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A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Posted by on May 17, 2014

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

After a year of traveling and staying in different resorts and hotels, I admit, I have missed taking care of my family by doing the usual “domestic goddess” tasks around our home; you know… the simple things, like cooking our meals, doing the laundry, cleaning the house, etc. Now that we are here in Texas, even though we will only be here for a few months, I’m finally getting my chance!

If you’ve noticed that I haven’t been writing many posts lately, it’s because I have been busy catching up in my role as a homemaker again, taking care of Big Daddy and our daughter, Arra.

One of the things I take pride in as a homemaker is my fierce dedication to keeping my kitchen clean and healthy.  I’m very passionate about it – so much so that walking into a dirty, disorganized kitchen – mine or someone else’s – often makes me cringe.  Standing in a dirty kitchen, I often wonder if the food prepared in that kitchen is actually safe to eat.  Have you ever been in a situation in which, after taking a look at your host’s dirty kitchen, you have to think twice about eating whatever is served – so much so that when you’re praying before the meal, you’re secretly praying that the food doesn’t make you sick?  

Allow me to share with you a few important things I implement myself in the process of maintaining a clean, safe and healthy kitchen, taken from what I’ve learned from personal experience and from the training I received a few years ago at culinary school.

 

How To Have A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen

 

1. Wash Your Hands

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: lesserevillife.com

It should go without saying that every time you enter the kitchen and before you touch any food, or any eating utensils, you should first wash your hands thoroughly.  I have learned that a minimum of twenty seconds is required to effectively wash off any traces of germs and bacteria that may be lurking somewhere on your hands. Even if you already washed your hands not so long ago, if you have touched any object anywhere else inside the house on your way to the kitchen, you should wash your hands again.  That’s one way to avoid the spread of disease-causing bacteria.  A regular handsoap and water should do the job.  Avoid any anti-bacterial soap that contains Triclosan (or Triclocarbon), a chemical substance found in most “anti-bacterial” soaps and hand gels. Those two chemicals have been linked to liver damage and other negative side effects.  

So what about the idea of killing bacteria?  According to my own research, anti-bacterial soap doesn’t clean your hands any better than a regular soap will anyway.  Don’t take my word for it, though.  The facts are available online, so a simple Google search will help you come to the same conclusion!

 

2. Tie Your Hair Back, Wear Your Apron

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: dreamywhites.blogspot.com

Every hair follicle on a human body carries up to 50,000 germs, so imagine how gross it would be to find a strand of hair floating in your soup!  To avoid accidents like this, always tie your hair back in a pony tail or wear a hair net or bandana when preparing meals.  

“What?  A hair net???  You’re saying that I should wear a hair net inside even though I’m cooking in my own kitchen???

My answer to that is simple.  Whether you take these extra steps or not, these precautions are important especially if it’s in your own kitchen!  After all, is it more important to you to be sure that total strangers don’t get sick (for those of you cooking for others), or that you ensure that you and your loved ones don’t get sick?  I encourage you to think hard about this.

In addition to tying back your hair, wearing an apron is also a good idea.  It helps protect your clothes from accidental spills and splatters.  Your apron is a convenient place to wipe off that little bit of oil or sauce off of your hands too.  To be honest, wearing an apron in the kitchen also kind of gets me into the whole “Suzy Homemaker” spirit, and makes the whole experience just a bit more enjoyable.  :)

 

3. Keep 4 Different Cutting Boards

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: greenifymagazine.com

Yes, four… and yes, four different cutting boards.  

Now, what I mean by “different” is that the cutting boards should be different from one another in such a way that is easy for you to identify.  For example, get cutting boards of different colors, or perhaps different shapes, or maybe even different sizes – whatever – to differentiate them from one another, so that you can easily determine which cutting board is which:

Joseph Joseph Index Advance with Knifes

Click On Image To Get Your Own!

  • Cutting Board 1 – raw beef, pork and chicken meat
  • Cutting Board 2 – raw seafood
  • Cutting Board 3 – vegetables and fruits
  • Cutting Board 4 – cooked meat

Luckily for us, Domestic Goddesses, color-coded cutting boards are now widely available.  Some brands even include matching color-coded knives, and even color-coded scrubbers.  Finally! These companies aren’t only seeing the demand but also recognizing the importance of having this kind of system in the kitchen!

If you can’t find cutting boards of different colors, you can also just use a permanent marker and label each chopping board but the labels might get washed off eventually.

