When you think about the germiest places in your kitchen, what comes to mind first? Cutting boards, sinks and handles topped my guesses and perhaps yours as well. You may be as surprised as I was to learn that none of these even made the list while some unexpected sources did. If the thought of household pathogens like E. Coli, listeria, yeast and mold make your skin crawl, rest assured that eliminating these suspects is easy, takes only minutes and involves no toxic cleaners, chemicals or a haz-mat suit.

Today we will be focusing on the appliance that has earned the dubious prestige of having not one, but FOUR of the most bacteria laden spots in the kitchen – the refrigerator and freezer. Friday, I’ll share the other areas in your kitchen that could use a little attention as we work together to give bacteria and other unhealthy little buggers the boot. Food borne illnesses caused by E.coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and mold and yeast are common yet thankfully preventable. Let’s focus on that today while we take some time to rid our kitchen of these pests.

My favorite refrigerator and freezer cleaning tools? Warm water, dish soap, and a clean dish rag.

1. Ice Dispenser:

The ice dispenser is also a favorite hang-out for yeast and mold. For this one, empty out all the ice and wipe down the interior of the dispenser with mild detergent or dish soap and warm water and follow it up by wiping it down with a clean damp cloth to remove any soap residue.

2. Refrigerator Meat Drawer:

While this is probably not surprising, the meat and cheese drawer in your fridge also ranks in the top germiest places in your kitchen. Remove it, wash with warm water and a mild dish soap and put it back when it’s completely dry. If you can’t remove the drawer, wash with your soapy cloth and wipe clean. (If you’re anything like me, you might need to empty and wipe out the entire refrigerator if you’ve gotten this far.)

3. Refrigerator Produce Drawer:

To clean your produce drawer, follow the same procedure as cleaning your meat drawer. Remove it from your fridge if possible and wash with warm water and a mild dish soap. To control odors, use a solution of baking soda and warm water: one or two tablespoons soda per quart of water. Rinse thoroughly and let it dry completely before putting it back.


4. Water Dispenser:

This one may surprise you as it is one of those spots you may not hit when you clean your kitchen. The spout especially on the water dispenser is a great host for mold and yeast. To clean the spout, you could use a small (clean) scrub brush  dipped in vinegar and take care to clean both the interior and exterior of the spout. I used a clean dish cloth dipped in vinegar and wiped the spout first and then rest of the dispenser. After cleaning, run the water for a bit to get rid of any excess vinegar residue.

I’ll be back Friday with 5 more of the germiest places in your kitchen. Have a few extra minutes today? Do a little clean-up on your refrigerator and freezer!

(germiest places information via NSF website)