When you’re shaking off the winter with spring cleaning, it’s a great time to target harmful bacteria that can lurk on kitchen surfaces and even in your refrigerator. Salmonella, Staphyloccus, E. coli and Listeria are just some of the bacteria that may be hanging out in your kitchen. While you can’t see or smell BAC! (foodborne bacteria) they are everywhere, and they especially like moist environments. A clean and dry kitchen helps Fight BAC!® and protect you and your family from foodborne illness.
Clean vs. Sanitize: Know the Difference
It’s important to know the difference between cleaning and sanitizing. They aren’t the same thing. Both are important to help prevent the spread of harmful germs.
- Cleaning removes germs, dirt, and impurities from surfaces or objects. Cleaning works by using soap (or detergent) and water to physically remove germs from surfaces. This process does not necessarily kill germs, but by removing them, it lowers their numbers and the risk of spreading infection.
- Sanitizing lowers the number of germs on surfaces or objects. This process works by disinfecting surfaces or objects using a diluted liquid chlorine bleach solution (combine 1 tablespoon liquid chlorine bleach with 1 gallon of water in a clean bucket).
When To Clean & When to Sanitize
When You Should Clean
- To remove dried food and spills from countertops
- To remove food from a stove top
- Wipe down interior refrigerator surfaces with hot water and soap
When You Should Sanitize
- Someone sneezed all over your countertop
- Someone sick touched your refrigerator door handle or faucet
- Raw meat juice spilled on countertop, stove, sink, floor or in refrigerator
- Raw meat touched a countertop, stove top, sink, utensil or cutting board or shelf in your refrigerator
Some cleaning tips you should practice year round to make your kitchen and your meals safer include:
- Your counters may look clean, but BAC! may be hiding all over your kitchen. Always clean surfaces thoroughly with hot water and soap. After thoroughly washing surfaces with hot water and soap, you can sanitize them with a diluted chlorine bleach solution or a disinfectant kitchen cleaner. Let the solution stand on the surface for several minutes, then rinse with cold water and air dry or pat dry with fresh paper towels. Bleach solutions can lose their effectiveness over time, so discard unused portions after one week.
- Kitchen towels and sponges provide a moist environment for bacteria to grow. Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. When done, throw away the towel. If you use cloth towels, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine. If you use kitchen sponges, replace them frequently.
- Rid your fridge of spills, bacteria, mold and mildew. Clean your refrigerator weekly to kill germs that could contaminate foods. To tackle bacteria, mold and mildew, clean interior refrigerator surfaces with hot water and soap. Rinse with a damp cloth; dry with a clean cloth. Manufacturers recommend against using chlorine bleach, solvent cleaning solutions, or abrasives as they can damage seals, gaskets and linings.
- Food particles get trapped in the drain and disposal, creating the perfect environment for bacterial growth. Clean your kitchen sink, drain and disposal once or twice a week with warm water and soap. Disinfect your drain and disposal by pouring in a solution of 3/4 teaspoon chlorine bleach per quart of water.
- Microwaves often get overlooked in day-to-day cleaning, but you can get your microwave clean with just a few steps. Heat a microwave-safe bowl filled with water on high for approximately 4 minutes. Remove bowl and use hot water and dish soap to wipe down the microwave interior. Dry with a fresh paper towel.
- Clean Factsheet
- Cleaning and Sanitizing Surfaces and Toys
- CDC: How to Clean and Disinfect
- EPA Safer Choice
- FDA: Hand Sanitizer
- NSF International
- USDA: Clean THEN Sanitize
If you have more questions or concerns about food safety, contact:
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854). TTY 1-800-256-7072.
- The Fight BAC!® Web site at www.fightbac.org
- Gateway to Government Food Safety Information at www.foodsafety.gov
The Partnership for Food Safety Education is a non-profit organization and creator and steward of the Fight BAC!® consumer education program. The Partnership is dedicated to providing the public with science-based, actionable recommendations for the prevention of foodborne illness.