How often you should wash dish sponges and 9 of these other kitchen items
With the amount of time we spend using kitchen appliances and linens like tea towels, it may be time to consider how often we’re cleaning them as well.
“The danger of not cleaning items frequently or properly in the kitchen is cross-contamination and bacteria growth [if given the right conditions], says Melissa Maker, founder of Clean My Space based in Toronto. “Many of these items are usage-dependent, so the more you cook or use the item or appliance, the more you’ll need to clean it.”
According to Dr. Charles Gerba (a.k.a. Dr. Germ), a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona, in most cases, our kitchens are dirtier than toilet seats, Food & Wine reports.
“We did a survey collecting 1,000 sponges and dishcloths in kitchens, and about 10 per cent 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,” he wrote.
Below, Maker offers tips on how often you should wash the most common things found in your kitchen — including those dish sponges.
“I’ll wash my sponge well after each use with soap and water, rubbing it together to get rid of caught food bits and staining,” Maker says. And once or twice per week, place the sponge on the top rack of the dishwasher and let it run through.
Tea towels/hand towels
You should wash your tea and hand towels every 24 to 48 hours depending on how often you use them, Maker says. “I like to ensure they are dry before I stick them in the laundry pile.” Also, make sure you have a stack of tea towels as a back-up so you can clean them often.
“If the drying mat is cotton, you can wash it weekly or more frequently if you notice it gets a bit stinky,” she says. Since it’s not used to clean things, but rather to catch drips, it is less likely to get bacteria build-up.
If you are using oven mitts often, make sure you clean them at least once every three months (or more), especially if they are visibly dirty. “Be sure to check the care label before throwing them into the wash,” she says.
These can get greasy or dusty over time, Maker says. “Remove and launder or take to get professionally cleaned every four to six months and adjust frequency based on how often you cook.”
The inside of the oven should be cleaned when you notice it starts to smoke, Maker says. “This means there’s sufficient build-up on the floor and sides of the stove to warrant the job being done.” In general, two to four times per year works, depending on the frequency of use. “You want to keep up with this, because the longer you leave it, the harder it becomes to clean.”
The stove top should be cleaned thoroughly after each use to avoid greasy build-up. “Apply a de-greaser or scouring powder to the surface once cooled, and scrub well with a non-scratching sponge. If you have coils and drip pans, or grates for a gas cook-top, remove those weekly to clean, too.”
A mop head should be washed (if it is removable) after each heavy cleaning or after two to three light cleanings. “Launder with your other cleaning cloths and hang to dry. Otherwise, add a squirt of dish soap to a basin filled with water and place the mop head in there. Swish it around and give it a good few wrings, then rinse well and allow to air dry.”
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The bin should be cleaned every three months, unless you’ve had a bag breach and there was a garbage leak, Maker says. “Clean them well by wetting them down, sprinkling borax into the bin and covering all interior surfaces, and allowing to sit for 20 minutes. Then, scrub well and rinse out. Drain and allow to air dry.” And since it is summer, you can also do this outdoors.
“You can do a cursory cleanse of the fridge every month, simply to remove anything that’s old, expired or forgotten. Then every three months, you can remove all items, clean shelves and bins, and replace.”
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