Sanitation In The KITCHEN – What I was Taught As An Adolescent

When I was growing up, my Mother stressed the importance of cleanliness to me and my brothers and sister. She told us that being clean would help to keep us healthy. Then she went on to add that our home needed to be kept clean also. A very important room in the home is the KITCHEN. The living room, the bathroom room, the den and the KITCHEN are the main rooms that guests would most likely happen to be in, short of the children having friends in their respective bedrooms. That being the case, the KITCHEN is a very important room to make sure that it is sanitary.

Sanitation in the bathroom is very important, but sanitation in the KITCHEN is even more important. If the KITCHEN is not clean, it could cause many different problems. There are many people that think cleanliness in the KITCHEN only means washing the dishes. many more things are involved than washing dishes. To have a clean KITCHEN you have to make sure that food is taken care of correctly, counters are kept clean, the sink(s) is/are kept clean, the dish drainer and drainboard is kept clean, small electrical appliances are kept clean, the stove and oven are both kept clean, the refrigerator is kept clean, the dish rag is washed frequently, the cabinets are kept free of any spilled food, and the floor is kept clean. I am going to go into great detail on each of these areas. I just hope that my post will help you to be able to maintain a clean and healthy KITCHEN both for you and your family and/or friends.I will try to give details on each area and to take them in the order that I mentioned them.

That being the case I will cover the topic of washing dishes first. It has been my experience that as soon as I finish preparing any food, it is best to go ahead and soak whatever containers that I used to prepare the food with and in. I usually will go ahead and wash off the cutting board, if one was used, as soon as I finish with it. Then I will either just soak or actually wash the bowls that I mixed the food in during the preparation. Once the food is cooked, I do the same with the pots and pans. The first thing that I do is to get the water as hot as possible, then I put some dish soap in them, I usually use Dawn Power Clean, and lastly I fill the containers with the hot water and let them soak until after I have finished eating. Once I finish eating, I start in on the actual dishes, unless something unavoidable happens. The most frequent unavoidable thing that happens is that someone sets off the smoke detector, while they are cooking, and that in turn sets off the fire alarm for the whole apartment complex. When that happens, everybody has to go outside until the fire department comes, handles whatever was the cause of the alarm, and tells us that it is safe to go back inside. When I get ready to do dishes, I clear the table, stack the dishes on the counter, and put dish soap in the dish pan and fill it with hot water. As soon as I start filling the dish pan, I put the silverware in and face all of the sharp knives toward the outside if the dish pan. That way I won’t be as likely to cut my fingers or hand on the sharp edges. After putting the silverware in , I put in the flat dishes and the cups and glasses. By this time, the dish pan is usually full and I start to actually wash what is in it. I put the glasses and cups near the end of the dish drainer that is furthest away from the silverware holder. Next, I wash the plates and stack them in the drainer straight up and down in the slots in the dish drainer. When washing the dishes, it is important to make sure that all of the food and any grease is off of them. If the grease is not cleaned off well enough, then there is a chance that there will be grease actually dripping down on the drainboard instead of just water. Grease does not dry, it only keeps accumulating. You also have to make sure that any hard to get off food is scrubbed extra hard. Food that is left on the plates and/or silverware will be very hard to get off once the plates and/or silverware dry. Just keep telling yourself that you don’t want your dishes and/or silverware to end up like the ones in a restaurant, that get handed back for being dirty. Any food that has been allowed to dry will not only be very hard to get off, but if other food is put on top of it, and the dried food is reconstituted, there is a chance that it could make you sick. After doing the cups, glasses, and silverware, serving bowls are next. I usually stack these on top of the cups, glasses and dishes. Last, but not least are the pots and pans. Usually the pots and pans require using some type of scouring pad with steel wool and possibly soap on them. I like S.O.S. If there is baked on or fried on food left behind, it will require the use of the steel wool pad, and some very hard scrubbing on your part, to be done.

Little Note:  Never fear if not all of your dishes and pots and pans don’t fit in the dish drainer. There are some really handy things called drying mats. I have two of these, and use them quite frequently. They are put on the counter top, after it has been cleaned off. If by chance you run out of space while doing the dishes, it may be necessary to stack the pots and pans on top of the stove. Usually, I clean the counter as I go along. When I get the dishes stacked up on the counter top, they usually cover up the whole counter. The first things to be washed are the closest to the dish pan. As I get them washed, I keep moving the things that are left to be washed down closer to the dish pan. I am constantly moving the dishes as I wash them. As more of the back of the counter becomes empty, I clean it off. I especially have to do this when I have run out of space in the dish drainer. After I have cleaned off some of the counter, I put one of the drying mats down and start stacking the clean wet dishes on them. If there are more dishes than usual, I may even end up having to use both of the drying mats.

