When I was at school in the 70’s and early 80’s, we had a subject called Home Economics where they taught us to knit, sew and cook. They also taught us kitchen hygiene and other housewifely topics. The subject is now called Consumer Studies.
The first thing you need to know is how to wash dishes. There is a specific order to this and for very good reason.
Before you even start on the dishes is your sink or basin clean? Are the drying racks, that you will put these newly cleaned dishes on to dry, clean? What about the dishcloth and towels?
If your sink or basin is dirty or has a greasy film on it, how clean will you get your dishes? If the drying rack is dirty, your dishes won’t stay clean, and wiping your dishes with a dirty towel just defeats the purpose of washing them.
My kids will tell you that I am mildly OCD when it comes to using soap and water. This applies especially to my kitchen as well as their hands.
I remember watching a British TV Program about cleanliness and in it they went to a house where 3 friends lived. One was a vegetarian, the other two weren’t. The people making the documentary used an ultra violet dye on a piece of meat that the people were going to “cook”, (the participants weren’t told that the meat was not edible with the dye in it so they prepared the meal, but were stopped before they could eat it). The vegetarian guy made his salad using clean knives and a cutting board from the cupboard.
The meals were prepared separately and the utensil washed. The meat eaters prepared first and then washed up. After this the vegetarian came and prepared his food. After everything was prepared the film crew went in with a UV light and every single surface had traces of the dye. This included everything from the fridge door handle to the washed knives and cutting board. This is called cross contamination and it is not visible to the naked eye.
Now let’s wash those dishes!
You need very hot water, a decent dishwashing liquid and some elbow grease, or you need a dishwasher.
There is an order to washing dishes hygienically by hand.
Any very dirty serving dishes or pots which have baked-on food should be filled with boiling water and a little soap, to loosen everything, and set aside to soak.
Pour out any leftover liquid in bottles, glasses and cups or mugs. Scrape your dishes clean in to the dustbin. You would need to do this for a dishwasher as well. Now add very hot water to your sink or basin together with some soap.
The first thing you wash is baby bottles if you have these. Clean the teat really well by using a teat brush to clean the holes and the teat. Then use a brush to clean the ring as milk gets stuck and dried in the screw thread. Lastly wash the bottles, then sterilise the bottles as usual.
Now you need to wash your glasses, then your cutlery. The reason we do it in this order is that we wash the things that go into our mouths first.
You are now ready to wash your plates and then you can wash your pots and pans.
If the water gets too dirty, you will need to change it. This is why a dishwasher is more hygienic and saves more water, therefore, more money. We cannot put our hands into 65˚C water without getting burned, this is an ideal temperature that almost sterilises your cutlery and crockery. You also can do all the dishes at once.
Have a look at the drain in your sink. Is it black? This needs to be cleaned once a week. We also clean our drying racks weekly.
Clean all your work surfaces with an antibacterial cleaning solution, whether it is commercial, homemade, or even organic. This should be done before preparation of each meal as most people only wipe their surfaces once they are done with food prep.
Now about those chopping boards? How many do you have and what are they made of?
Did you know you should have one for raw meat, one for cooked meat, one for raw fish, another for cooked fish and still another for fruit and vegetables?
University of California Davis researcher Dean Cliver says that to prevent contamination of foods, meats should be cut on plastic cutting boards as it is easier to sanitize. Fruit, vegetables and ready to eat foods like bread, should be cut on wooden boards.
I do not have this many boards. If I have prepared raw meat on a board, it must be washed well and dried before I use it again. I have a wooden board for carving cooked meat and that is it’s only use. I have 4 thin flexible plastic cutting boards which I bought as a set. I use the red one for raw meats, and a green one for fruit and vegetables, the white one for raw fish and the yellow one for spare!
Dish clothes and sponges are another area of concern in the kitchen. Drying cloths should be changed daily and while you can throw the dishcloths into the washing machine, you can’t do the same with the sponges. So how often do you need to change your sponge?
Your kitchen sponge is 200 000 times dirtier than your toilet!
In an interview with the Mail Online in Britain, Professor Hugh Pennington, one of Britain’s leading microbiologists, agreed the kitchen and, in particular, the sponge, was among the dirtiest places in the home. Professor Pennington said that it was fine to use when washing up with hot water but not to wipe the plates clean.
Kitchen sponges, cloths and chopping boards have been linked to severe bacterial infestations. Your kitchen sponge should be disinfected every day in a bleach solution (Jik) and changed, either as soon as it starts to smell, or every 3 months.
Are you a germaphobe? How often do you change or wash your drying towels? Have you ever cleaned your dishracks?