Ways To A Safe Kitchen

In The Early Show's new "Safe and Sound" series, personal safety concerns will be addressed.

On Tuesday morning, Dr. Philip Tierno Jr., director of clinical microbiology at New York University Medical Center and author of "The Secret Life of Germs," helped launch "Safe and Sound" with kitchen cleaning tips that will help put kitchens out of harm's way.

He says if a kitchen isn't cleaned right, you may be doing more harm than good by spreading food-borne bacteria (or germs) that can make you and your family sick.

Dr. Tierno says the kitchen is the dirtiest place in the house. It's even dirtier than the bathroom because the kitchen is where the meats are prepared.

Dirty kitchen sponges and dishrags are the primary culprits. Dr. Tierno says they are the most infectious source of bacteria in the home. Food-borne bacteria, such as E-coli and salmonella, hide in the pores of the sponge and resurface every time they are used. People unknowingly may get an upset stomach or diarrhea from the germs they were exposed to from a kitchen sponge.

According to a study sponsored by Brillo, in which Dr. Tierno was involved, the results showed that half of the people surveyed use the same sponge to wipe the cutting board, the counter and even the dishes.

Here are Dr. Tierno's tips for the kitchen safety:

  • Dishrags and Sponges: Let the sponge or dishrag completely dry. Bacteria cannot survive in a dry environment. To clean dishrags, soak them in a solution of bleach and water after each use or use an anti-bacterial soap.

    Some think putting a sponge in a microwave cleans it, but Dr. Tierno says it won't work unless you put the sponge in water and then turn the microwave on. He says the microwave has dead spots, so you need the water to heat up and dissipate throughout the sponge.

  • Garbage Pail: Dr. Tierno says the next dirtiest place in the kitchen is the garbage pail. When you pull out the garbage and replace it with a new liner, you can easily contaminate whatever surface the bottom of the bag touches.

    If the plastic bag has a hole in it and the contents, perhaps meat juices, leak into the bottom, use a disinfectant to clean it. If you pull the bag out and you don't see anything on the bottom, spray the garbage can with an aerosol disinfectant.

  • Butcher Block: For those who have wondered if a wood butcher block contains more germs in comparison to plastic boards that are used for food preparation, Dr. Tierno says wood is better. He said that it doesn't capture salmonella. If you slice a plastic board while slicing and dicing, the germs get trapped where the cuts are made.

    Dr. Tierno recommends using an antibacterial product to clean plastic. He recommends disinfecting the board periodically with one ounce of bleach and a quart of water.

  • Refrigerator: Throw out old food at least twice a month. Clean the refrigerator thoroughly with a disinfectant solution at least once a month. Use any type of detergent or antibacterial solution to clean it.
  • Mop: After mopping, let the mop soak in the water with disinfectant for 10 minutes. That's how long it takes to work.
  • Soda Cans: If you don't see any visible dirt, wash the can with water and wipe it. If it's really dirty, clean it thoroughly with soap and water or a waterless antibacterial gel.
  • Protect Pets: People often throw scraps to pets that they eat on the floor. Dr. Tierno says they can get sick by licking cleaning products that were used to clean the floor. In order to avoid this, rinse the floor with clean water.
Dr. Tierno says antibacterial products work, and it's not creating a super germ – as some fear.

People and kitchens can never be too clean, says Dr. Tierno, because germs can never be eliminated.