Kitchen Hygiene Mistakes You Could Be Making and How To Avoid Them

Last week, my 19-year-old daughter removed fish from the freezer and placed it on the kitchen counter to thaw. When she walked into the kitchen hours later, she found a stray cat feasting on the fish. The cat had got in through an open window in the kitchen. My daughter had made one of the common kitchen hygiene mistakes many of us make.

To make a long story short, we had to throw away the fish. My daughter was devastated. We had to ponder over what else to prepare for dinner. Since hubby had traveled out of town, we decided to eat snacks for dinner (wink, wink).

What Is Kitchen Hygiene?

Kitchen hygiene is basically ensuring the kitchen remains tidy, clean, and bacteria-free. This includes  keeping the workspace tidy and clean, using the appropriate cleaning methods, and sanitizing surfaces. It also includes following safe food handling guidelines.

Why Maintaining Hygiene In The Kitchen Is Important

I can't overemphasize the importance of maintaining hygiene in the kitchen. Here are some reasons why kitchen hygiene is paramount:

  • Good kitchen hygiene prevents spoilage of food that could lead to waste.
  • It promotes an ideal environment for food preparation and consumption.
  • It prevents food contamination by dust, dirt, bacteria, pests, cats, etc.
  • It promotes food safety thus preventing food-borne illnesses.
  • Good kitchen hygiene promotes overall well-being and health for yourself and others.

Kitchen Hygiene Mistakes You Could Be Making And How To Avoid Them

As I mentioned earlier, my daughter removed fish from the freezer and put it on the kitchen counter to thaw. The fish thawed and a stray cat feasted on most of it.

My daughter made two kitchen hygiene mistakes by her actions. I’ll explain the two mistakes in this post and other kitchen hygiene mistakes we make.

Let’s dive into the kitchen hygiene mistakes you could be making and how to avoid them without further ado.

Not Washing Your Hands Properly When Handling Food

The first kitchen hygiene mistake you could be making is not washing your hands properly when handling food. It’s important to wash your hands properly before, during, and after cooking.

For instance, if you don’t wash your hands properly after handling raw seafood, poultry, or meat, it could lead to cross-contamination. This means that bacteria from the raw food are transferred to ready-to-eat food. Cross-contamination could lead to food-borne illnesses.

How to wash your hands properly when handling food

To prevent the kitchen hygiene mistake of cross-contaminationit’s important to wash your hands properly when handling food in the kitchen.

Here’s how to wash your hands properly when handling food in the kitchen:

  • Wash your hands long enough – for at least 20 seconds before handling food.
  • Use warm water and soap to wash your hands.
  • Wash your hands this way after every kitchen task. For instance, wash them after handling raw meat, kneading dough, etc.

Using The Same Chopping Board For Everything

Another hygiene mistake you could be making in the kitchen is using the same chopping board for everything. Are you a culprit?

This is what could happen if you use the same chopping board for everything:

  • Cross-contamination could occur: This could happen if bacteria from raw meat transfer to salads and ready-to-eat food. This could lead to food-borne illnesses.
  • Could cause bad taste in some foods: This may happen for instance, if you chop onions and then chop fruits on the same board. The fruits could have an onion taste.

Here’s how to prevent the chopping board kitchen hygiene mistake:

  • Have two or three chopping boards.
  • The chopping boards should be in different colors so you can differentiate them.
  • Allocate one chopping board to raw meat, another to raw vegetables, and the other to ready-to-eat stuff.
  • After use, wash each chopping board thoroughly using hot water and soap.
  • Always dry the chopping boards before use.

Leaving Food Uncovered/Unwrapped On The Kitchen Counter

As I stated earlier, my daughter removed fish from the freezer, unwrapped it, and left it on the kitchen counter to thaw. A stray cat came in and started feasting on the fish. That was a terrible kitchen hygiene mistake on the part of my daughter.

When you leave food uncovered/unwrapped on the kitchen counter, it could attract pests, crawling creatures, cats, dirt, dust, hair, etc. This could lead to food contamination and food-borne illnesses.

To avoid this kitchen hygiene mistake always cover food tightly or wrap it securely before leaving it on the kitchen counter.

Leaving Food At Room Temperature For An Extended Period

Another kitchen hygiene mistake you could be making is leaving food at room temperature for a long time. This applies to cooked food and perishable food.

Here’s what happens when you leave food at room temperature for an extended period:

  • The food starts attracting bacteria, leading to contamination.
  • The condition of the food deteriorates every minute, leading to spoilage and wastage.

Here’s how to avoid this kitchen hygiene mistake:

  • Avoid leaving perishable food at room temperature for more than two hours.
  • Don’t leave food at room temperature for more than one hour if the temperatures are above 32°C or 90°F.
  • Put all perishable food in the fridge to keep it safe.
  • Put cooked food in the fridge immediately after it cools.

The Kitchen Hygiene Mistake Of Defrosting Perishable Food On The Countertop

Earlier in this post, I talked about how my daughter removed fish from the freezer and put it on the kitchen countertop to defrost. That was a big mistake.

