Spring Cleaning – Sanitizing Versus Washing

person cleaning counterWhen you are doing your cleaning do you ever wonder if you are getting something truly clean or just wiping the dirt off the surface? I think about it a lot because I often rush through the cleaning just to make the house look nice before someone comes over. For the second week of spring cleaning, I would like to bring back a blog topic I wrote in 2011 called “How Clean is it?  Sanitizing vs. Washing”.

As I mentioned before, often when I am cleaning I am motivated by having a nice looking house. What I should really be motivated by is having a home that has a safe level of germs. Having no germs in the house would make it sterile, and that is not a possibility, so I need to aim for a safe level of germs. The best way to do that is to wash and sanitize.

Washing is done best with hot soapy water. This removes all the visible dirt, food, hair, and other disgusting things around my home. When spring cleaning, most things can be washed – counters, cupboards, walls, floors, door knobs, light switches, railings, showers, and toilets. The bonus of washing is that when the surface grime is washed away, so are some of the germs.

Unfortunately, washing does not get rid of enough of the germs, so the next step is sanitizing. What you sanitize and how often you sanitize depends on your situation – check out this handout for suggestions. I usually sanitize high use surfaces (countertops, toilets) a couple of times a week, some surfaces (light switches, door knobs) monthly, and other surfaces (cupboards, walls) a couple of times a year. You can sanitize daily if you need to.

I sanitize two different ways. After the surface that I have washed has dried, I will either spray it with a bleach solution or wipe it off with disinfecting wipes. Then let the surface air dry or dry with a paper towel before using it. Both ways will get the amount of germs down to a safe level. Fewer germs leads to less sickness and less sickness leads to lower doctor bills.

To make your own bleach solution add ½ teaspoon regular bleach (or 1/8 teaspoon concentrated bleach) and 2 cups of water to a spray bottle.  Bleach solutions need to be dumped out and re-made about once per week.

Have fun with your spring cleaning,

Justine

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

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Spring Cleaning – Your Refrigerator

cleaning refrigeratorAs the weather warms up in March, I like to open up the windows, let in some fresh air, and do some spring cleaning. Since I have two young children at home, my spring cleaning usually happens in fits and starts. To tell the truth, my goal is usually to have the spring cleaning done by early May because I can only find a free hour or two each week to devote to it. This week and next week I am going to bring back a couple of old blog topics to help with spring cleaning this year.

This week we are going to go back to a blog written in January of 2013, “How to Clean and Organize your Refrigerator”. My refrigerator desperately needs to be cleaned out, so I think it is going to be my first spring cleaning project. Having a clean refrigerator prevents food waste because you can easily see what you have on hand and what needs to be eaten up soon. Having a clean refrigerator also lowers your risk of food-borne illness because foods are more likely to stay at the appropriate temperature and less likely to spoil.

Here is a simple checklist to follow for cleaning your refrigerator. Here are a few things you can do quickly if you do not have the time for a full refrigerator cleaning:

  • Make sure your refrigerator temperature is 40°F or slightly below and your freezer is 0°F or below. Higher temperatures mean faster food spoilage.
  • Air circulates constantly in a refrigerator and foods dry out quickly. Everything needs to be wrapped in foil, plastic, or put in airtight containers. Moisture- and vapor-proof materials are best.
  • Perishables like dairy, eggs, and meat should be kept in the coldest part of the refrigerator (not the door). Fresh meat should be in a drawer or in a container on a bottom shelf so any juices that leak do not drip on other foods.
  • Identify a spot for leftovers and label them. Make a plan to use them. If you know you will not use them within four days, freeze them or throw them away.
  • Wipe up spills in the refrigerator when they happen to prevent bacteria (germs) and odors from developing. Use hot soapy water to clean up any spill and rinse with clean water.

Good luck with your spring cleaning,

Justine

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover

Justine Hoover is a Registered Dietitian and mom who loves to cook for her family.

More Posts - Website

How to Organize the Kitchen Pantry

I think of myself as an organized person.  However, I know that I have a problem with clutter.  If you have not gotten to the back of your kitchen pantry in a long time, here is a step by step guide that I used last weekend.

  1. Clear off and clean your countertops.
  2. Take everything out of the pantry including food storage containers and other junk that may have accumulated.
  3. Working from the top shelf down, wash and dry the panty shelves including the corners or cracks, to remove crumbs and food particles.
  4. Evaluate the places you store food.  Food stores best in cool dark spaces. Try to rearrange so that your food is kept in the cool dark spaces in your kitchen. Keep your pots, pans, utensils, and tableware in the cabinets near the oven, stove, hot pipes, or refrigerator exhaust.
  5. Sort your food on the countertop by categories. The ones I used were canned soups and broths, canned fruits, canned vegetables, canned legumes, condiments (catsup, pickles, salad dressing, canned sauces, etc.), canned meat/fish, dried beans, and rice and pasta.
  6. Find a place in the pantry for each category. Check the “used best by dates” on the food before putting them back on the shelves. Next week we will have tips on how to decide which foods should be discarded.
  7. Use the same principles as we talked about in The Basics of Kitchen Organization last week. Create centers, get rid of what you are not using, and use your prime space for the most used items.
  8. Use bins and baskets for items like dry pudding mixes, sauce mixes, and bags of dry beans.
  9. Before you quit for the day decide what you what to do with the items you removed from your shelves.

What did I gain from this exercise?

