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Clean as you go

I admit it. I’m kind of a messy cook, but, in my defence, I can prepare food pretty quickly. But with my dark-coloured countertops, flour, sugar and other light-coloured ingredients show up much too well. Fingerprints magically appear on the stainless steel fridge and splatters of food materialize on the walls of the microwave.

Everyone inhabits the kitchen, so I’m not taking full credit for the daily wear and tear that goes on in that room, but I’ve decided to set a kitchen-cleaning goal. I am going to try to clean as I go and encourage my family to do the same.

In a kitchen, you have the potential for food safety issues. Bacteria, including salmonella and E. coli, easily can spread from meat to other surfaces such as cutting boards, your hands, utensils and plates. Cross-contamination is a leading cause of foodborne illness.

By definition, cleaning removes food, soil and other visible contaminants from various kitchen surfaces. Sanitizing takes the process one step further and reduces the number of invisible contaminants, including bacteria and other potential illness-causing organisms.

For example, after cleaning cutting boards in hot, soapy water and rinsing them with plain water, don’t forget to sanitize them. Make a bleach solution in your sink with 1 tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water. Immerse the clean cutting board in the solution for a couple of minutes, remove (but don’t rinse again) and allow to air-dry.

Cleaners may be abrasive or non-abrasive. Abrasive cleaners help remove burned-on or dried food particles, but they may scratch or otherwise damage kitchen surfaces, including countertops and appliances, permanently. Non-abrasive cleaners are best used on satin or high-gloss finishes.

Always read and follow the directions and precautions on all types of cleaners. You also can use some common household “kitchen ingredients” as cleaners. Vinegar and water can function as a quick floor cleaner, and baking soda can work as a mild abrasive cleaner.

About the author

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Julie Garden-Robinson is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the department of health, nutrition and exercise sciences.

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