Taking care of food is next. When you get home from the store, you need to read the instructions as to whether or not the food needs to be frozen or just refrigerated, or if it can be stored in a cabinet with no refrigeration at all. If they need to be frozen, you need to know if you should take them out of their original packaging and repack them in freezer bags. Look at your bottled items and items in jars. The label will usually let you know if it does or does not need to be refrigerated. Once you have finished eating, if there are left overs, they need to be stored away properly also. It is very important to make sure that any cooked food that is left over gets put away properly. You need to store the cooked food in an air proof container or plastic bag. Food that is not cooked, such as some fruits, have different directions as to how to store them. Some fruits such as grapes don’t need to be stored in an air proof container, they can be stored in open containers or the bag with the little holes that they came in, in the refrigerator. You should always read the instructions as to how to store the food both when you first get it home from the store, and after you have cut it or cooked it. Improper storage of food can spoil the food and therefore make it unsafe and poisonous to eat. There are even some fruits that may become poisonous, after they have been cut, if they are not stored correctly.

You may think that cleaning a counter involves only washing off the working area of a counter. This is not true. There are usually some different items that are always on the counter. These items may include a spice rack, a coffee or tea pot, a toaster, the drainboard for the dishes, sometimes there will be a microwave and/or toaster oven , and possibly the large cooking utensils such as a spatula, a soup ladle, potato masher, etc in a container, and so on. Most sinks are fitted into the counter top, and therefore the dish soap, cleaner pads like S.O.S., and possibly hand soap are usually on the back of the sink. Every time that you do dishes you need to at least clean the area behind the sink where all of the cleaning soaps are. The sinks need to be cleaned out and any food that is stuck in the drain pipe needs to be removed. There are strainers that have a screen type of mesh in them that catch food really well. After finishing dishes, simply empty the strainer in the trash can and rinse it out real well. If there is quite a bit of food that has been cleaned off of the dishes, it may be necessary to empty the strainer more than once. You have to be careful when emptying out the dish pan and not go too fast for the strainer to catch the food. Too much food going down the drain pipe, unless you are lucky enough to have a garbage disposal, may clog up the drain. The expense of having to get a plumber to unclog the drain is much more than purchasing the strainer and emptying it out whenever it is necessary. Every night the strainer needs to be checked to make sure that it has been emptied. Then you need to actually wash out the sink with the dish soap, and if necessary even use the steel wool pad. The dish drainer and the drainboard also need to be cleaned, to avoid both bacteria and calcium buildup.

After doing the dishes, you also need to clean the counter. When you consider all of the things that may possibly be on a counter, there is a lot to have to move to clean the counter. I always start with the obvious, the area behind the sink. It is almost impossible to not get water in that area whenever you do dishes. That being the case, this area needs to be cleaned every time that dishes are done. Many people tend to ignore this area until they notice an ugly buildup of white residue there. The buildup is calcium deposits from the water. When they go to clean it up, often times they find that it does not readily come up. Unfortunately calcium buildup is pretty hard to clean up. For me, I have found that a calcium, lime, and rust remover works really well. However the area behind the sink is not the only place where calcium builds up. Under the drainboard is another place where calcium tends to build up. When wet dishes are put in the dish drainer, often times water splashes and runs under the drainboard. If the water is not cleaned up daily, then the calcium will build up under it. When cleaning the counter, this area needs to be cleaned also. When I mentioned all of the items that might be on a counter, it was for the reason of pointing out that these items need to be taken off of the counter every week or two at least, and definitely whenever something is spilled on the counter and gets under one of them. If this is not done, especially when something spills and gets under them, you may start to notice a pungent odor in the KITCHEN. Also, an unclean KITCHEN can be a breeding ground for bugs, the worst of which being roaches. I Googled if roaches carry diseases and this is what I found out with the first response on Google:

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Cockroaches may spread a range of diseases. It is believed that the cockroach may be a reservoir for a range of bacteria including salmonella, staphylococcus and streptococcus. The cockroach can also harbor viruses such as the polio virus.

