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These are the dirtiest things in your kitchen that you should clean or replace ASAP

Woman cleaning and polishing the kitchen worktop with a spray detergent, housekeeping and hygiene concept
You may want to give your kitchen a deep clean after reading this. (Getty Images)

Whether you consider yourself a neat freak or not, you probably clean your kitchen countertops pretty regularly. And you likely know how to wash produce and cook meat to a safe temperature. However, you can do all of that and still expose yourself to tons of germs in your cooking space.

Not to scare you, but there are a lot of unexpected places that harbor dirt, grime and bacteria in your kitchen. According to a study on cross-contamination across a variety of kitchen surfaces published by the Journal of Food Protection in 2022, researchers found that spice jars had the highest amount of cross-contamination.

The study asked a set of consumers to prepare a meal using turkey patties containing bacteriophage MS2, and a lettuce salad. Once they were done, researchers took samples to assess cross-contamination with MS2 and found that “for most surfaces, positivity did not exceed 20%, with the exception of spice containers, for which 48% of the samples showed evidence of MS2 cross-contamination.”

The lesson? Always wash your hands after touching food. Heck, you may even want to invest in an automated soap dispenser so you don’t have to touch that either.

Have you ever thought about how dirty your pump-top soap dispenser might be? This battery-operated automatic model has a motion sensor to detect when your hand is underneath and squirts out the perfect amount of soap. More than 27,000 Amazon shoppers have given it a five-star rating, with one reporting: "I have ordered six of these in our home and really love them. They're easy to fill and maintain, and there's no mess with them. Very easy to use, nice quality."

$29 at Amazon

Of course, you may also want to wash your spice jars with hot soapy water or even replace them (while you're at it, go ahead and toss any spices that may be expired — yes, they can go bad).

These 4-ounce containers not only give your cabinet a more uniform look, but they're easy to clean and come with a funnel, so it's easy to fill them up.

$20 at Amazon

Trust us, though; there are lots of other germy areas in your kitchen. Below, some of the dirtiest things in your kitchen you should probably junking or scrubbing ASAP.

Things you should replace in your kitchen in 2024

Kitchen Sponges

This one may seem like a no-brainer, but it's easy to forget to replace your kitchen sponges, brushes and cloths. According to study from Scientific Reports on kitchen sponges, researchers found that "a single cubic centimeter could be packed with more than 5 x 1,010 bacteria." For comparison, the report says that such bacteria densities are generally only found in feces. Have we got your attention now?

If you think cleaning your sponge will help — nope! The study also found that boiling or microwaving a sponge only increases bacteria growth! Instead, you should replace your sponges regularly — ideally once every week or two.

If you're game to start a weekly sponge-replacement regimen, this 24-pack will last you about six months. With this deal, that'll net out to about $2.50 per month — not bad! 

$12 at Amazon

Cutting Boards

More bad news: Your go-to slicing-and-dicing surface can harbour 200% more fecal bacteria than a toilet seat, according to a study done by the University of Arizona. “In most cases, it’s safer to make a salad on a toilet seat than it is to make one on a cutting board,” Dr. Charles Gerba, a microbiologist and professor at the University of Arizona in Tucson, told Today. (BTW: Do NOT make a salad on your toilet seat.)

Whether yours is wood, plastic or glass, you need to give it more than a quick wipe down after each use. If you have a wooden one, you should disinfect it with bleach and treat it with mineral oil. However, if you have a plastic one, you can pour boiling water over it or even toss it in the dishwasher to sanitize it. To avoid any and all cross-contamination, you can always get different cutting boards for your produce and raw meats.

This set of silicone cutting boards is color coded and features icons in the corners, designating each for a different type of food. There's one board for fruits, vegetables, cheese, fish, poultry, meat and more. 

More than 4,400 Amazon shoppers have raved about them and their food-specific marking. One five-star fan also loves their durability: "The reverse has sufficient texture to prevent movement of the mat while prepping, and the cutting surface shows negligible marking from EXTREMELY sharp Zwilling Pro cutlery. Very pleased with this purchase."

$15 at Amazon

Knife Block

Okay, even as a self-proclaimed germaphobe, the presence of contaminants on a traditional knife block surprised me — but when you think about it, it makes sense. If you don't clean your knives well enough, food particles and bacteria can collect inside each slot in your block. To clean it, you can shake it upside down over the sink to remove any crumbs and let it sit in hot, soapy water for a while. Then, let it dry out completely before placing your blades back inside.

However, if that sounds like too much of a chore (especially since you'll want to do it regularly), get rid of your old-school block and replace it with an easy-to-clean flat, magnetic one.

