Clean Your Sink

Studies have found that the kitchen sink is crawling with even more bacteria than the garbage bin (the drain alone typically harbors 18,000 bacteria per square inch). The faucet handle, which can reintroduce bacteria to your hands after you’ve washed them, is a close second. Though hot, soapy water is amazingly effective at eliminating bacteria, for added insurance, clean these areas frequently with a solution of 1 tablespoon bleach per quart of water (the bleach will also kill off some of those microbes in the drain).

Clean Your Hands

Washing your hands is one of the best ways to stop the spread of food-borne pathogens. Wash before and during cooking, especially after touching raw meat and poultry. The U.S. Food and Drug administration recommends at least 20 seconds in hot, soapy water. How long is that? Try singing “Happy Birthday.” If your sanitized hands remain smelly (from working with pungent ingredients such as garlic, onions, or fish), try re-washing your hands with a couple of tablespoons of mouthwash. Any inexpensive brand is fine.

Clean Your Sponge

Whenever possible, use a paper towel or a clean dishcloth instead of a sponge to wipe up. If you do use a sponge, disinfect it. We tried microwaving, freezing, bleaching, and boiling sponges that had seen a hard month of use in the test kitchen, as well as running them through the dishwasher and simply washing them in soap and water. Lab results showed that microwaving and boiling were most effective, but since sponges can burn in a high-powered microwave, we recommend boiling them for 5 minutes.

Prevent Cross-Contamination from Seasonings

Though bacteria can’t live for more than a few minutes in direct contact with salt (which quickly dehydrates bacteria, leading to cell death), it can live on the edges of a box or shaker. To avoid contamination, transfer a little salt and ground pepper to small bowls. This way, you can reach into the bowls for seasoning without having to wash your hands every time you touch raw meat or fish. Afterward, the bowls go right in the sink or the dishwasher.

Prevent Cross-Contamination from Raw Turkey

When handling raw meat, such as turkey, avoid cross-contamination from bacteria by placing the plastic-wrapped bird on a rimmed baking sheet. Cut open the package with kitchen shears, leaving the empty package, shears, and any other dirty utensils on the sheet, and pat the turkey dry. Then discard the packaging and transfer the baking sheet and tools to the sink to clean.