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Desperate for an alternative to smelly, germ-filled kitchen towels and sponges, our writer discovers antibacterial dishcloths -- and a bunch of other easy ways to disinfect the kitchen.

dishcloths, disinfect your kitchen
Photo Credit: SuperL, flickr

I have three small children, so a game of "what's that smell?" is not uncommon in our home. A sippy cup hiding in the toy box or forgotten snacks in the backpack are typical culprits. But often, that smell could be traced back to the kitchen sink.

Within a day or two, a perfectly fresh dishcloth can turn into something icky, slimy, stinky and disgusting. Even if I stay on top of the situation, all it takes is one child cleaning up spilled milk and not rinsing the cloth -- or worse, hiding it somewhere, only to be found later during another epic game of "what's that smell?" -- to set off my olfactory alarm. It had gotten to a point where smelly dishcloths were taking over my kitchen and it was driving me crazy. I'd even thrown out a few particularly rank towels just to avoid dealing with them.

It wasn't just the embarrassing smell that eventually got to me, but also the idea of how truly unhygienic it was to have these nasty cloths in my kitchen. In a report by the Hygiene Council – a panel of the world's leading microbiologists and virologists, kitchen towels are notorious for harboring and spreading bacteria. According to George Szatmari, a microbiologist at Mcgill University, "the kitchen sink is 6,000 times more contaminated than the average toilet". Ew.

This kind of thing can make a person sick -- literally. Even small amounts of bacteria, particularly those transfered from the foods we prepare, can lead to illness. And let's not leave sponges out of this equation -- those soggy germ incubators masquerading as cleaning tools. Sanitizing your dishcloths and sponges properly (or getting rid of them altogether!) is crucial to keeping bacteria away and maintaining a flu-free home.

So one day, on the advice of one very wise friend, I switched to antibacterial microfiber cloths in the kitchen. The change has had a tremendous impact on how I use my kitchen and how I feel about the cleanliness of my space.

The Norwex line of antibacterial cleaning cloths and kitchen cloths are my favorite. They work amazingly well, can stand up to my neglect, and actually come with a two-year warranty. They combine an environmentally friendly antibacterial silver-based agent with a typical microfiber cloth. The silver-based agent destroys the bacteria that it picks up, so you're not just transferring the problem; you're actually killing it. You can rinse out the cloth and use it over and over, which means less laundry to boot!

If you want a less expensive, store-bough solution, rumor has it that the Clorox brand cloth works wonders. (If you've tried them, let me know what you think!) The Clorox cloth works differently, but does the same job, using a patented coating that binds chlorine-based bleach to the cotton cloth. The bleach stops bacteria growth. Every time you rinse the cloth, the coating is reactivated so, like the Norwex cloth, you can use it repeatedly. Fewer green points here, but a far better solution than bleach sprays and disposable sponges.

Antibacterial dishcloths may have changed my entire kitchen experience, but they certainly aren't the only way to get a germ-free kitchen.

Here are five easy ways to disinfect your kitchen:

dishcloths, dirty dishes, disinfect your kitchenGetty Images

1. Get rid of that sponge. Seriously. Even if you've switched to antibacterial cloths, it's tempting to keep the sponge around, just in case. But a sponge is a hotbed of bacteria. You don't need it. If you simply must have a sponge in the kitchen, wash it properly and replace it regularly. You can heat a damp sponge in the microwave or run it through the dishwasher to kill the bacteria.

2. Stop using antibacterial hand soap. In an effort to get rid of bacteria, we run the risk of welcoming even stronger bacteria into our kitchens by using antibacterial soap. Proper handwashing is sufficient.

3. Keep the sink clean. Bacteria thrives in wet kitchen sinks and drains, so keep your sink clean by emptying it, wiping it down and drying it daily. Every week, give it a more complete cleansing by filling it with hot water and one cup of vinegar. Let it soak for an hour, rinse it out and dry it thoroughly.

4. Replace your plastic cutting board with a wooden board. It was once believed that the porous nature of a wooden cutting board would provide a dangerous breading ground for bacteria. But on the contrary, studies have shown that bacteria dies off quickly on wood surfaces. It remains -- and in fact multiplies -- on plastic surfaces. Remember to use separate boards for meat preparation.

5. Don't forget the can opener. It's easy to forget about the can opener because it doesn't get visibly dirty, but it's a great hideout for bacteria to grow. And speaking of neglected bacteria hotspots in the kitchen, don't forget your fridge door handle, microwave handle, coffee pot, and oven knobs.

For chemical-free ways to clean and disinfect your kitchen appliances, check out this video:

  • traymond21167

    I just finished my new kitchen these are good tips to know.

  • Gail

    I just remodeled my kitchen. Http:// It came out awesome!

  • Ken

    I have listened to this at least 5 times and I still do not understand what we are supposed to put into the toaster? "extra large......................."?????????/ . No one can understand what is being recommended. " extra large ....................? Please tell us again in clear ENGLISH. Thank you. Shapiro

  • Dennis R

    I think i heard her say extra large "salt"

  • Kitchen Chemist

    Oh, btw: Ken, I believe they used extra large salt granules. It wasn't a cleaning product, so that kinda threw me off too, but that's what they put in the toaster! Salt crystals...... You might still need to watch the video, maybe do a demo yourself. Think of it this way: Is it easier for a person to stick their hand in a toaster and fish the crumbs out, or a bunch of salt granules that actually fit in the toaster?

  • kay

    To easily and effectively clean coffee/tea pots: put ice (cubed or crushed) and a few a tablespoons of salt in the pot; then swirl it around for half a minute or so; now you have a fresh scrubbed pot! It works perfect for pots you can't get your hands into! You can also substitute baking soda for the salt, this works especially nice on porcelain pots with old coffee/tea stains!

  • Joy

    I love sponges in my kitchen so......everyday I wash it with soap, rinse it and put it in the microwave for two minutes. Once a week I toss it for a new one. If I use a dish cloth, in the dirty laundry that day, ditto for dish towels. New one every day.

  • kelly miller

    What great tips, I have never heard of this site...I'm hooked.

  • Kelly Miller

    In regards to your comment to sponges, the Norwex line the article mentioned has a sponge called the Spirisponge that has a "silver agent" in it and kills the bacteria so that you can use the sponge over an dover. You stick n the dishwasher when you feel it gets real dirty. It serioulsy last for weeks, at least 4, sometimes 6 and it doesn't scratch nonstick pans. I have one in my kitchen and my bathroom.

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