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After reading this, I shuddered just thinking about all of the people’s houses that I have been in and seen the roaches running around. I used to babysit back in the 60’s and one of the houses was so infested that you could not even go anyplace in the house without seeing them. I made up my mind then that I would always keep a clean house. Many times I have heard that “it is no crime to get roaches”, they can be brought in on grocery sacks, “but it is to keep them”, by having such a dirty house that they start breeding. If you happen to see any roaches in your house, start treating to get rid of them immediately.

The bug infestation that is possible with a dirty house, and especially a dirty KITCHEN, is why it is so imperative to keep the house, and especially the KITCHEN, as clean as possible. Keeping your KITCHEN clean is not a laughing matter.

All bugs that I know of have a very good sense of smell. An area doesn’t have to actually have freshly left food for them to come. A very fine film left on the counter is enough for them to smell and start invading your KITCHEN.

That’s why it’s so important to periodically take everything off of the counter and not only clean it with dish soap, but also with bleach. Bleach is known as being able to sanitize almost all spaces because it kills germs and bacteria so well.

Besides the obvious things mentioned above, you also need to make sure that all appliances, both big and small, are kept clean. Usually the ones that may be on a counter top are: a coffee or tea pot (possibly both), a toaster or toaster oven, a microwave, and possibly a standing mixer (this is especially true where there is an older family member that likes the older appliances), a smaller version of mixer would be the hand held mixer – but the hand held mixer is usually stored in a cabinet or a drawer. The large appliances would include the range with a stove and an oven, a refrigerator, and possibly a stand alone freezer.

For most of the small appliances, you need to pay close attention to the instructions that came with the appliance, as to whether or not they can be immersed in water. If they cannot be immersed in water, then you will need to have a dish pan with hot soapy water and a dish rag to use to clean them out. You may even need to use the steel wool soap pad to aid in the cleaning. The toaster oven is especially important for two reasons, one being cleanliness and the other being safety. The safety part comes in if there is a buildup of cooked on food that may catch fire. The toaster is a little easier because there is usually a “door” on the bottom of the toaster. You need to release the trigger and the door will come open allowing the crumbs to fall out. Then the “door” may be cleaned with a soapy dish rag and rinsed the same way. The microwave can only be cleaned by hand. It cannot be immersed. I try to always cover anything that I microwave, to keep the splatter down. If by chance there is still some splatter, I try to clean it while it is still fresh. Usually, at that time it can be cleaned quite a bit easier. When the splattered food is dried and therefore hard to remove, there is one thing that can be done to help make the cleanup easier. You need to boil a cup of water for a few minutes and let it steam up the inside of the microwave. When you take the cup out, the steam helps you to clean the microwave. The steam moistens up the food and makes it be a lot easier to remove with a soapy dish rag. For the different mixers, you can immerse the beaters, and with the standing mixer you can also immerse the bowls. The standing mixer and the hand held part of the small mixer both need to be cleaned with soapy dish rags that have been wrung out really well. You should not let any water get inside any of the slots in the hand held mixer, or the electrical part of the standing mixer.

Cleaning the refrigerator and freezer. If the refrigerator has a frost free freezer, then go on to the next paragraph. Having a frost free freezer means that the freezer compartment does not get a buildup of ice in it. If by chance your freezer gets ice buildup in it, then you would need to defrost the freezer first. While defrosting the freezer you can also start cleaning the refrigerator part. Put a couple of large pans of water on to boil, you will use them in a little while. TURN OFF THE REFRIGERATOR AND FREEZER! Next you need to empty out the refrigerator. The reasons for having to do this are that you have turned off the refrigerator and when the ice starts melting, it drips down in the refrigerator and makes a big mess. You will need to remove the crisper drawers and put hot soapy water in them and let them soak for a little while.They may have dried on residue from where things have leaked in them. Next you will need to put down some towels in the bottom of the refrigerator, where the crisper drawers were, so that the towels can absorb the melting ice when the water comes down the back of the refrigerator. Now is when you will use the boiling water. Put one of the pans at a time in the freezer and close the freezer door. Wait about five minutes. While waiting the five minutes, you can be cleaning out the refrigerator bu wiping off all of the shelves with a hot soapy dish rag. After waiting the five minutes open the freezer. If there is any loose ice, pick it up and throw it in the sink. By doing this, you make it so that not as much water will end up in the bottom of the refrigerator. Once you have removed all of the loose ice, take out the first  pan of water. If there is still ice left to be melted, then put the second pan in the freezer and repeat the process of waiting five minutes and then throwing loose ice in the sink. Put water in the pan that you just took out of the freezer and start it to boil again. That way if it is necessary to use another one, it will already be boiling. Now, if the towels are soaked, wring them out, and if necessary put them back in the bottom of the refrigerator. If you have enough towels, you can use dry towels and put them in the refrigerator instead of using the wet ones again. You will need to repeat this until there is no ice left in the freezer. Once the freezer has been defrosted , refill the ice trays and put all of the frozen items back in the freezer. You can take the last towels out of the bottom of the refrigerator, and remove the pan of boiling water from the freezer. Now you can clean the bottom of the refrigerator. It should be easy. If there had been any stuck on stuff on the bottom of the refrigerator, all of the water from the freezer should have softened it up. If not, you may have to put some hot soapy water in the bottom of the refrigerator and let it sit for a few minutes until it does get soft enough to remove it. Remove the rest of the now softened stuff and put the crisper drawers back in. Now put all of the food back where it belongs. Congratulations! You have succeeded in defrosting your freezer and cleaning your refrigerator. And best of all, most of the refrigerator got cleaned at the same time as when you were defrosting the freezer.