So why is keeping separate cutting boards so important?  You need to separate cutting boards for the different types of food in order to avoid cross-contamination from the raw meat and on to your produce or cooked food.

By the way, whatever system you choose, it’s important that you educate every member of the family about your system!

 

Like This Idea?

If you like this particular set of kitchen knives and cutting boards, you can purchase this set online by clicking either at the following link, or on one of the images of the set above:

Joseph Joseph Index Advance With Knives

 

4. Use Different Scrubbing Sponges

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: grist.org

I personally use light-duty scrubbing sponges (sponge on one side, scrubber on the other).  I keep two different sponges and a separate pot scrubber:

  • Sponge 1 – for Chopping Board 1 and 2 and anything that was used for or touched by raw meat
  • Sponge 2 – for plates, bowls, silverware, drinking glasses, cups, Chopping Boards 3 & 4, pots and pans that don’t need heavy scrubbing

*For heavier pot scrubbing, use an additional, separate heavy-duty scrubber.  If you happen to find the color-coded scrubbers to match the cutting boards, as I mentioned above, that would be good to have too.

Be careful not to let Sponge 1 come in contact with anything else until the sponge has been disinfected!

American and European households typically have dishwashers and that’s where cutting boards get washed, therefore eliminating the need for an extra sponge.  However, most Asian households, including the Philippines, don’t have dishwashers, so everything gets washed by hand in the sink.  So, if your kitchen happens to be the latter, following this tip is much more crucial!

For those who have dishwashers, you might consider washing (and drying) your sponges in the dishwasher.  (I’m not so sure how effective using the dishwasher would be when it comes to disinfecting, since I’ve never washed my sponges in the dishwasher, but that’s another matter entirely).  For those of you who do not have a dishwasher, make sure to follow these tips:

  • Daily Washing – thoroughly rinse Sponge 2 at the end of the day, even washing it one more time with a drop or two of dishwashing liquid to remove all traces of food and grease.  Then rinse it thoroughly.  Let it air dry.  Don’t leave it soaking in a tub of water or liquid dishwashing detergent.  It’s important to give it some time to air dry.  
  • Disinfecting (once or twice a week) – Soak the sponge in a bowl of freshly boiled water with 1/2 cup of white vinegar.  This is also an effective way of removing any bad odor from the sponge.  Sponge 1, however, should always be washed and disinfected after every use to avoid spreading the germs from raw meat that have been absorbed by the sponge.  To do so, boil it in a pot of water with half a cup of white vinegar for a few minutes, and after you turn off the heat, let it sit in the boiled vinegar solution for about 20 minutes more, before squeezing all the water out and air drying the sponge.  Another method for disinfecting is the microwave method – microwave a sponge that was soaked in vinegar solution on HIGH for 1 minute.  After it’s finished, let it sit in the microwave for a few more minutes until cool enough to handle, then squeeze out any remaining liquid.  Let it air dry.

It’s also so much better if you pre-rinse the dishes – scraping off with your hands under running water as much traces of food and oil as you can (especially if you just had a seafood dish) before soaping it with a sponge.  That way, the sponge won’t be a grease and odor magnet at the end of the day.  All sponges should be disposed of and replaced every month!

 

5. Food In The Fridge

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: webmd.com

F.I.F.O.  – Remember that!  It stands for “First In, First Out” which simply means that whatever went into the fridge first, should be consumed first.  If we have leftovers from last night, and then we have some more leftovers from today… well, tomorrow, which leftover should we clean out first?  That’s right.  The first one.  To make sure which leftover came in first, always label each item by sticking a strip of masking tape on the food keeper, writing what dish is inside the food keeper and what date it went into the fridge.

The same is true for other items we bought and shoved inside the fridge.  Maybe you bought four more tubs of yogurt today after seeing that you were down to your last unopened tub this morning.  When you’re putting the new batch of yogurt inside the fridge, make sure that you place the one from the previous batch in front so that it’s the first one you’ll grab the next time you reach for a tub of yogurt.  Also, consume items with an earlier expiry date first!

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: theeventdiva.blogspot.com

It’s also always safer to wash eggs before storing them in the fridge, especially if the eggshells appear obviously filthy.  Chicken feces on the outside of an eggshell will contaminate the egg once the egg is cracked open, or may even cross-contaminate other food items in the fridge.  Some people keep the eggs in their carton and don’t think it’s necessary to wash them.  I’d just say that if you see an obvious need to wash them, don’t be lazy!  Better to be safe than sorry!  It’s also important to wash your hands thoroughly after handling raw eggs (or ANY poultry, for that matter).

