A clean kitchen is an important factor in preventing the spread of bacteria so I thought I’d use this last Food Safety post to touch on general kitchen cleaning.
Cross Contamination
 To put it simply, cross contamination is transferring bacteria from one food to another food. We talked about why transferring bacteria is dangerous in Part 1. We also discussed ways to prevent cross contamination in the refrigerator in Part 2 but there are a few other areas of the kitchen where cross contamination is possible. Here they are with some tips for prevention:
  • Cutting board – Rinsing your cutting board after cutting raw meat doesn’t get rid of all the bacteria. When you use the same rinsed cutting board to chop veggies for a salad, you’ve now contaminated your salad. Either clean your cutting board thoroughly with soap and water before re-using it, use a different cutting board, or do what I usually do; finish all your veggie prep before you start cutting meat.
  • Counters – I only purchase whole chickens because it’s cheaper and I can get the cuts of meat I want (I’ll go into detail about that later). Whenever I cut any type of raw meat, I do it on the smallest counter in my kitchen where there are no small appliances or decorations. That way, if a little meat juice happens to run onto my counter, or even splatter a bit when I’m chopping through chicken bones, I can easily clean it up without having to clean everything in my kitchen. That small counter is right next to my sink so when I’m done, dishes go straight into soapy water. I wipe up any juices with paper towels and throw them away. Then I clean the counter and backsplash with a soapy cloth. I usually follow that up with an all-purpose kitchen cleaner to disinfect.
  • Prep dishes – I’m 100% guilty of this but I’ll advise you against it anyway… don’t take your raw meat to the grill or hot pan on a plate, rinse the plate, then put your cooked meat back on it. It’s the same idea as re-using a rinsed cutting board, you’re not killing the bacteria by rinsing it. Get a clean plate or clean the dirty one with soap and water before you re-use it.
It may sound like a lot to keep up with but it’s important to familiarize yourself with proper prep techniques. Follow these procedures and they will become habits that you practice without even thinking about them.
General Cleaning
I used to have about a dozen different bottles and containers under my kitchen sink but the older I get, the more I appreciate simplicity. I purged my cleaners during a move and now I have 5. That’s all I need. Here’s what I use:
  • Liquid Dish Soap – I try to avoid pushing a particular brand but I can’t avoid it in a post like this. Dawn is, by far, my favorite dish soap. I’ve tried discount brands and other top brands and I’ve found that I use less Dawn than I do anything else and the commercials are true… Dawn cuts through grease better.
  •  Dishwasher Soap – I haven’t discovered a favorite so feel free to recommend a brand.
  • All-Purpose Cleaner – I don’t prefer a particular brand here, either, but I’m trying to reduce the amount of toxic chemicals I keep around so I’m considering trying some more natural cleaners. Suggestions are appreciated!
  • Window Cleaner – I generally use diluted vinegar to clean glass and I keep it in a spray bottle so it’s handy.
  • Stainless Steel Cleaner – Most of my pots and pans are stainless steel and I generally use soap and water to clean them but every once in a while they need a little extra help. Bar Keeper’s Friend is a great abrasive cleaner to keep ‘em clean and shiny.
What I don’t keep under my sink:
  • Bleach – I don’t keep bleach anywhere in my house. I’ve had white sheets and towels for years and I used to bleach them but I noticed my whites were eventually turning yellow. I thought they weren’t getting clean but then I found out that bleach yellows white fabrics over time. I stopped using bleach and my linens last much longer. Bleach also disintegrates fibers. And it’s toxic. And when you clean with it, you run the chance of bleaching whatever you’re wearing. I’ve discovered that I really don’t need it so I haven’t bought any for years.
  • Ammonia – Women used to keep ammonia around for cleaning kitchens and bathrooms but I think it’s been replaced by other household cleaners. Ammonia-based cleaners  are still widely manufactured but I find them to be a little more harsh than what I need.
  • Pine Sol, Febreze, Lysol Air Cleaner, etc. – I generally steer clear of cleaners whose main function is to cover up smells. Covering up an odor doesn’t take care of the problem. If there are odors in your house that you can’t get rid of, they need more attention than a bottle of Pine Sol or a squirt of Febreze can give them. I know it’s hard to keep surfaces clean with pets and kids around but masking the odors they bring is a temporary fix to a problem that only gets worse the longer it’s ignored.
  • Floor Cleaners – Thanks to my grandmother, I have discovered the wonder that is a Shark Steam Mop. Without a doubt, it’s the best option for cleaning tile. It cleans the surface and deep into the grout and it doesn’t leave a sticky residue like some floor cleaners. For hard wood, all you need is a broom and a lightly dampened (not wet) mop or towel; don’t use chemicals. (I learned that from an old boss who also happened to own the largest wood flooring supplier on the Eastern seaboard.)

I encourage you to evaluate your cleaning products and simplify. It’ll save you money and valuable kitchen space!