5 Kitchen Hot Spots to Disinfect

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With the kitchen being the center of most family homes, multiple people, dirt and germs trek in daily. Remember these five easily forgotten spots the next time you wipe down and clean your kitchen.

1. Handles: Every handle in the kitchen — think dishwasher, refrigerator, light switch — is a hotbed for germs, considering the number of times they fall within the clutches of a human grip. Wipe down handles with a disposable disinfectant cleaning cloth at least once a week.

2. Kitchen sink and sprayer: The moist environment of the kitchen sink, including the sink sprayer, makes it a breeding ground for bacteria. Wipe the sink and sprayer down regularly with a disinfectant wipe. Give the drain a more thorough cleaning weekly by flushing it with hydrogen peroxide or a disinfecting cleaning solvent. The sink sprayer also needs an annual deep-cleaning: Soak the sprayer for 30 minutes in a microwave-safe glass bowl filled with vinegar and water that's been heated up in the microwave, then gently brush the nozzle clean with a toothbrush to loosen mineral deposits and grime. For retractable sprayers, clean the hose by disconnecting it from under the kitchen sink and soaking it in a large bowl or kitchen sink filled with a solution of vinegar and water.

3. Kitchen counter: Wiping down a surface isn't killing any bacteria unless you're administering a disinfectant first. Pay special attention to the area underneath a cutting board or butcher block and be sure the surface is completely dry before setting a board back on top. Corners and crevices, such as the spot between a counter surface and backsplash, can also be scrubbed clean using a toothbrush.

4. Sponges and kitchen towels: A study by the Hygiene Council revealed that 25 percent of kitchen sponges and towels that appeared clean contained a high level of bacterial contamination and that sponges even contained more germs than a toilet bowl. Disinfect sponges weekly (especially after they come into contact with raw meat or poultry) by submerging them in a microwave-safe bowl of water and microwaving them on high heat for 1 to 2 minutes (never heat a dry or slightly damp sponge in the microwave; it could burn) and then let air dry. For kitchen towels, designate one towel for the sole use of drying clean dishes and set aside another rag for wiping down surfaces; replace both weekly.

5. Kitchen rugs and mats: These cushy mats may be good for your feet and back, but they’re also catchalls for crumbs, drips and dirt. Be sure to wash them frequently, and wipe down the floor underneath regularly with a disinfectant; let the floor dry completely before setting a rug or mat back on top.