Spending more time at home these days means having to clean a lot more frequently than before Covid-19. After all, no one enjoys cooking in a dirty kitchen. It's unsafe for preparing food and can make you seriously ill. Ten months later we all wish it was over. But it isn't. Let's take a look at some places in the kitchen that might not be as clean as you think they are.

Coffee maker

More than 50% of Americans drink coffee, and the majority of us prepare it every morning. You wash the mugs or cups and pot. But how often do you clean the reservoir? According to a 2011 study, coffee reservoirs can contain more germs than your toilet seat.

Use white distilled vinegar or a commercial coffee pot cleaner to get the inside of your coffee maker thoroughly clean.

coffee pots on a counter

Can opener

Food spatter can remain after opening a can and become dried and stuck.

Mechanical can opener:

  1. Place the can opener, gears-down, into a jar and add enough vinegar to cover the working parts.
  2. Let it soak for a few minutes -- or a few hours if the can opener is really gross.
  3. Take the jar to the sink and use a toothbrush to thoroughly scrub the opener.
  4. Wash in dish soap and scrub again

Electric can opener:

  1. Never immerse in water.
  2. Use a sponge dampened in warm, soapy dishwater to wipe down the can opener after each use.
  3. Periodically remove the cutting wheel and lid holder and soak them in hot, sudsy water.
  4. Remove any caked-on food with a toothbrush, rinse, dry, and replace the parts.

can and can opener

Dishwasher and garbage disposal

Food and grease get trapped out of view in your dishwasher. This affects both performance and smell. Remove the filter and clean it separately before cleaning and sanitizing the dishwasher. Add a little vinegar and baking soda and run the hot water cycle.

Putting baking soda, white distilled vinegar, or citrus peels down your garbage disposal can make it smell better but may not eliminate the cause of the odor. The smell is probably coming from the rubber drain gasket. Letting a mixture of vinegar and water sit in the sink for a short time can eliminate the smell.

family around a kitchen counter

Knobs and handles

How many times do you and your family touch your kitchen handles and knobs during the day? Every knob and handle in your kitchen, including cabinet pulls and stove knobs, need to be cleaned regularly. One study ranked them #9 on a list of the top ten dirtiest household items. A study in the journal Food Control found knobs and handles had one of the highest concentrations of E. coli, listeria, staphylococcus, and enterobacteria of anyplace in a kitchen. All of these can make your family very sick.

Frequently clean kitchen handles and knobs with white distilled vinegar, a diluted bleach solution, or a sanitizing product to help minimize the number of potentially dangerous germs.

woman stirring a pot on the stove

Blender

The little rubber ring around the bottom of your blender jar is a gasket. Its function is to prevent the liquid from leaking out. According to NSF International, blenders are the third most unsanitary item in our homes. Salmonella, E. coli, yeast, and mold were all found on blender gaskets, and all of these can make you sick. Be sure to disassemble and thoroughly wash the blender with very hot soapy water every time you use it.

woman using a blender

Salt and pepper shakers/spice rack

salt and pepper with spice containers

These items are handled frequently. Wipe them down with soap and water after handling. Spices have a shelf life. Throw away dried herbs and spices that are past their expiration date, clean up any spills or stains, and put a box of baking soda in the cupboard to prevent odors.

spice rack

Refrigerator door seal and ice dispenser

Do you clean the refrigerator door seal? Many people don't. Those seals can contain, mold, yeast, and even salmonella or E. coli. The same applies to the gaskets on other appliances. Refrigerator door seals have even tested positive for listeria. Additionally, handles can have coliform bacteria and mold or mold spores on them. Clean these with white distilled vinegar or a disinfectant.

Wipe up any spills or leaks that happen in your refrigerator as soon as possible. The drawers need to be cleaned regularly. Researchers have found E. coli, salmonella, listeria, and other deadly germs lurking in refrigerator bins. These are sources of serious food-borne illnesses.

someone cleaning a refrigerator

According to a 2013 study conducted by NSF, the refrigerator water dispenser is the #1 germiest item in the kitchen. Issues with water dispensers include mold and yeast that can be disastrous for people with allergies to them. If you have a water dispenser that you rarely clean, check your fridge manufacturer's instructions for how to clean it or use vinegar, which doesn't pose any health problems after it cycles through the system.

Cabinet and countertops

family preparing food on a counter

The tops of your kitchen cabinets and refrigerator are likely to become coated with dust and grease and may rarely get cleaned. The first thing you should do when getting ready to give cabinet and refrigerator tops a good cleaning is make sure there isn't any food on the counters or table. Disturbing a layer of dust could potentially cause it to get into any food that's out. After you clean, put a layer of wax paper on the tops of your cabinets and refrigerator to collect the residue that would otherwise have to be scrubbed off. Every few months, replace the old wax paper.

It's fairly easy to clean countertops. All that's required is a spray bottle, warm water, non-abrasive dish soap, and a clean dish towel. Avoid acidic cleaners like vinegar and lemon juice since those can etch certain surfaces.

Stove exhaust filter

cleaning a stove exhaust filter

Your stove exhaust filter works hard and collects a lot of grease. Routinely take down the filter, soak it in soap and water, and wipe off all the accumulated gunk. This should also eliminate any odors.

Knife rack and cutting boards

coffee mug on a counter

You might not realize that your knife block needs an occasional thorough sanitizing. To clean, wash in hot, soapy water and use a small brush to scrub each slot. Rinse well and let dry thoroughly before replacing the knives.

Both wooden and plastic cutting boards can be sanitized with a solution of 1 tablespoon liquid chlorine bleach per gallon of water. Cover the board's surface with the bleach solution and let stand for several minutes. Rinse with clean water and air dry or wipe with a clean paper towel

Sink and drain

kitchen sink drain covered in gnats

Cleaning your sink drain is easy. If you have flies, gnats or a smelly drain, pour a cup of baking soda down the drain and let it sit for half an hour. Follow up with white distilled vinegar. The mixture will bubble, neutralize odors, and clean the drain. Since it's very germ-ridden, you should clean the entire sink while you're at it. In one test, coliform bacteria was found in nearly half of the sinks. Scrub well with a disinfectant.

Trash can

kitchen trash can

Trash cans get a workout. They need to be cleaned both inside and out. Occasionally scrub the can with hot, soapy water or another cleaning product. Keeping a few replacement bags at the bottom of the can makes it easy to replace a new one.

Sponge

kitchen sink and sponge

Last but not least, regularly clean or discard your sponge or whatever you use to clean everything else. Do this by soaking it in a diluted bleach solution, putting it in the dishwasher, or tossing it in the microwave. The heat of the dishwasher or microwave will kill any germs that remain. Make sure the sponge is soaking wet before putting it in the microwave or it could catch fire. If you use a cloth, regularly clean it in the washing machine.

Keep in mind that cleaning and disinfecting are not the same. Pandemic or not, these guidelines can help keep your kitchen a safe place to cook and eat.