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Think your kitchen is squeaky clean? Not so fast. "Moisture and food particles make it the perfect environment for growing germs that can make you sick," says Kelly A. Reynolds, PhD, an environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona's Zuckerman College of Public Health in Tucson. "If you're not killing them, you can go from 10 microbes to millions within 24 hours." And the more germs there are, the more likely you are to get sick from one. Use this cleaning checklist to kill all the germs in your cooking zone.
"There can be millions of pathogens (disease-causing germs) clinging to the sink, the seal of the drain and the rubber gasket around the garbage disposal," says Dr. Reynolds. While proper cooking lowers your chance of foodborne illness, germs like salmonella, which lives in much of the chicken you bring home, can linger in your sink after you wash the food that contains it. Touch your face after touching the sink and you've just spread the germs.
What to do: Clean your sink immediately after rinsing raw meat, veggies and pet bowls and once a day even when you don't wash food or pet dishes. Spray a disinfectant (look for the EPA registration number in tiny print on the label), which kills most bacteria and viruses, on the faucet, sink sides, sink bottom and sink strainers. "Don't just wipe and go. Leave the product on the surface for the contact time recommended on the label," says Dr. Reynolds.