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These 5 overlooked areas of your kitchen are serving up the most germs

Cleaning comp
Cleaning comp

What’s on the menu? Germs, according to experts.

Harmful bacteria could be lurking in your kitchen and your dinner could come with a side of health risks if you’re not careful.

Here’s a list of the top five dirtiest places in your kitchen and a little about how to keep them cleaner.

Refrigerator meat and vegetable compartments

Not cleaning your refrigerator is very uncool. 

Your refrigerator vegetable and meat drawers could be hosting pathogens like salmonella, listeria, Salmonella, E.coli, yeast and mold, according to a study from the National Sanitation Foundation study.

Meat as well as vegetable drawers should be cleaned regularly. Getty Images
Meat as well as vegetable drawers should be cleaned regularly. Getty Images

The foundation recommended people store produce on a separate shelf above raw meat, poultry and seafood.

To clean the vegetable and meat compartments they say that people should remove the drawer and then use a clean sponge or cloth to wash the drawer with mild detergent and warm water.

They then suggest using a baking soda solution to keep orders at bay.

Cleaning should happen monthly or if any spilled meat juices are present.

Rosemary Trout, program director of culinary arts and food science at Drexel University, told Delish that the drawers should be kept at temperatures below 41 degrees Fahrenheit since “cold temperatures slow bacteria growth.”

A dirty kitchen sink could spread illnesses. Getty Images/iStockphoto
A dirty kitchen sink could spread illnesses. Getty Images/iStockphoto

The kitchen sink 

The kitchen sink’s reputation for being one of the riskiest areas of the kitchen is owed to its role as a catchall for both cooked and uncooked food scraps, particularly raw meat.

A buildup of gunk in your sinks called biofilm could be the culprit behind your lingering cough, cold and even ear infection, according to experts.

Biofilm doesn’t only smell bad — it could be hazardous, leading to infections of listeria, salmonella, E. coli, MRSA and Legionnaires, per Plumbworld.

“Eventually, that biofilm may even be big enough to break off and get onto your food or dishes,” University of Arizona College of Public Health microbiologist Kelly Reynolds told Prevention.

Sponges should be replaced every two weeks, according to experts. Getty Images/iStockphoto
Sponges should be replaced every two weeks, according to experts. Getty Images/iStockphoto

Sponges, rags and cleaning brushes

Cleaning your dishes after each meal is a no-brainer, but are you cleaning your cleaning supplies too?

Your kitchen sponge could have as much bacteria as the inside of a toilet, according to a study published in Scientific Reports.

Jennifer Quinlan, a microbiologist at Drexel University told NPR the following ways to  keep sponges clean: Keep sponges away from raw meat, Replace your sponge every two weeks and clean your sponge every few days by putting in the dishwater in a heated dry cycle or wetting it and putting it in the microwave for a minute

“It doesn’t sterilize the sponge,” she says. “But remember, the bacteria we want to kill are the ones that will make you sick.”

Spice jars are easily contaminated. Getty Images
Spice jars are easily contaminated. Getty Images

Spice jars

The spice jar will add more than just flavor to your food if you’re not careful.

A study from November 2022 published in the Journal of Food Protection found that the space jar had the highest level of cross-contamination in home kitchens.

That’s because people tend to grab spices after handling raw meat or vegetables stored in contaminated drawers.

“Sometimes people sprinkle a dried spice from a jar with hands that have just handled raw food product,” Trout told Delish.

Experts recommend cleaning the outside of spice jars with hot soapy water and measuring spices in containers before handling raw meat.

Knobs and handles should be cleaned frequently because they are touched often. Getty Images
Knobs and handles should be cleaned frequently because they are touched often. Getty Images

Door handles and knobs

Don’t be a knob — clean your handles dials and doorknobs.

People frequently touch kitchen surfaces with their dirty hands and they too can harbor dangerous bacteria like listeria, salmonella, staphylococcus and norovirus.

If the surfaces are textured there can be even more bacteria.

Trout told Delish to wash handles and knobs daily with hot soapy water.