When you defrost perishable food on the countertop, it means you’re defrosting at room temperature.

The problem of defrosting perishable food on the countertop is the risk of uneven thawing. This happens when the outer part of the food thaws faster than the inner parts.

As a result, bacteria can grow on the outer parts of the food while the inner parts remain frozen. This could lead to food-borne ailments.

How to defrost perishable food safely

There are several methods of defrosting perishable food safely, as shown below:

  • Thaw perishable food in the fridge: This is the best method of defrosting perishable food. Remove the food from the freezer and place it in the fridge to defrost slowly but safely. This method takes longer, so plan ahead.
  • Thaw perishable food in the microwave: You can use this method when you’re in a hurry. Place the frozen, perishable food in the microwave and click the defrost button. Ensure you cook or heat the food immediately after thawing to prevent the growth of bacteria.
  • Use the cold water method: Remove the package of perishable food from the freezer and submerge it in a bowl of cold water. Change the water after every 30 minutes so it remains cold. Heat or cook the food as soon as it thaws to prevent bacteria growth.

The Kitchen Hygiene Mistake Of Using The Same Cooking Spoon To Cook and Taste Food

When you’re cooking, it’s inevitable to taste the food. One common kitchen hygiene mistake is using the same cooking spoon to cook and taste food.

Some of us do it because we don’t know it’s wrong. Others do it because they have no qualms about doing it, yet they’d feel bad if someone else did it. Others do it because nobody is watching (smiling).

This habit is unhygienic because you put your saliva into the food.

It’s also inconsiderate especially, if you’re making food that will be eaten not only by yourself but also others.

Here’s how to avoid this kitchen hygiene mistake:

  • Remember to always do unto others what you’d like them to do to you. 
  • Use a different spoon to taste the food.
  • If you have to taste using the same spoon, clean it before dipping it back into the food.

The Kitchen Hygiene Mistake Of Following The 5-second Rule

don’t know where this rule came from, but some people believe that if food falls on the ground, it’s okay to eat it so long as you pick it up within five seconds. In my country, we say that "the germs were not ready".

don't agree with the five-second rule. You see, the kitchen floor is usually quite dirty as the kitchen is one of the most visited places in a home. The germs there could be numerous.

So, if you believe in the five-second rule, remember you're consuming the food at your own risk.

However, avoid using the 5-second rule on small children as their immune systems are usually vulnerable. They could end up getting diarrhea, etc.

The Kitchen Hygiene Mistake Of Touching Your Phone When Cooking

You expose your phone to different environments such as outdoors, surfaces in public places, restrooms, etc. So, the phone gradually builds up dirt, dust, oils, bacteria, and pathogens.

Suppose you use your phone while preparing food. In that case, the bacteria and pathogens stick to your hands. They can then transfer to the food you’re handling, leading to cross-contamination, and food-borne illnesses.

Here’s how to avoid this kitchen hygiene mistake:

Allowing Your Pets Into The Kitchen 

I know you love your cat or dog. However, allowing your pets into the kitchen is a hygiene mistake. You see, they can carry parasites and bacteria in their mouths, paws, or fur. 

So, if you allow them into your kitchen, they could transfer any contaminants they may be carrying to utensils, kitchen surfaces, or even the food itself. 

If the contaminants come in touch with the food, it could lead to cross-contamination and food-borne illnesses. 

Here’s how you can avoid this kitchen hygiene mistake:

  • Train them that the kitchen is off-limits.
  • You could also install a pet barrier or pet gate at the kitchen's entrance to keep them out of the kitchen. 
  • If the pets somehow sneak into the kitchen, supervise them closely so they don’t access food preparation areas and the food itself.
  • If the pets enter the kitchen somehow, avoid stroking them as doing so could transfer their hair into the food, utensils, or kitchen surfaces.

The Kitchen Hygiene Mistake Of Not Rinsing Cutlery and Utensils Before Use

This is a kitchen hygiene mistake that surprises many people. When you wash your cutlery and utensils and keep them in cupboards or kitchen countertops, you assume you can just use them when the need arises. Right?

Interestingly, the cutlery and utensils may look clean but they are not. 

Here’s what happens to utensils and cutlery after cleaning:

  • They collect dust – the countertops, cupboards, and drawers attract dust that settles on the items.
  • They collect airborne oil and grease particles.
  • Insects and other crawling creatures can come into contact with the utensils and leave behind bacteria.
  • When you store clean utensils and cutlery for an extended period, they can get a musty odor.

Here’s how to avoid this kitchen hygiene mistake:

  • Rinse utensils and cutlery before use to remove dirt, dust, grease, oils, or musty odor.
  • Dry the items you’ve rinsed with a clean, dry microfiber cloth.

Using The Same Kitchen Sponge To Cleaning Everything

Using the same kitchen sponge to clean everything is a common kitchen hygiene mistake worldwide. This simply means using the same sponge to clean glasses, cups, saucepans, stoves, countertops, sinks, etc. I urge you to avoid it by all means.