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: southernplate.com

Store raw meat in the freezer, especially if you won’t be cooking it right away (for at least a couple of days or more).  Otherwise, just store them in the top most shelf where it’s coldest.  Rinse the raw meat first, pat dry with a paper towel and store in freezer bags in smaller batches, or you may just do the rinsing after the meat is thawed and ready for cooking.  What’s important to note is that you don’t freeze them in bulk when you’re only going to need a small batch in your recipe.  Once a meat is thawed, it can’t be frozen again.  It’s hazardous to your health to do so.  So to avoid thawing more meat than you’ll be needing, break up the meat cutlets in smaller batches.

Speaking of thawing, always thaw frozen meat on the lowest shelf inside the fridge.  It takes about 24 hours to completely soften up a moderately-sized piece of frozen meat.  If you’re thawing anything bigger, such as a large turkey, it will definitely take more than just a day, so plan ahead!  Thawing in the fridge is the only way to thaw frozen meat, not at room temperature and not by soaking it in a bowl of hot, cold or lukewarm water either!

 

6. Wash All Produce

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: discover.rodales.com

Since fruits and vegetables shouldn’t be cooked for a very long time (to retain the vitamins and nutrients they contain), it is important to wash all your produce before eating them.  Soaking them in a veggie wash for a minute or two also helps loosen up any dirt or bugs on the surface before rinsing them one last time in clean (preferably filtered or distilled) water.  If you can’t find a veggie wash in your local grocery store, a good alternative would be an all-natural veggie wash using a mixture of 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar and a cup of water.  

 

7. Clean All Surfaces

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: organicauthority.com

After each time you prepare and cook a meal, wipe the counter top and stove top with a clean kitchen rag, a paper towel or a kitchen wipe.  

Wipe away all spills IMMEDIATELY!!!  Don’t wait, letting them sit for hours.  First of all, once spills have dried up and even become crusty, they are a lot tougher to remove.  Second, the longer a spill sits on the counter top (or the floor, or wherever), the better the chances are that bacteria will spread.  Furthermore, you might not be able to remember exactly where the tiny splatters are after a while, and if you have a dark colored counter top, it’s likely that you won’t be able to easily spot them.

At the end of the day, make sure that the counter top and stove top are thoroughly wiped clean, as well as oven door handles,  stove and oven knobs, faucet knobs, and light switches.  Use a paper towel or rag and an all-purpose biodegradable non-toxic disinfecting cleaner.  To learn how to make your own all-natural all-purpose cleaner, click here.

Do not forget to scrub the sink to remove all traces of grease.  Disinfect the sink drain by pouring boiling water with vinegar down the drain.

 

8. Manage Your Kitchen Waste

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: furniturefashion.com

I don’t know what waste management and disposal system is being implemented in your area but ideally, you should have two separate trash bins in the kitchen – one for biodegradable trash and the other for non-biodegradable (a third one for recyclables should be kept in the garage or backyard).  Get the type that has a flip top, with or without a foot pedal (but I personally find the one with a foot pedal to be so much better).  However, if you can afford to have a double pullout trash bin custom built for you (as in the photo below), that would be the most perfect setup!

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: www.houzz.com

Ideally, at least once every two weeks, you should wash your trash bins with soap and water then dry them out with a dry, clean rag, or a paper towel or let them finish drying out in the sun.  If your trash bin is not all that filthy and stinky, give it a spritz of disinfectant spray and give it a good wipe down.  Allow the trash bins to completely dry before lining them with the appropriate size of trash bags.

Every time you see some traces of food or any liquid get smeared on the trash lid or anywhere on the outside surface, immediately wipe it off with a paper towel and dispose of the paper towel.  Oh, and don’t forget to wash your hands thoroughly after handling trash!

While we are on the subject of trash bins, I thought I’d quickly share this one with you guys ’cause I just think it’s so awesome!

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

The “Barcode Trashcan” | Image Credit: yankodesign.com

This is for the eco-conscious!  In case you don’t know which recycle bin your waste item goes to, just swipe its bar code across the scanner and the correct bin opens up.  Now, how cool is that?!

