The 6 Germiest Things in Your Kitchen

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It's time to change up your cleaning routine.

You'll never look at your kitchen in quite the same light after reading NSF International's list of the germiest appliances. A study conducted in 2013 resulted in a list of the ten ickiest places in the kitchen, but six in particular deserve our attention because these are the ones harboring microorganisms that could cause illness.

1. Refrigerator vegetable compartment: Salmonella, Listeria, yeast and mold
2. Refrigerator meat compartment: Salmonella, E.coli, yeast and mold
3. Blender gasket: Salmonella, E.coli, yeast and mold
4. Can opener: Salmonella, E.coli, yeast and mold
5. Rubber spatula: E. coli, yeast and mold
6. Food storage container with rubber seal: Salmonella, yeast and mold

Thirty-six percent of the items tested positive for E.coli and salmonella. Listeria was found on 14 percent of the items, and all of them had traces of yeast and mold.

The items tested fall into two categories – places where food is stored and tools used to cook. So often we worry about cleaning the food itself, but neglect the places where it's kept. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention say that leafy vegetables are the largest source of foodborne illness in the U.S., causing nearly one-quarter of the 9.6 million cases of illness that occur annually. So it makes sense to be more careful about cleaning the places where you store those foods.

The same goes for kitchen tools; we pay attention to the obvious ones, like knives and cutting boards, but forget about the gunk that gets into a can opener, the crevices of a blender, or the inside of a spatula head. NSF International recommends following manufacturers' directions for cleaning on a regular basis:

"Blenders need to be disassembled, and the gasket pulled apart from the base, to be cleaned. Refrigerator vegetable and meat compartments need to be cleaned and sanitized regularly. Like all kitchen tools, can openers need washing and sanitizing after each use and rubber spatulas that are detachable should be pulled off the handle to be cleaned. Lastly, rubber seals in food storage containers should be thoroughly cleaned."

(I have to say, one of the best purchases I ever made was a self-cleaning blender. It does not have a removable gasket, but is a single solid piece that you fill with hot water and a drop of soap, then run on a cleaning cycle for a minute. I find I am more inclined to use the blender because I don't have to hunt for a missing gasket every time.)

Make scrubbing the produce and meat storage drawers part of your grocery shopping routine; give them a good wipe-down before filling them up. Put food storage containers in the dishwasher as soon as they're empty, and toss all the tools you use to prepare dinner in the wash every night, even if they don't look dirty.