Your kitchen is probably seeing a lot more use right now. After all, almost everyone is brushing up on their home cooking skills instead of getting takeout.
But, is your kitchen really safer than going to a restaurant?
But only if you’re cleaning it properly and aren’t making these common Covid-19 mistakes.
Most people still don’t know what changes they should be making to keep their homes and kitchens safe and clean. It doesn’t help that the recommendations for safe Covid-19 behavior changed so much in the early days of the pandemic.
I’ve looked at the most up-to-date guidance on how you should be cleaning your kitchen and handling your groceries, specifically to put this guide together. Address these common kitchen hygiene mistakes you’re making during Covid-19, and you’ll be well on your way to a healthier home.
Don’t worry. You can make your kitchen safer without having to clean or bleach everything every day. Changing just a few habits will make your kitchen a lot safer.
In this guide you’ll learn:
- Basic Kitchen Cleaning Habits for the Pandemic
- How to Get Groceries and Put them Away Safely
- The Pros and Cons of Ordering Groceries Online
- And Much More!
What's in this Guide?
Mistake # 1: You’re Still Leaving Your Cell Phone on the Kitchen Counter
With all the concerns over mask wearing, hand sanitizer, and hand washing, there’s one huge vector of Covid-19 that most of us are forgetting about. Your cell phone.
Think about it. Your cell phone goes with you almost everywhere. You probably touch your cell phone more often than anything else. It’s in your hand as you check of items on your grocery list. It’s on your counters with new recipes and playing music while you cook.
You might even actively use your cell phone while you clean your kitchen.
Your Cell Phone Can Carry the Virus for Days
Your cell phone carries thousands of germs. Those germs don’t belong on your counter, but they have an opportunity to spread throughout your kitchen every time your cell phone is out.
Of course your phone isn’t the only thing that represents a Coronavirus risk. Your keys, tablet, and even your mail can all have small amounts of the virus. But your cell phone is one of the best surfaces for the virus to live on because it’s smooth and non-porous.
On smooth, non-porous surfaces like glass, metal, and plastic, the virus can survive up to 72 hours.
Once The Virus is On Your Counters, It’s Probably on Your Hands
Once the virus is on your counters it can easily spread. That means your cutting boards, fruits and vegetables, and any cookware that touches that counter could be contaminated.
I know that sounds really bad, so deep breath. It’s not as scary as it sounds. The novel Coronavirus is a respiratory illness which means that it spreads primarily through small droplets and viral contamination getting on your nose, mouth, or eyes.
There’s no evidence that the coronavirus spreads on the food you eat. Instead, it spreads by getting on your hands or in your face.
That does still leave the risk of getting sick because you prepared your food on a contaminated surface and touched your face before washing your hands.
Since people tend touch their face without realizing it, it’s better to try and eliminate the risk instead of just avoiding touching your face.
Easy Solutions That Keep Your Counters Cleaner
Fortunately, there are a few easy solutions.
Keep Your Cell Phone Somewhere Else:
The first step is to build a habit of leaving your cell phone and other personal devices out of your kitchen. A small basket by your front door can hold your keys and other small items you only need when you leave the house.
If you have a shelf in your kitchen that only has decorations, or that could be easily cleared off, that can become your designated cell phone zone. That way you minimize contamination risk, but can still use your cell phone for recipes, music, and more.
Just make sure you wash your hands after touching your phone!
Clean Cells Phones, Keys, and Other Small Items Once Every Day!
During the pandemic, one of the most important recommendations you can follow is to clean off your cell phone, and any other small items you carry with you, once per day.
Sanitizing wipes are a good option for your keys, employee ID badges, and any other small items. For your cell phone, stick with an alcohol screen wipe with at least 70% alcohol content.
Wipe Down Counters Before You Use Them
The last step to keep your kitchen cleaner and avoid cell phone contamination is to wash your counters before preparing food.
Really, this is an important tip all the time, and will help avoid food poisoning and other illness even after the pandemic is over.
But while we all have to live with the Coronavirus it’s even more important.
Soap and warm water creates an inhospitable environment for the virus and other contaminants. Even if you don’t kill all the virus, you’ll significantly lower your odds of getting sick.