One last thing on managing kitchen waste – unlike in American and Australian households where it is considered to be the norm, a typical Filipino kitchen doesn’t utilize a waste disposal unit which is an electrically powered device installed under the kitchen sink which shreds food waste into pieces small enough to pass through plumbing.

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: kitchenandresidentialdesign.com

If you belong in that category and you do not have a waste disposal unit in your kitchen, it’s important to make sure that you have the right kind of strainer in your sink – the kind that has a deep strainer basket with holes on the sides and bottom that allows water to flow while it collects waste or food particles from dirty dishes.  It should be easy to just pull up the strainer basket and dump the collected waste into your trash bin.

 

9. Regularly Clean The Oven, Microwave and Fridge

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: homelife.com.au

Once every two or three months, the fridge needs to be thoroughly cleaned.  Some would say it’s okay to do it every six months but I just personally think that’s too long.  Every couple of weeks we bring in groceries straight from the supermarket and into the fridge.  So it makes sense to be extra meticulous this way when it comes to maintaining the cleanliness of the fridge where most of our food is stored.   Taking all of the food items out and giving the fridge a good wipe down using a terry cloth towel and water-vinegar (or water with lemon juice) solution is all it takes to do the job.  Terry cloth towels are lint-free (will not leave fibers behind) while still being very absorbent.  Use two different towels to clean the inside and the outside of the fridge, or if you only have one terry cloth towel, clean the inside first, the outside next, and then wash and dry the towel very well.  It’s also important that you don’t use this towel for cleaning anything else in the house.  Separate it from the other rags.

To deodorize, store an open box of baking soda in your fridge.

It ought to go without saying that each time you see a splatter of food or oil in the microwave, you should wipe it clean immediately.  Other than that, the microwave should be given a good wipe down once a week.  Use a terry cloth towel and a water-vinegar solution (or water with lemon juice) for cleaning the inside of the microwave.

After each time you cook something in the oven, it’s necessary to wipe all traces of grease because if you don’t, they’ll eventually build up.  Built-up grease and charred food accumulate and turn into carbon.  A carbon-coated oven can eventually become a fire hazard, not to mention that it can ruin your food.  

If your oven came with a “self-cleaning” or “continuous cleaning” function, simply follow the instructions for carrying out the task.  if your oven doesn’t have those functions, simply wait for the oven to cool down completely before pulling out the racks and soaking them in warm soapy water to loosen up food particles and grime.  Next, mix 4 tablespoons of baking soda with a liter of water, put it in a spray bottle and spray the oven interior with the solution.  Let the solution sit on the surface for a few minutes before giving it a good wipe down.  Finish off with another wipe down using some water-vinegar solution.  Thoroughly rinse and dry the racks before putting them back inside the oven.

 

10. Working With Knives

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: abcnews.go.com

Avoid using the same knife that you use for cutting raw meat on anything else other than raw meat.  If you’re done cutting raw meat, but need to use the same knife for cutting up the vegetables or fruits, wash it (using the right sponge) and dry it thoroughly first to avoid cross-contamination.

Keep your knives well-sharpened to avoid accidentally cutting your fingers when slicing your ingredients.  Using dull knives is actually more dangerous than sharp knives!

When slicing or cutting anything, always use a cutting/chopping board.  Do not cut food directly on the kitchen counter top.  It’s unsanitary and it will ruin the counter top finish.  Also, always lay a damp towel underneath the chopping board to keep the board from slipping or sliding, which can be extremely dangerous.

 

11. Invest In A Ladle Rest

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: stonewallkitchen.com and designwatcher.blogspot.com

It’s unsanitary and messy to rest the ladles, turners and other cooking tools directly on the kitchen counter top while cooking.  Use a proper ladle or spoon rest to avoid making any unnecessary mess on the counter top.

 

12. Towels And Rags

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: potterybarn.com

You should have no less than four hand towels in your towel drawer.  Change your hand towel every two days.  Assuming you do your laundry once every week,  this system will ensure that you have a clean towel ready for use come laundry day.  If you do your laundry more often that that, so much better.

Hang the dish towel somewhere else or drape it over the counter top (make sure your counter top is clean) to allow it to air dry in between uses.  If you prefer to put it away and store it in a drawer until your next use, just make sure that it’s thoroughly dry.   Bacteria loves warm and moist environment.  Change your dish towel twice a week.