Like the name suggests, there's a magnet embedded in this block that'll, keep your knives organized and in sight. Obviously, it's way easier to clean than a slotted block, and if you want to show off any fancy, expensive blades, you can display them right on your countertop. Nearly 7,000 Amazon shoppers have given it five out of five stars. One calls it a "must-have," saying "the strong enhanced magnets featured in this holder rack are a game changer. They securely hold my knives in place, providing easy access while ensuring safety. The knives remain in perfect condition, without any dulling or scratching."

$40 at Amazon

Plastic Food Containers

A true essential for every home chef for storing leftovers, meal prepping and more. Unfortunately, they can be a secret sanctuary for bacteria and pathogens. This is especially true for containers with a rubber seal. It's important to clean them really well — put them in the dishwasher if possible — and let them completely dry before closing them and tossing them back into the cupboard them away.

If you have any containers that are stained or worse for wear, you should probably go ahead and replace them. Oh, and if you'd like to steer clear of any potential BPA exposure, consider tosssing the plastic and investing in glass ones.

These are dishwasher-, microwave-, freezer- and even oven-safe. The leak-proof lids snap to lock, a BPA-free silicone ring keeping it all airtight. However, the silicone rings are removable, so you can easily wash them — put them in the dishwasher or soak them in hot, soapy water.

$40 at Amazon

Coffee Maker Filter

If you have a coffeemaker that filters water, like a Keurig, you probably don't replace the filter enough. Come on, when was the last time you remembered to do it? That's what we thought. Give your coffeemaker a good clean according to its instructions, soak the water reservoir in hot, soapy water and replace the filter ASAP.

According to Keurig, you should replace your water filter every two months. Write it down in your calendar or set a reminder in your phone, and stock up on these. This 12-pack should last you nearly two years! Keep in mind, not only does the filter clean your water; it prevents particles from entering your machine and building up inside.

$13 at Amazon

Things you should clean in your kitchen in 2024

Refrigerator

You keep all of your food in your refrigerator, so, yeah, you want to keep it clean. You can use a fragrance-free dish soap, bleach or baking soda to clean the drawers and shelves — follow these steps for ensuring you hit every nook and cranny.

Highly scented dish soap could throw off the smell or even the flavor of your food in your fridge. Keep things tasting as they should by cleaning with a soap like this one. It's biodegradable and hypoallergenic too. 

$4 at Amazon

Kitchen Sink

If you aren't already doing it, you should clean your kitchen sink daily. In fact, go a step further and clean it after every meal. Does that sound excessive? Well, try this factoid on for size: There's more E. coli in a kitchen sink than in a toilet after you flush it. The thing is, E. coli lives and grows in wet, moist environments like your sink, and bacteria feeds on the food left in there or shoved down the drain.

Spritz away with this to clean your kitchen sink, not to mention your countertops, cabinet handles and more. However, if you're strictly looking to disinfect, wipe down the surface, then spray this on and let is sit for at least two minutes before wiping it up. Then rinse with clean water. 

$4 at Amazon

Dishwasher

You may not think to clean your dishwasher because soap essentially goes into it every single day. However, if you're noticing that your dishes are not getting as clean as they usually do or if the machine's interior smells, it's time for a serious cleaning. You can watch this video from Home Depot on how to remove the filter and the spray arms to give them the deepest clean. However, there are also tablets you can use to get rid of limescale and mineral buildup to keep your machine in tip-top shape. They'll get at hard-to-reach places like the tub, the internal hoses and the pump and valve.

To use, simply put one of these in the detergent tray and run a normal dish cycle. If you suspect your machine is extra grimy, you can toss a second one in the bottom of the cavity as well. Do this once a month, and your machine will be golden!

$9 at Amazon

Salt and Pepper Shakers

Just think about all the hands that touch these — everyone in your whole household, plus friends and family that come over for a meal. Our advice: Empty your shakers and give them a good soak in hot, soapy water, and use a brush to scrub off any residue on the insides. Important: Make sure they're completely dry before refilling.

You can use this set of brushes to clean your salt and pepper shakers, as well as reusable straws, water bottles (like your Stanley tumbler!) or hard to reach areas around the kitchen. The brushes themselves are dishwasher-friendly, so you can sanitize them when you're done using them.

$11 at Amazon

Can Opener

When was the last time you cleaned your can opener? Never? Well, do it now. According to a study by the University of Rochester, you should really clean it after each use. The cutting wheel on them often touches the food inside the can, and if it doesn't get washed properly, it can accumulate bacteria like E.coli and salmonella.

Here's how: Use a brush to remove any food particles from the wheel and wash it with hot water and soap. To give it a deep clean and disinfecting, let it sit in a bleach-water solution, then rinse and dry it off to prevent rust.

Dissolve one of these in a gallon of hot water and scrub up your opener and any other kitchen items that need a good disinfecting. 

$8 at Amazon

The reviews quoted above reflect the most recent versions at the time of publication.