  • Oil, vinegars, and syrups were moved from above the stove where it is warm to another cupboard.
  • 4 bottles of balsamic vinegar were found?!? I think part of the problem was I could not see to the back of that cupboard.
  • Expired can of cream soup that said “best used by” 4 years ago was found. The soup is probably safe but I decided not to chance it and threw it away.
  • Canned goods were organized by putting multiples on the shelves and one of a kind on the shelves on the back of the door.
  • Through this process I found some pizza crusts and rice noodles I forgot I had. Menus were made to use them next week.
  • I do not need to buy canned tomatoes, black beans, or canned green beans for a while.

The picture to the right shows some of the things that I am removing from my kitchen:

  • I am throwing away the old food.
  • My niece who has a new apartment is going to check out if she needs any of my utensils or dishes.
  • I am taking the rest to the Free Store which takes household items. They give them to families who are moving out of Children & Families of Iowa’s Domestic Violence Services. Most communities have a center to give away items you don’t need.

Doesn’t it feel good to help someone else AND have a kitchen which is easier to work in?

The Basics of Kitchen Organization

In the last few days, I’ve been reading a lot about organizing kitchens and how kitchen organization relates to saving money.  The three common themes I found are listed below:

1. Create “centers” in your kitchen around common activities. Common activities include: food storage, cooking and serving, cleanup, planning/messages, and eating. The idea of centers is that you group all the items that will be used on a task close to each other. For instance silverware, plates, and glasses,  are stored close to the dishwasher or drying area so you can just stand and put them away rather than carrying them across the room. Baking ingredients including flour, sugar,  leavening, and baking tools are grouped together in another location for a baking center.

I thought I was doing pretty well creating “centers” but I made a couple of changes that I think will help my organization. I moved my rolls of foil, plastic wrap, and plastic bags directly across from the refrigerator so I can easily prepare foods for the refrigerator or freezer. I included marking pens to write what is in them plus the date (so as not to have more UFO-unidentified food objects).

I moved my colander and cutting boards under the sink. To make room for them, I moved the vases and plant care items that I won’t use until spring to a box in the garage.

2. Get rid of items you are not using. The old rule about getting rid of clothes you haven’t worn also applies to serving dishes, utensils, and small appliances: If you haven’t used it in a year you probably don’t need it. I was ashamed of my cooking utensil drawer so I decided to do what all the experts say: lay everything out, clean, remove duplicates, remove items you do not use, and remove items that belong somewhere else. I like the results of my work and I think I can keep it in order now that the drawer isn’t so full.

Utensil Drawer Before
Utensil Drawer After
Removed From Drawer

3. Store the items you use the most between your shoulders and knees and in the front where they will be visible.  This way, it is easy to find what you are looking for and quick to put items away.  I moved my flour and sugar canisters to the bottom cupboard instead of using prime space in my top cupboard because I don’t bake every day.  In their place, I put the coffee filters, tea bags, and travel cups that I use often.

I am happy with the changes I made. I think it will make food preparation and clean up faster and less stressful. The key, of course, will be if I can follow through and put things back where they belong.

If you would like to read more on this subject, here are 2 great resources:

Essential Kitchen Tool kit This kit from the Canned Food Alliance has great tips on kitchen organization.

Dealing with Clutter in the Kitchen This page is part of a website that includes ideas for clutter reduction all over the house

Next week: How to organize your pantry and how to tell if food is still good.

How Clean is it? – Washing vs. Sanitizing

I have been thinking about sanitizing a lot lately.  Not just getting things washed, but sanitized.  When I wash something, I get all the visible dirt, crumbs, pet hair, etc. off of it.  When I sanitize something, I get the germs off of it to prevent my family from getting sick.  I know that if I can keep the germs off the things in my home that my family touches a lot, I can keep them out of the doctor office, which saves me time and money.    

So, why have I been thinking about sanitizing a lot lately?  My son tries to touch and eat everything.  On top of that, he still eats most of his food with his hands.  Just this morning, I watched him run into the bathroom and pound on the toilet, then run into the living room to pet the dog, then run over to his toys where he began to play.  Shortly after that, he started asking for breakfast.  I could just visualize the germs on his hands traveling from the toilet, joining up with the germs the dog carries around, and ending up on everything he was touching, including his toys and his breakfast.

I do not want him to get sick from something he may have touched in the bathroom or on the dog, so I do two simple things.  The first is washing.  I wash his hands, the table, the counters and other dirty surfaces, and toys.  To wash surfaces and toys, I get a paper towel wet with hot, soapy water and use it to wipe down whatever is dirty, whenever it is dirty (such as the table after a meal).  Sometimes I use a wash cloth or dish rag instead of a paper towel, but I always put it in the dirty laundry right away to prevent dirt and germs from passing from the rag to something that is clean.

The second thing I do is sanitize the things he frequently touches to kill the germs that may be growing there.  I always make sure a surface is washed before I sanitize.  I usually sanitize surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom (table, counters, sinks) once or twice each week.  Other things I sanitize as needed, such as door handles, light switches, and toys. 

To sanitize, I have a clear, plastic spray bottle where I mix ½ teaspoon of bleach with 2 cups of water.  This solution is effective at killing germs, plus much less expensive than buying a pre-made cleaner.  To remain effective at killing germs, this solution should be dumped out and remade once each week.  Also, if you have young children at home, store this solution where the children cannot get to it. 

I almost always sanitize at night before we go to bed, so I just spray the table, toy, etc. and let it air dry overnight.  If you want to sanitize something that you think someone might be touching before it can air dry, simply dry it with a paper towel.  Even though my home is not sparkling clean, I take comfort in knowing that I am taking this small step toward keeping my family healthy.  

~ By Justine Hoover

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