The top 6 germiest surfaces in your kitchen

Sometimes it’s best not to think about how gross our homes can get. But as you give your homes a weekly scrub-down, there’s a good chance you’re missing the grossest spots. In fact, your kitchen — where we bet you spend a good amount of your time — can harbor some of the nastiest of germs.

NSF International has just released its new “Household Germ Study,” which analyzed 14 kitchen items in homes across Ann Arbor, Mich. The results: Many kitchen items used to prepare food harbor pathogens that cause foodborne illness. The study found E.coli and salmonella on 36% of the items tested, listeria on 14%, and yeast and mold on 100%.

Here are the top six germiest spots and what the researchers found on each:

  1. Refrigerator vegetable compartment: Salmonella, listeria, yeast and mold

  2. Refrigerator meat compartment: Salmonella, E.coli, yeast and mold

  3. Blender gasket: Salmonella, E.coli, yeast and mold

  4. Can opener: Salmonella, E.coli, yeast and mold

  5. Rubber spatula: E.coli, yeast and mold

  6. Food storage container with rubber seal: Salmonella, yeast and mold


Now here’s the good news: You can clean these surfaces. Yes, it’s true. Learn how to clean each and how often:


House_FridgeCompartmentRefrigerator vegetable compartment

How often: Monthly

If you can, remove the compartment/drawer. Clean with a sponge or soft cloth and wash the bin with a mild detergent mixed with warm water. Rinse with tap water and wipe dry with a clean towel.

To keep your clean produce from getting contaminated, always store it separately from raw unwashed produce. It should also be kept on a separate shelf above all meat, poultry and seafood.


Refrigerator meat compartment

How often: Monthly, or when you find spilled meat juice

Remove the compartment/drawer from the refrigerator if possible. Use a clean sponge or soft cloth, and wash the bin with a mild detergent mixed with warm water. Rinse with tap water and wipe dry with a clean towel.


Blender gasket

How often: After each use

Unplug the blender, remove the blender jar from the base and remove the blade and gasket at the bottom. If your blender is not dishwasher-safe, wash the gasket, blade assembly, jar and lid thoroughly in hot soapy water by hand, rinse and dry before re-assembling.


CanOpenerCan opener

How often: After each use

If it’s not dishwasher-safe, hand-wash the can opener in hot soapy water, rinsing thoroughly with clean tap water before air-drying.


Rubber spatula

How often: After each use

If it’s not dishwasher-safe, hand wash in hot soapy water and rinse with clean water. If it’s a two-piece spatula, separate them before cleaning.


Refrigerator water dispenser

How often: Clean the waterspout weekly and the refrigerator water dispenser system once or twice a year.

Consult your refrigerator manual. Many companies recommend using a solution of vinegar and water to clean the dispenser and ice-maker. Turn off the water supply and loosen the screw connecting the water supply line to the refrigerator. Once disconnected, use a small funnel to pour 3 to 4 cups of distilled white vinegar into the tube. Wait five to 10 minutes and then reconnect the water line. Turn the dispenser on to allow the vinegar solution to flow through the dispenser’s system. To clean the waterspout, use a bottle or baby bottle nipple brush dipped in distilled white vinegar. Brush the inner side of the spout; then open the waterspout and let it run clear. Close the lever when there are no traces of vinegar.


Refrigerator ice dispenser

How often: Monthly

Turn the ice-maker off, empty the ice from the ice bin and wash the bin with mild dish soap and warm water with a sponge or soft cloth. Wipe dry with a clean towel.


KnifeBlockKnife block

How often: Monthly if used frequently

Remove the knives, turn the block upside down and shake lightly to remove crumbs. Hand wash the knife block in hot soapy water, using a small brush to clean the slots. Rinse thoroughly with clean water. To sanitize, use a mixture of 1-gallon lukewarm tap water and 1 tablespoon of 5.25% household bleach. Immerse the block in the water/bleach mixture or fill the knife slots for one minute. Rinse the block and knife slots with clean tap water and place the block upside down to dry. Always clean your knives thoroughly before placing them back in the block.


Food storage container with rubber seal

How often: After each use

If it’s not dishwasher-safe, hand wash the container and lid in hot soapy water. Pay attention to the area around the seal and grooves where the cover attaches to the container.

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