Your Sink is Working Overtime – How to Keep it Clean and Fresh

Early on in my career I worked in a commercial bakery, where I had the opportunity to study the ins and outs of food safety. One thing that stood out – the importance of keeping a clean sink to avoid spreading germs.

For obvious reasons, countertops are a biggie to keep clean. And we all know that bacteria from raw meat, when prepped over the sink, can remain on the surface for a long time – days or even weeks, according to the CDC – where can then splatter to the countertops when sprayed by the faucet. So that’s one sink scenario; but let me tell you about what happened at our house last week:

Just as I’d finished soaping up the dishes and started to rinse them, one of my kids called out for me and I stepped away, leaving them in the sink. Meanwhile, my husband came in from working on a project in the garage, hands filthy with grime, solvents or whatever else, and proceeded to wash up all over the dishes I’d just soaped. As he walked away, I returned and just caught him out of the corner of my eye. Luckily I put together what had transpired, because if I hadn’t come in when I did, I would have given them a quick rinse and popped them on the drying rack. Neither of us would have been aware that they were covered in compounds that can make us sick.

When it comes to your sink, the workhorse of the kitchen, there’s more than one way to protect yourself and your family from harmful contaminants:

Don’t allow dirty dishes to linger in the sink.

This is key for more than one reason. The story I told I’m sure will resonate. Plus, even if not contaminated with additional sources, the longer that debris sits on a dirty dish, the greater the opportunity for bacteria to grow. Learn to love the “clean as you go” approach! Not only will you be happier when not stuck with a sinkful of dishes after cooking, it’s much safer, too.

Scrub down your sink after washing meat

Most experts advise against washing raw meat, as they feel the potential harms outweigh any benefits. If you must soak, thaw, or rinse meat in your sink, wash the basin with warm soapy water immediately afterward, and rinse with very hot water. Don’t forget that your countertop surrounding the sink could also become contaminated, so cleaning here, too, is a must. The inverse also holds true – clean your sink before you wash your meat to avoid bounceback. 

Know how to clean your sink’s specific surface

There are good and bad cleaning agents to use depending on the material of your sink. On my stainless steel sink, I routinely use a spent lemon half with some baking soda to scrub it clean, however, that’s a terrible idea should you have a natural stone sink, like of marble or limestone. On natural surfaces, you should only use a gentle cleanser. Porcelain is a non-pourous material, though can scratch and scuff over time, so use a non-abrasive cleanser. As for wiping, I suggest using a microfiber cloth or soft sponge to keep your sink looking it’s best. 

Rinse away food particles

It’s a pet peeve of mine to walk past the sink and find leftover food debris from dishwashing. Turns out, it’s a good instinct to have. Food particles can grow harmful bacteria, which can contaminate your sink. Immediately after rinsing dishes, wash out the sink and run the disposal. If you don’t have a disposal, keep the drain trap clean and clear. 

Wash after each use

Get in the habit of using your rag and dish soap to do a quick clean of your sink each time you are finished. That way, grime doesn’t have a chance to build up, and bacteria doesn’t have a chance to grow. 

Keep your disposal clean

If you have a garbage disposal, clean it regularly to avoid odors and grime buildup. Place a few spoonfuls of baking soda in the disposal, then pour in distilled vinegar and let it sit for 15-20 minutes.  Flush with hot or boiling water, while it is running.

Wash garage hands elsewhere

I’m still working on my husband : )

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