Do you know that your kitchen sink can be as dirty as the bowel of the toilet? Given the amount of use, the high traffic of organic material and the humidity with relatively warm temperatures, the kitchen sink is a perfect breeding ground for many germs. Most people forget to sanitize the kitchen sink and do not appreciate the potential source of bacteria that contaminates food, utensils, and hands. Many areas of the home where there is a lot of traffic and surfaces that family members touch frequently can be potential sources of germs and contaminants. Most of these high-traffic areas are taken for granted or cleaned only occasionally, but are rarely disinfected.
The kitchen is not the only source, but it is still the largest repository of germs in the house. This is the area that receives a lot of traffic from adults, children, animals, dirty and rotting food. As such an intimate area of our daily life, it is easy to see how we can become contaminated with germs in this room. The kitchen sink and drain have been found to be one of the dirtiest places in the house. It has bacterial counts as high as a toilet bowl. The organic material and moisture make it a perfect incubator for both bacteria and viruses. Dish towels and sponges are also highly contaminated objects that easily transmit contaminants to hands and other surfaces. A dirty or moldy sponge is used on most surfaces without thinking about how it is likely to carry and spread germs. The towel you use on your hands or counters to clean up spills also harbors germs. Don’t let dirty dishes sit in the sink overnight, generating germs. If your kitchen is as busy as most, your sink and countertops need to be sanitized once a week or more often. Commercially available products may be suitable for this purpose. Inexpensive ¾ cup bleach solutions per gallon of water can be used on a cloth or in an inexpensive spray bottle on most countertops or sinks. It is important to remove any food particles or organic material before doing so. Then let it air dry. Pay attention to the cutting boards also with a sanitizing solution, then rinse and air dry. Towels should be cleaned and turned frequently. They could be completely replaced with a paper towel. A sponge can be disinfected in the microwave for 30 to 60 seconds. A well-used sponge should also be replaced every 2 weeks. Hand washing remains an important part of good hygiene during food preparation. Plastic trash can liners can help control spills and leaks from trash collection. One last place in the kitchen / dining area that is often overlooked is the salt and pepper shakers. Handled frequently by many people and never cleaned, they can harbor disease-causing bacteria and viruses.
The bathroom is another culprit when it comes to germs. However, the location of germs is often overlooked. Toothbrushes easily harbor germs from humidity and use. They should be located where they are not near the toilet and where they will air dry after each use. A single toilet flush can send a fine mist of several feet of water contaminating other areas of the bathroom. Since most baths are fairly compact, it will help to close the lid before rinsing. It is wise to store personal hygiene products, towels, and toothbrushes away from the toilet. A new toothbrush should be used every 2-3 months. If you’ve been sick recently, you may want to switch to a new toothbrush sooner. Toothbrushes can only be rinsed well with water and allowed to air dry completely. Caulking areas between sinks and counters or tub and enclosures commonly accumulate high bacterial and mold counts due to their intrinsic traffic, chronic moisture, and difficulty in cleaning. It is necessary to apply the same cleaning techniques as in the kitchen with a focus on problem areas.
Other areas of the home that can be a problem include doorknobs, computer keyboards, and remote controls. They all receive a lot of traffic from contaminated hands. In reality, the number of germs here is less than in some of the areas mentioned above. However, regular cleaning with a disinfectant such as alcohol, bleach solution, or one of the commercially available disinfectant cleaning products is very smart. Change bedding and towels weekly. Still, the most important and basic technique is to cover up when coughing or sneezing and wash your hands regularly. Washing your hands after using the bathroom or cleaning these areas, before preparing food or eating, is still the gold standard for prevention. Hand sanitizers can be helpful in areas of the home where water is not available. However, 15-20 seconds of simply scrubbing your hands thoroughly with soap and water is something that germs can’t beat.