“In most cases, it’s safer to make a salad on a toilet seat than it is to make one on a cutting board,” says Dr. Charles Gerba (a.k.a. Dr. Germ), a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson.“People disinfect their toilet seats all the time, but they don’t realize that they really need to pay attention in the kitchen too.” Since 1973, he’s been studying the hidden bacteria lurking in American homes, and his findings should influence your behavior when it comes to storing a toothbrush (in the medicine cabinet) and how to flush a toilet (lid down). Here, Dr. Germ identifies the top five dirtiest spots in the kitchen and gives advice on how to banish nasty germs.
1. Sponges and Dishcloths
“We did a survey collecting 1,000 sponges and dishcloths in kitchens, and about 10 percent had salmonella. They get wet and stay moist, so bacteria grow like crazy. The most E. coli and other fecal-based bacteria in the average home are on a sponge or cleaning cloth.”
DR. GERM’S ADVICE: “Replace dishcloths every week and throw the sponge into the dishwasher or microwave it on high for 30 seconds.”
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“There’s more E. coli in a kitchen sink than in a toilet after you flush it. The sink is a great place for E. coli to live and grow since it’s wet and moist. Bacteria feed on the food that people put down the drain and what’s left on dishes in the sink. That’s probably why dogs drink out of the toilet—because there’s less E. coli in it,” says Dr. Germ.
DR. GERM’S ADVICE: “Clean the sink basin with a disinfectant product made for the kitchen. Vinegar and lemon juice can clean some bacteria, but they can’t clean really bad pathogens, so the Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t recommend using them as an alternative.”