If you have a refrigerator that doesn’t have a freezer, here are your instructions. You need to empty out the refrigerator first, and take out the crisper drawers. You need to try to clean out the refrigerator when there is not a lot of food in it. If there is a lot of food in it, I would suggest waiting until there is only a little bit of food. That way when you take the food out, it will fit in a cooler. You need to wipe off each shelf and then clean out the inside of the shelves in the door with a hot soapy dish rag. If anything has leaked in the refrigerator, you can put some hot soapy water in the bottom of it and let it soak for a little while. After it has soaked, clean out the water. You may either use a dish rag to absorb it, and keep wringing it out until you have cleaned up the mess, or you can use paper towels. It all depends on your preference and whether or not the expense of the paper towels is an issue. For me, I go the route of the dish rag. After the crisper drawers are clean and dry, and the bottom of the refrigerator is cleaned and dried, put the crisper drawers back into the refrigerator. Congratulations! Now your refrigerator is clean and you can put the food back in it.

Last, but certainly not the least of the appliances, is the stove/oven. Cleaning this particular appliance is the messiest of the appliances that I have talked about. Let’s get down to business. The most visible part of the stove is the top where the burners are. If by chance you are lucky enough to have a glass top stove, the cleanup won’t be too difficult. Of necessity, these have to be cleaned almost every time they are used. If anything was spilled on it during the cooking process, then you have no choice but to clean it off before you use it again. This is true, unless you don’t mind your smoke detector going off, and whatever spilled on the surface getting burned on even harder. If you have a conventional surface stove top with burner pans, then the job is more difficult. You will have to pull out the elements and put them aside. Next take out the actual burner pans. You will need to put them in hot soapy water to soak. How long they soak depends on how dirty they are. If there is a lot of cooked on food on the, then they will need to soak for a longer time that if there is just a little bit of food on them. Once they have soaked and you are ready to clean them off, then use the steel wool soap pads to help remove the cooked on food. Most stove tops have release levers that can be activated to raise the lid and have access to the area under the burner pans. It is important to keep the stove top clean to prevent fires. If oil accumulates too much, the oil catching on fire is very possible. By the same token, if there is no oil buildup in the burner pan, then there in not going to be as much of a chance for the stove to catch on fire. Yes, even a clean stove can catch on fire if whatever is being cooked sticks on the bottom of the pan and catches on fire in the pan. This usually only happens when someone is not paying attention to what is cooking, and the water, or any other liquid boils out, and the actual food starts getting too hot and flames up. Once the area under the burners has been cleaned out and the burner pans have been cleaned, the stove top may be put back together. There are aluminum foil burner pan inserts that you can buy. After cleaning the burner pans and the area under them, and you are putting the stove top back together, put the inserts into the burner pans right before you put the elements back into their plugs. That way, if something does spill over, it is possible that the insert will catch the spill, and the whole stove will not have to be cleaned again. The inserts save a lot of time and headache and are relatively inexpensive. I bought some for about $3 for a set of 12 inserts. That is enough to do all four burners three times. The cost for each insert is only 25 cents. Now for the oven. Some stoves have an automatic cleaning function to them. If you are lucky enough to have one of these types of ovens, then you need to follow the instruction that came with the oven. For the older and more conventional ovens, you will most likely need to use some type of oven cleaner. For most of them, it is necessary to preheat the oven. Once the oven is at a certain temperature, then you turn the oven off and spray the cleaner all on the inside of the oven and wait the instructed amount of time before wiping it off. You have to follow the instructions with whatever oven cleaner you choose. Once the oven is clean, you may choose to cover the bottom of the oven in heavy duty aluminum foil. You may even cover each shelf with the foil. The choice is totally yours. When you are finished you deserve a congratulations for accomplishing one of the worst task, according to many housekeepers, that has to be done in the kitchen.