Keep a small cleaning rag beside the sink for quick surface cleanups.  If you’ve used it to wipe off sauces from food or splatters of oil, or anything that might become sticky when left to dry, wash the rag immediately with soap (or liquid dishwashing detergent) and water.  At the end of the day, wash it again the same way and drape it over the sink or faucet to dry overnight.  Once a week, change it to another fresh, clean rag and wash the old one with the rest of the laundry.  You might consider totally disposing of a month-old rag and replacing it with a new one, if you prefer to do so.

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: potterybarn.com

Even if you have a cleaning rag, you should still keep a few rolls of paper towel for added convenience.  Just don’t use too much of it and opt for the eco-friendly paper towel to help the environment.  Use paper towel to wipe away the kind of mess that you wouldn’t want your cleaning rag to pick up like  juices from raw meat, the juice from a canned tuna, your pet’s barf, etc.

 

13. Organize The Cabinets

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: cuteandcompany.com

Why should a well organized cabinet be of any relevance to this topic?  Well, if you organize items in your cabinets in such a way that everything is kept closest to where they are needed, unnecessary mess, confusion, clutter and stress can be avoided.  

Keep all your spices, cooking wine, and condiments on a shelf or cabinet closest to your work area (where you do the prepping of the ingredients).  Measure each ingredient accordingly, and into small condiment bowls.  Once you have all the ingredients ready for the recipe, carry the bowls all to where the stove is so that they’re close-by throughout the cooking process.

Keep all of your knives, mixing bowls and measuring tools in drawers and cabinets close to the work area, too.

If you don’t have that many cabinets or that much storage space, you can leave your food processor, blender, toaster, coffee machine, etc. out on the counter top.  Otherwise, store them inside a cabinet close to the work area.  With the exception of the coffee machine, I personally prefer to keep them out of sight when not in use.  I love the sight of a clean, neat and uncluttered kitchen counter top!

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: kevinandamanda.com

Keep your pots, pans, ladles, turners, ladle rests, pot holders and oven mitts, and other cooking tools in a drawer closest to the stove.

Unopened packs of sponges, extra pot scrubbers, all-purpose cleaners, dish washing detergents and paper towels are all best kept in the cabinet under the sink.

A Clean, Safe And Healthy Kitchen In 13 Easy Steps

Image Credit: kitchenkoala.net and hgtvremodels.com

Typical Filipino kitchens do not have a pantry.  If you fall into that category, designate an entire cabinet or build a shelf to be your pantry area where all food items (canned goods, boxes of cereal, flour, pancake mix, etc.) will be stored.

 

Final Words

Well, that’s about all I have on keeping your kitchen safe, healthy and clean.  I tried to be as thorough as possible, so that y’all can fully benefit from this bit of information.  I truly hope you’ll find it very useful and helpful, and that you’ll try to implement the same system in your own kitchen.

One thing I almost forgot to mention: It is common for Filipino homes to have what we call a “dirty kitchen”. Basically, it’s a second kitchen usually located towards the back of the house and looks a lot less fancy than the main kitchen.  It is where most of the ingredients of a meal is prepared and the more “dirty” parts of the cooking process – such as gutting the fish, chopping beef, pork and chicken meat, etc. – is carried out.  That is why it’s called the “dirty” kitchen because it is the one part of the house that things are allowed to get messy.

However, as we chefs always say, “A good cook cleans as she goes!”  I don’t think it is necessary for any house to have a “dirty kitchen”.  In fact, most modern households I’ve seen only have one kitchen.  With these 13 easy steps I just shared in this post, it shouldn’t be a problem to keep things clean in the kitchen.  Even if you do have that second kitchen in your house, it shouldn’t be allowed to get messy, unsanitary and disorganized.  There’s just no excuse for that anymore.  Just do your best in keeping things clean around you, especially where you prepare your family’s meals.  It’s one of the fundamentals of having a clean, safe and healthy kitchen of your own! :)

 

   


About The Author: Myla “MyMy” Upshaw Myla “MyMy” Upshaw is a stay-at-home mom who prides herself on her status as a Filipino Christian wife and mother and “domestic goddess”. She blogs about popular subjects for stay-at-home moms such as fashion, family, beauty, relationships, entrepreneurialism (“mompreneur”), movies, self-improvement, health & wellness as well as about her faith as a follower of Christ. To learn more about Myla Upshaw, please click here:

 

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