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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Home is where the heart is...and apparently where the germs are too!

Last week Nicole identified some of the germiest public places we should be mindful of as we’re out and about during this holiday season. Let me ask you a question: Have you found yourself thinking twice about what you’ve touched as you complete your Christmas shopping??

Do the bacteria and viruses magically stop at our front doors? No! Our homes are literal breeding grounds for germs. According to a study conducted by NSF International here’s a few surfaces or items to pay extra close attention to as you prepare to host family and friends or find yourself visiting their homes this holiday season.

Kitchen Sponge/Dish Cloth

The item most frequently used to clean dishes and countertops was actually the germiest place found in most homes. Sponges and dish rags can pick up bacteria during the cleaning process, and, if not regularly laundered or properly sanitized, they can be a prime spot for germ growth. Perhaps you can use this as an excuse to get out of helping your host with the dishes??

To Clean: Place wet sponges in the microwave for two minutes once per day and replace often - every two weeks or more as needed. Better options for kitchen cleaning are dishcloths, towels and rags. These items can be sanitized by washing on the clothes washer's hot water cycle with bleach. Replace every 1-2 days.

Kitchen Sink

The second highest concentration of microorganisms was found in the kitchen sink. Chalk up another excuse for not helping with the dishes. Can you tell I really don’t like doing the dishes??

To Clean: Wash and disinfect the sides and bottom of the sink 1-2 times per week with a disinfecting cleaner. Wash kitchen sink strainers in the dishwasher weekly.

Coffee Reservoir

Given the dark, damp location, it's a prime location for bacteria, mold and mildew to grow. Perhaps adding a liqueur to the coffee will help kill-off any of the bacteria swimming in your after dinner coffee??

To Clean: Follow the manufacturer's recommended cleaning instructions. A common recommendation is to clean by adding up to 4 cups undiluted vinegar to the reservoir, letting it stand for 30 minutes, then running the vinegar through the unit. This is followed by running 2-3 cycles of fresh water through the unit until the vinegar odor is gone. Most manufacturers recommend cleaning every 40-80 brew cycles or at least monthly.

Faucet Handles

Faucet handles in both the kitchen and bath contained bacteria as well as yeast and/or mold. These are very frequently touched surfaces in the kitchen during food preparation and not surprisingly can be easily contaminated.

To Clean: Clean daily with disinfecting cleaner or disinfecting wipes.

Pet Toys

Forget the myth that your dog’s mouth is cleaner than yours, pet toys were found to be a significant source of bacteria, yeast and mold in many homes. No doubt we’ve all found ourselves playing with our friend’s pets, or our friends playing with our pet. Simply encourage everyone to wash their hands after playing with the pet and their toys.

To Clean: Hard toys can be gently cleaned with hot soapy water and rinsed with fresh water. Soft toys can be washed with other laundry on the hot water cycle. Wash monthly or more often as needed.

Countertops

Countertops had bacteria present in 30% of the homes tested by NSF. Sources of bacteria can be traced to many food items, including unwashed produce as well as raw meat and poultry. In addition, bacteria can be introduced into a kitchen area through improperly washed hands. So next time you belly-up to the bar or kitchen island, be careful about where you place your hands prior to grabbing another tasty hors d’oeuvre.

To Clean: Countertop surfaces should be washed daily. Once all food prep activities have been completed, wash the surface with hot soapy water, rinse with clean water, then apply a sanitizer approved for food contact surfaces.

So now that we’re equipped with this information, what are we to do? Similar to what Nicole stated last week, there’s no need to panic. We simply need to reinforce some of the best practices we’re already aware of. Regularly wash your hands prior to eating, after using the washroom and prior to and after preparing food. Likewise, clean and disinfect/sanitize those surfaces that are likely to become contaminated and those that are frequently touched to prevent further transmission.

Wishing you a safe and happy holidays!

Lee – The Germinator

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