Mistake # 2: You Aren’t Cleaning Out Your Refrigerator Often Enough
Okay. I’ve covered your cell phone and your counters, but what about your refrigerator? Can the Coronavirus survive in the refrigerator?
Unfortunately, yes, the Coronavirus can survive in your refrigerator. In fact, a study on two similar viruses in 2010 showed that this kind of virus might even survive longer on cold, humid surfaces.
Sound familiar? Yes, that describes your refrigerator exactly.
Normally I’d only recommend that you deep clean your refrigerator a few times a year. But during the pandemic, you should clean your refrigerator more often.
No, don’t worry about cleaning out your entire fridge every day or even every week. Instead, focus on the high traffic areas. Here, I’ll break it down for you.
Daily Wipe Down
There’s only one place you should wipe down every day — your fridge and freezer handles.
Plain soap and water is plenty.
Sanitizer wipes will also work well on your fridge and freezer handles.
Weekly Clean Up
Your crisper drawers are one of the better places for the virus in most refrigerators. It’s a little more humid near the crisper drawers, and cold without approaching freezing. Those are the exact conditions the Coronavirus likes.
So, prioritize wiping out your crisper drawers with soap and water once a week. You may even notice that your produce lasts longer when you clean your crisper drawers this way!
You should also clean off any surfaces that got wet through the week.
Lastly, keep your leftover food in one part of your fridge and wipe out that area once a week. Since you likely handled your leftovers (and the container they’re in) more than other food, there’s a greater chance of virus existing on the containers and shelving around them.
By keeping your refrigerator just a little bit cleaner, you’re dodging one of the most common covid kitchen hygiene mistakes! Go You!
Mistake # 3: You Haven’t Changed Your Grocery Story Routine
Before the pandemic it was totally normal to pick up your dishes a couple days at a time. It was common to run to the grocery store for one or two things you need quick. It was normal to bring re-usable bags that hadn’t been washed without a care in the world.
That’s no longer the new normal. Your grocery store routine should have changed, but maintaining the same grocery store routine is one of the biggest kitchen hygiene mistakes people are making during the pandemic.
Here’s what you need to know:
Masks? Gloves? What PPE Do You Need to Shop Safely?
Taking appropriate precautions at the grocery store is a powerful way to keep your kitchen cleaner. It sounds easy, but quickly gets confusing with the different recommendations, regulations, and outright conspiracy theories about how you can stay safe.
When it comes to the grocery store, the main PPE you need is a mask. Masks help reduce the spread of respiratory droplets, the main source of the virus.
Masks keep you safer, keep the people around your safer, and keep the virus off your food. Those precautions also help you avoid bringing the virus home with you.
Here’s a helpful video going over mask wearing and which masks are most effective for what. Now, at the end of this video the doctor does say that mask wearing is a voluntary guidance, but that isn’t true everywhere.
Some places have mandated mask wearing, and makes it a misdemeanor not to, so you should always check and see whether mask wearing is required in your area.
Early in the pandemic many people took to wearing gloves out in public, but there are a lot of problems with wearing gloves.
For one thing, plastic medical gloves are actually a better surface for the virus to survive on. They are non-porous and perfect for viral survival. Plus, gloves don’t have the immune response your skin does.
While you don’t want to get the virus on your hands if you can help it, washing your hands and using hand sanitizer keeps them clean. Plus, your skin has defense mechanisms that are meant to kill viruses and harmful bacteria before they can infect your body.
If you have to choose between getting the virus on your hands and then on your face, or getting it on gloves and then on your face, choose your hands. They at least have a better chance of fighting off the virus before it reaches an infection point like your nose, eyes, and mouth.
Wearing gloves when you don’t need them can also contribute to the spread of the virus. That’s because, once the virus is on your gloves, it’s on everything else you touch until you change gloves.
That includes your phone, your grocery cart, your kitchen counters, and even your face and your mask.
So, when it comes to effective PPE, keep the mask and skip the gloves.
Mistake # 4: You Aren’t Killing the Virus on Your Dishes
I already mentioned that the virus can survive on smooth, non-porous hard surfaces for up to 72 hours. Well… that describes most if not all your dishes too, not just your counters and refrigerator shelves.
