Creating A Safe Food Environment

There's nothing worse than working diligently to prepare a meal in an unsanitary kitchen. Not to mention the health risks and potential hazards a contaminated workspace can create. A little elbow grease and the sacrifice of some time can eliminate the chance of food poisoning and a trip to the doctor.

Start at the top and work your way down. Clean out the light fixtures to be rid of any bug parts and dust. Wipe off fan blades and any other flat surfaces (like the tops of cabinets and the refrigerator) where the nasty stuff collects. Getting rid of this now will keep surfaces you've already cleaned from getting showered on later.

Empty the cabinets and clean your dishes in hot, soapy water. Chances are some of them haven't been used in a while and are covered in dust. If you own a pet there is probably fur and dander on the shelves, so wipe them off as well. Thoroughly clean the outsides of the cabinet doors and disinfect the handles. Reorganize as necessary and restock.

Focus on the refrigerator. Empty it, remove the shelves and drawers and wash everything in hot, soapy water. Your owner's manual may have specifics about what types of cleaners to use or not use. Get rid of any food past its prime and replace the good stuff. (Now is also a great time to plan some menus while you have everything out where you can see it.) Repeat in the freezer. Lastly wipe down the outside and the handles.

Clean all those horizontal surfaces, starting with the stove and then the counters. Remove everything and get in all the little nooks and crannies. Then clean each item as you put it back - the coffee pot, the knife stand, the cup tree, the containers. You don't want to put grimy pieces back on top of all your hard work.

Drain and disinfect the sinks and faucet. Replace all the towels and dish cloths.

And finally the floor. Wash the rugs as necessary. Sweep and mop, then call it a day! You've got a sparkling, decontaminated, happy kitchen that just begs you to dirty it up again with meal preparation. This time, though, you'll be more motivated to clean up as you go, deep clean cutting boards, pans and skillets before you put them back, and keep things organized. Your food, your family and your own body will thank you.

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