It is important to keep your cabinets clean too. You may not think that the cabinets are very important, but they are. This is especially true for foods being stored in them. Any time that foods that are stored in the cabinets are used often, there is a chance for the food to spill. This is true for items like cornmeal, pancake mix, stuffing mix, the different types of sugars, teas, any types of mixes, mashed potatoes, rice, pastas, cereals, honey, syrups, breads, and spices. Whenever any of these items spills or is left open, it produces a breeding ground for roaches, ants, little flying black bugs and meal moths. Any and all of these types of bugs, once they have invaded, are hard to eliminate. They are so small, that it is hard to kill them, simply because you usually can’t kill the eggs or larvae. Besides living in the foods, some of them, such as roaches, live in the woodwork and walls, as well as in the appliances such as the stove and refrigerator. It is much easier by far to make sure that every food item is closed very securely. If there is no access to the food, the bugs can’t feed on it and therefore can’t live. Once they realize that they can’t live and flourish in your KITCHEN, they have no choice but to leave. Like I pointed out earlier, I have heard that “it is no crime to get roaches” (actually,this goes for any type of bugs), they can be brought in on grocery sacks, “but it is to keep them”, by having such a dirty house that they start breeding. If you happen to see any roaches in your house, start treating to get rid of them immediately.

Now for the trashcan. One thing that is very important is the trashcan. Simply because of what it is, it is a prime breeding ground for all types of germs as well as bugs. Many people have really big trashcans, and this is fine if you have a big family and therefore a lot of trash. But if there are only a couple of people in the household, then a medium sized trashcan should do just fine. The reason I say this is that many people tend to not empty their trashcans until they are full, and possibly even overfull. If the trashcan is a big one, then it could take a few days to fill up the trashcan. But if the trashcan is medium sized, or even small, then it would most likely be filled up every day. Point being that the trashcan needs to be emptied every night. The longer the trashcan sits there, with any trash in it at all, the more the germs and the bugs have a chance to multiply. And believe me, they can multiply very quickly. The germs multiply a lot faster than the bugs do though. Germs can multiply within hours down to even within minutes. Most bugs take a few days to multiply. Once they have mated they hide in very small places to lay their eggs, and the number of eggs they lay can range from hundreds at a time to thousands at a time. It all depends on what bug it is and how big their eggs are.

Some people have the habit of putting extra bags down in the bottom of the trashcan so they can immediately put a fresh bag in the can when they take the full bag out. This seemed like a great idea to me the first time I saw a friend do it. As a matter of fact, I started doing it myself. That is until the day the two extra bags I had in the bottom of the can got ruined by the bag that was being used. The bag that was being used ended up getting cut by a can lid. There was some food in there that started leaking. You can guess what happened next. The extra bags that I had put in the bottom of the can got wet with whatever juice was leaking. There was no way that I was going to put a bag, that already reeked of leaking garbage, down in the trashcan . Therefore, the two bags got thrown away when the one that was being used in the can got thrown away. I have not put any extra bags in the bottom of the trashcan since then. One thing that I do, whenever I can, is to put the Styrofoam tray that meat comes in down in the bottom of the bag that is in the trashcan. That practice serves a dual purpose. One it reinforces the bottom of the bag so that it won’t break when it is being carried out, and two it helps to catch some of the liquid, if there is a leak, in the bottom of the bag in the can.

Now, the absolute last is the floor. The floor needs to be swept every night to get up all of the crumbs and dirt that has accumulated during the day. At least once a week, the floor needs to be wet mopped, and whether or not to use bleach is entirely up to you. I, myself use bleach. If there have been any spills, or a lot of tracking in due to bad weather, then the floor will need to be mopped more often.