5 Mistakes People Make in the Kitchen

Kitchen sponge

5 Mistakes People Make in the Kitchen

Have you eaten lunch off your toilet seat lately? Gag, retch, ugh! Not likely. But if you are using a dirty sponge or dishcloth to clean up your kitchen you could be spreading more germs than are found in your toilet. Using dirty tools is just one of the common mistakes people make in the kitchen. 

  1. Washing dishes with contaminated tools.

Studies have shown that seven of the top 10 germiest places in the home are in the kitchen. Ugh!

The germiest items in your household – ironically – can be the tools used to keep things clean. That’s right, sponges and dish cloths are the germiest. In one study, 77 percent of sponges and dishcloths contained coliform bacteria, another 86 percent contained yeast and mold, and 18 percent contained staph bacteria. Does that mean you have to throw out your sponges and dishcloths? No. You can reduce the risks by following these tips.

Cleaning tip: Microwave wet sponges once a day for two minutes and replace them at least once every two weeks. If you use a dishcloth, toss it in a hot washing cycle every day or two. If you want to know what the other germiest places in the kitchen are, check out this link.

2. Letting cooked food cool slowly before refrigerating.

This myth/fact is confusing because it is partially correct, but if you get it wrong, it could have dire consequences. What is correct is that cooked food should not be refrigerated when it is still steaming, because it can raise the temperature inside the fridge to the Danger Zone where pathogens, the harmful bacteria that can cause food illness, grow. The catch is you don’t want foods sitting out cooling for too long because that also encourages pathogen growth.

Here’s why this one is so important. The Centre for Disease Control (CDC) has identified improper cooling of food as the leading cause of foodborne illness outbreaks in the USA. So, a lot of us are getting this one wrong. The trick here is to cool foods sufficiently, before refrigerating.  This can involve using cooling paddles and shallow pans to rapidly cool batches of food. Check out this website for the best ways to get this right.

3. Smelling food to see if it’s okay to eat.

The scary thing about harmful bacteria is they can be invisible to the naked eye and might not affect the taste or smell of contaminated food. So how is a person supposed to keep food safe and avoid infecting family and friends? The answer is by cooking foods to the proper internal temperature to make them safe to eat and limiting time in the temperature Danger Zone. The cooking will kill enough bacteria to make food safe. Limiting time in the Danger Zone will prevent the growth of pathogens. Here is a link to the recommended internal temperatures for most common foods. And don’t forget, you are going to need a reliable thermometer to check those temperatures.

4. Thawing frozen foods on the countertop.

The sight of food thawing slowly on the countertop should send shivers up your spine. 

This old-time practice is a welcome mat for the growth of pathogens. Room temperature is in the Danger Zone where bacteria grow. Since freezing does not kill pathogens, they can be actively multiplying on the food surface while the inside of the food is still thawing. But don’t panic.

There are 3 safe ways to thaw frozen foods, especially potentially hazardous foods like raw meat and poultry. The safest way is in the fridge. Foods can also be thawed inside a leak-proof package in cold water, or in the microwave where the cold slows pathogen growth. But keep this in mind. Foods thawed using the microwave or cold water should be cooked immediately.

5. Thinking vegetables and fruit are always safe and healthy. 

Eating healthy requires more than just avoiding meat and/or dairy. That apple you just bit into could be coated in pesticides. The raw peppers you are serving may have been handled by someone whose hands were contaminated with E. coli.

Vegetables and fruits can come into our homes laden with pathogens or pesticides picked up at any stage of the food process – during the growth, harvesting, shipping, or storage. Anyone or anything that has come into contact with a food item can transfer pathogens. So, you want to make sure you rinse vegetables and fruits under cool running water before serving. And its not just the exterior of these items you must worry about. If you are peeling or cutting these items remember that the knife being used can carry pathogens to the interior.

Also, keep this in mind. You don’t want to rinse vegetables or fruit until just before they are going to be served. Bacteria love moisture and warm temperatures so the longer your items stay out, the greater the threat to your health.

To find out how to avoid other mistakes when preparing food, check out our free demo!


  1. Yuck! Top 10 Germiest Spots in Your Home – CBS News
  2. The Germiest Place in Your Home and the Best Way to Combat Those Microbes – CNN
  3. Cooling and Reheating Potentially Hazardous Foods – New York State Department of Health
  4. Safe Cooking Temperatures – Health Canada
  5. Safely Defrosting Foods – Health Canada
  6. 7 Tips for Cleaning Fruits and Vegetables – U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
  7. Yes, You Need to Wash Your Produce. Here’s How. – The Washington Post