lid are both dishwasher safe, run them through the dishwasher after every use. To wash the pieces by hand, use hot soapy water, making sure to really clean the area around the seal and any grooves where the cover attaches to the container. Rinse everything thoroughly and air-dry it on a clean surface.
5. The Knife Block Slots
Have you been chopping, slicing and dicing foods all winter? You may be cleaning your knife thoroughly, but then re-contaminating it when you place it back in your knife block, which has the perfect dark, moist environment for yeast and mold to grow.
How to clean it: Remove all the knives, turn the block upside down and shake it lightly to get rid of any crumbs or food particles caught inside. Wash the knife block by hand in warm, soapy water, and use a small brush to scrub out the knife slots. Then rinse it thoroughly with clean water. To sanitize your knife block, mix 1 gallon of warm tap water with 1 tablespoon of 5.25-percent bleach. You can either dip the block completely into the solution or pour the solution into the the knife slots. Allow the mixture to remain in contact with the knife slots for one minute. Then rinse the whole thing with clean tap water and turn it upside down on a clean surface to dry completely before reinserting the clean knives. If you’re an 7 Kitchen Items You Need to Replace to Protect Your Health.] avid cook, get in the habit of doing this monthly.
[See: Can You Trust Your Yuck Reflex?]
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The 5 Dirtiest Places in Your Kitchen You Didn’t Know You Had to Clean originally appeared on usnews.com