Kitchen Culprits: 8 Spots in Your Kitchen You Might Not Know Are Dirty

Even the cleanest-looking kitchens may harbor germs in these commonly missed dirty spots. Eradicate those culinary crime scenes with ease.

Published August 21, 2023

Nobody likes to think their kitchen is dirty. But even if you carefully scrub, chances are you're missing a spot or two. Every kitchen harbors dirty spots we seldom think about. These, the dirtiest spots in your kitchen, are the ones commonly missed with daily and weekly cleaning.

But knowledge is power. Once you know they're there, hiding all those germs, you can clean them up so your kitchen is as spotless as you always believed it to be.

Dirty Kitchen Culprit: The Sink

It might be where you wash your hands, food, and dishes, but the sink is no angel when it comes to cleanliness in the kitchen. If you're tossing your scraps of chicken or raw meat into the sink while you work, it's not the clean, safe haven you think it is. Beyond the germs and bacteria carried by raw meat, like any wet place, germs will thrive in warm, wet areas.

The answer? Disinfect after working with raw materials and give it a thorough wipe down at the end of the day. Don't forget the splash and work zones along the counter, faucets, and handles. Oh— and don't forget to clean the garbage disposal

Dirtiest Appliance: Your Refrigerator

Just because your refrigerator meets the temperature requirement to keep food from growing bacteria doesn't mean bacteria and germs won't settle in as roommates with your milk, salad, and forgotten strawberries. So those spills you roll your eyes about and avoid? Don't avoid them, friend. Conquer them.

And while you're at it, wipe down those drawers, shelves, and the outer fridge handles, too. No, you don't need to spend a whole night cleaning your fridge. Just keep up with it as you go, and wipe down those commonly used drawers and doors when you're cleaning up at night. 

Germ Hidey Holes: Kitchen Dials, Knobs, and Handles

As you're bumbling through the kitchen, happily listening to your podcast while you cook, you're opening drawers, cabinets, and doors — cabinet, oven, fridge, and microwave doors. Even a quick pull or tug, with seemingly clean enough hands, doesn't equate to totally clean or germ-free.

It's understandable that you can't scrub or disinfect between each and every step, but be sure to give everything a good wipe down once your food is cooking or you're cleaning up from the day. You don't want to carry those germs from the kitchen drawer to the handles on the bedroom closet. It happens fast. 

Always a Challenge: Kitchen Counters

You know when your cutting board project spills a little onto the counter, or you quickly set down the chicken breast plastic wrapping before discarding it, but it was only a few seconds? As a former catering manager and former food safety certified in New York State, it is my sad duty to inform you that the five-second rule doesn't exist. It can exist in our hearts, but it can't exist in our kitchens. 

So, wipe down your counter as you go the best you can. And wipe them down every night. 

Related: 15 Dirtiest Spots in Your House You Should Clean ASAP

Secretly Germ-Laden: Kitchen Cloths and Sponges

Despite knowing, and I mean knowing, how many germs and the host of bacteria that can call cloths, towels, and sponges in the kitchen home, I can be a little lazy myself when changing them out. But if you're using a dirty cloth to wipe down your counter and handles or a musty sponge to wash your dishes or sink, not much cleaning is done. When in doubt, throw the sponge out and toss those cloths into the washing machine. 

Hiding Germs in Plain Sight: Spice Bottles and Shakers

Of course, you're seasoning your food and moving through the kitchen at great speed to make sure nothing burns while you lavishly add spices and herbs. But as careful as you are opening them (I, too, take the I'll-just-hold-the-bottle-in-my-elbow-and-use-my-cleanest-hand approach), they need a good wipe down. And who among us thinks to ourselves, "I'd like to spend my Saturday wiping down my spice jars and my salt and pepper shakers." Not many of us. 

The answer? Wipe down those herb and spice jars before you tuck them away with their co-workers. And as for your salt and pepper shakes, give those a wipe after dinner. With your clean cloth, obviously. 

Most Surprising Germ Carrier: You and Your Phone

It's you, I'm sorry to say. You and your phone or tablet are loaded with germs and other icky goo that can dirty up a kitchen quite fast. Wash your hands often, and just like with the rest of your kitchen, be sure to give your phone, tablet, laptop, or any device a wipe when you're wrapping up your cooking (and probably even before you start). You don't need to bring those raw chicken germs into your bed when you're scrolling Pinterest later tonight, looking for your next recipe

The Ones You Know About: The Obvious Kitchen Hot Spots

Of course, there are a few obvious spots in your kitchen that aren't always as clean as you think or are even dirtier than you imagine. Take the time to wipe down the garbage lid or handle — wherever your hands land most often could use a nightly wipe down. If something drops on the floor, call it a lost cause. That doesn't mean you shouldn't take a broom to your kitchen daily and give your kitchen a mop weekly.

And as for your cutting boards, opt for plastic, skip the glass, and only use wood for dry things. Always give those cutting boards a good scrub, or better yet, run them through the dishwasher if you can. While you're working, use two separate knives and two separate cutting boards for meats and your fruits and veggies. 

Related: 11 Bad Cleaning Habits & Easy Ways to Finally Break Them

So Long, Icky Kitchen Spots!

So long cross-contamination, germs, and mystery goo that you can't track down the source of. Hello, clean, dreamy kitchen with no lurking secretly dirty spots. And now that you've passed the course with flying colors, it's time to master a new recipe. But let's start by tossing out that sponge and washing those cloths and towels, huh? 

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Kitchen Culprits: 8 Spots in Your Kitchen You Might Not Know Are Dirty