Here’s what happens when you use the same kitchen sponge to clean everything:

  • There’s the risk of foul odor: The sponge can accumulate food residue, that could give it a foul odor. The sponge can thus leave behind a foul odor on utensils, cutlery, etc.
  • Risk of cross-contamination: Cleaning sponges harbor food particles, bad odor, bacteria, and other contaminants. The sponge can thus leave behind contaminants on the utensils. This could lead to cross-contamination and food-borne illnesses.

How to avoid this kitchen hygiene mistake:

  • Have at least three cleaning sponges. For instance, you can use one for cleaning the stove and countertops, one for cleaning saucepans, and another for washing dishes.
  • Replace the sponges regularly – use them for a maximum of two weeks.

Not Having Different Kitchen Cloths For Different Uses

This is one of the most common kitchen hygiene mistakes worldwide. I once met someone who used the same kitchen cloth for everything. She was surprised when I pointed it out to her. She had no idea it was unhygienic.

Kitchen cloths harbor dirt, grease, and bacteria. So, if you use a kitchen cloth to clean countertops, stoves, or sinks, the cloth collects bacteria. Suppose you rinse the cloth and use it to wipe your hands or dishes. In that case, it could lead to the spread of bacteria.

In addition, a kitchen cloth collects different odors after use. If you use it to dry dishes, the bad odor could transfer to the dishes.

The way to avoid this kitchen hygiene mistake is to have different kitchen cloths for different uses.

Here are the different types of kitchen cloths you should have to help you maintain kitchen hygiene:

  • A microfiber cleaning cloth: This cloth is highly absorbent and therefore ideal for cleaning stoves, appliances, kitchen surfaces, and countertops.
  • Several dish towels: These are towels you use for the sole purpose of drying your dishes. It’s best to have several of them so that you can change and wash them regularly.
  • A kitchen hand towel: This is a small towel you hang in the kitchen for wiping your hands. This prevents you from using the dish towel, apron, or cleaning cloth to wipe your hands.
  • Paper towels: These towels are disposable and are ideal for cleaning up spills in the kitchen.

Not Taking Good Care Of Your Kitchen Cloths

Many of us are guilty of not taking good care of our kitchen cloths. 

Below are examples of how we don’t take good care of our kitchen cloths and how it affects kitchen hygiene:

  • Using the kitchen cloths improperly: An example is when you wipe your hands with the dishcloth. This could lead to the spread of bacteria from your hands to the clean dishes – especially if you haven’t cleaned your hands properly.
  • Not cleaning kitchen cloths regularly: This leads to the growth of bacteria on the cloths. It could also cause a foul odor that can transfer to the dishes.
  • Not changing the dishcloth regularly: If you don't change your dishcloth regularly, it means you’re not also cleaning it regularly. The dishcloth could thus spread bacteria in the kitchen.
  • Not sanitizing kitchen cloths regularly: All kitchen cloths need regular sanitizing to prevent the growth and spread of bacteria in the kitchen. You can sanitize them naturally by boiling them in hot water at least twice a week.
  • Not drying kitchen cloths: When you keep your kitchen cloths wet all the time, they could harbor bacteria. So, rinse them and take them out to dry. The sun kills the bacteria. 
  • Leaving your kitchen cloths lying around: In some homes, you might find the different kitchen cloths lying around in a crumpled heap in the kitchen. If you leave the kitchen cloths that way, they could collect bacteria. So, always hang the kitchen cloths to dry after use. 

The Kitchen Hygiene Mistake Of Leaving The Kitchen Dirty For An Extended Period

In an ideal world, your kitchen should be sparkling clean always. However, since we live in the real world, it’s best to ensure you don’t leave your kitchen dirty for an extended period. 

When you leave your dishes and other areas of the kitchen dirty for an extended period, several things could happen, as explained below:

  • The kitchen could get a foul odor: Dirty dishes, stoves, and surfaces can emit a foul odor. The bad odor could spread to the rest of the house, making the home environment unpleasant.
  • It could lead to bacterial growth: When you leave spills on surfaces and food residues on dishes, they could lead to bacterial growth. Some bacteria that thrive in such an environment include E. coli and Salmonella. When these bacteria multiply, they can spread to food, leading to food-borne ailments.
  • It could cause pest infestation: Pests like cockroaches, mice, and ants love dirty kitchens. If you leave your kitchen dirty for an extended period it could become a breeding ground for such pests. These pests can contaminate food and can also be a nuisance.

The best way to avoid this kitchen hygiene mistake is to keep the kitchen clean

At least ensure you clean the dishes, sink, stove, surfaces, counters, and kitchen floor before going to sleep

Conclusion

There you have it. There are numerous kitchen hygiene mistakes you could be making. I hope this post will help you create a healthy and safe kitchen environment for the good of your loved ones and for your own good.

Which kitchen hygiene mistake are you guilty of? Kindly share your comments with us. Cheers!

 

Also read: 10 Awesome Self-care Tips for Moms; Give Yourself Some TLC Because You Deserve It

enna

I'm a life coach, teacher, mother, wife, writer, and blogger. I love writing about well-being, relationships, and family.

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