With the increased importance of your kitchen during the pandemic, it’s so important to keep your kitchen cleaner. I can’t emphasize this enough.
If you want to avoid Covid in your home, your kitchen needs to be your priority.
And dishes are right up there on the list.
Here’s how you can start killing the virus on your dishes and avoid another pandemic kitchen hygiene mistake.
Your Dishwasher Is Too Cold
If you have a dishwasher with a heat setting, go ahead and crank that way up. You want your dishwasher to run at about 60 degrees Celsius, or 140 degrees Fahrenheit, to get the job done.
That’s because viruses can be relatively hardy bugs. They aren’t alive in the traditional sense, as a virus is just a bundle of genetic code that can take over a cell’s function to reproduce. That means if you aren’t doing something that can break apart the virus’s RNA, it will survive.
Turning up the heat helps break through the protein shell surrounding the virus, effectively destroying that genetic code and ‘killing’ the virus before it can infect you.
So turn up your dishwasher’s heat setting if you can. Otherwise, if you can’t directly turn up the heat, use a ‘pots and pans’ setting with a heated air dry. That should do the trick.
You Aren’t Handwashing Your Dishes Right
If you don’t have a dishwasher, or just need to hand wash a couple of dishes quickly, you still need to follow some common sense precautions to avoid a covid-19 hygiene mistake.
Most importantly, you need to use hotter water, and let your dishes soak longer.
Hot water is just as important for hand-washing as washing in a dishwasher. Start your dishes by soaking in water as hot as you can stand it, and consider getting a thick pair of rubber gloves to help.
It’s okay if you need to cool the water down later, but a 10 minute soak in very hot soapy water will kill any virus on your dishes. You can cool the temperature down to something more comfortable after ten minutes and will have still killed most or all of the virus.
Don’t Skip Soaking! Many people think that as long as they use soap to wash their dishes it’s find to just scrub them, rinse, and dry. But soaking gives your soap and water longer to work, helping kill more viruses and bacteria than it can with scrubbing alone.
Just a quick ten minute soak before you wash will make washing easier, and your dishes safer.
Mistake # 5: You’re Too Worried About What’s On Your Food and Not Worried Enough About How You Catch Covid-19
This last mistake is one of the most common kitchen hygiene mistakes happening during the pandemic. People are worried about the virus getting on their food, in their kitchens, and in their homes, but not worried about how that happens in the first place.
Remember, Covid-19 isn’t a stomach bug, it isn’t food poisoning, and it’s unlikely to survive the acids in your stomach. This is a respiratory illness, and that means the virus needs to get to your respiratory system to replicate itself and cause problems.
Washing your food isn’t a solution, especially if you aren’t using food-safe soaps to do it. Wearing a mask, washing your hands and personal devices, and washing re-usable items like bags, boxes, and food storage containers are all more effective than washing your produce.
Better yet, minimize the risk of the grocery store entirely and order your groceries online. I know that isn’t always an ideal solution, so here are so pros and cons worth considering if you’re not sure whether shopping yourself is a good choice for you.
Pros and Cons of Ordering Groceries Online
- Greatly reduces risk of direct person-to-person exposure
- Saves time
- Your groceries are exposed to fewer people
- Good option if you don’t have a mask
- Minimizes exposure for immune compromised and other vulnerable populations
- You may not always get the brand you want
- Can’t pick fruits and veggies yourself
- Can’t tell if the person shopping for you wore a mask
- May end up with more expensive substitutions you don’t want
Ordering groceries online is a personal choice, but I still think that it’s a good option and better than shopping in person.
My Final Thoughts on Covid-19 Kitchen Hygiene Mistakes
There are tons of kitchen hygiene mistakes you can make during the pandemic, and I can’t list them all. Instead I’ve focused on the most important and most common mistakes, and the easiest solutions.
I also know that this virus can be incredibly frightening, and it can seem like there is just too much to do if you want to fight back and keep yourself safe. Don’t try to be a superhero, you can’t do everything.
If this list felt overwhelming, pick one or two things you think you can do and start there. You don’t need to do everything to fight this virus. Just take a few small steps and you’ll be helping this pandemic end.
Hang in there, and remember, you can do this.