Better Kitchen Habits
Once a day, sterilize the sponge or cloth you use to wipe
up the table, counter tops and sink. This little piece of contaminated
cloth is the most infectious thing in the house, besides the
toilet. It's more dangerous than the toilet because you do not
suspect it. Sometimes it has a slight odor at first, which may
warn you, but most pathogens do not have an odor! As we wipe
up droplets of milk, we give the milk bacteria, Salmonellas and
Shigellas, a new home to multiply and thrive in. We add crumbs,
picking up molds this way. We add dust, picking up parasite eggs
and stages. They all feed on the milk and food residue.
As the counter and table and stove get wiped “clean” a film
of contamination is left everywhere. A few varieties may die but
most of them don't. The general moisture in the kitchen is enough
for them to survive. The cloth or sponge recolonizes the kitchen
and dining room table several times a day.
No doubt, the last thing you do before leaving the kitchen is
squeeze it dry with your hands. Now all the pathogens are on
Where do your fingers go? To your mouth to remove a hull or
bit of something from your teeth. Or to eat a last bite of
something. Or to turn a page of the telephone directory. You have
just eaten a culture sampling from your own kitchen sponge. In
two hours they are already multiplying in the greatest culture
system of all: your body! You have given yourself your next sore
throat, or cold or headache. The worst possible habit is to wipe a
child's face and hands with the kitchen cloth. Or to have a handy
towel hanging from the refrigerator handle.
To sterilize the sponge: drop it into a 50% solution of grain
alcohol at the end of each day. Keep a wide mouth glass quart jar
handy just for this. Keep the jar tightly closed and out of the
reach of children. Dunk your sponge and plop it onto the sink. If
you stand it on end in the sink it will partly dry overnight.
Another way to sterilize the sponge or cloth is to microwave
it, after wetting it, for 3 minutes. Any shorter time simply warms
and cultures the pathogens and multiplies them. Or boil the cloth
like our grandparents did. Drying out the dish cloth helps kill
many–but not all–pathogens. It takes three days of drying to kill
all! Another strategy is to use a fresh cloth or sponge each day,
putting the used one to dry until laundry day.
During the day, set the sponge on end to start drying and slow
Don't eat food directly off the counter top or table top.
You wouldn't slice a tomato or egg directly on the counter top. It
would pick up something: some little particle of dust or dirt.
Treat bread the same way. Always on a new clean surface, such
as a plate. The counter and table top have on them whatever is in
the kitchen dust and on the wipe cloth. Dust is always falling!
And the sponge is always culturing. Don't eat the dust!
Keep the cutting board sterile like dishes. Wash it the same
way and keep it in the cupboard.
Keep food containers closed. Milk or water glasses are
picking up dust as soon as you set them out. Dust is everywhere.
Every step on the carpet sends up a puff of dust. Vacuuming
sends up a hurricane of dust and distributes bathroom dust to the
kitchen and kitchen dust to the bedrooms. So if one person has
brought in a new infection, the whole family is exposed to it in
hours via the dust.
It is very helpful not to eat the new infectious pathogen.
Breathing it is not so damaging. Our noses collect such pathogens
and we blow them out again. Touching the infected person is not
very damaging either; the pathogens can't get through our skins
and since we wash hands before eating we are not at great risk of
infection this way. But eating the pathogen is 100% effective in
infecting us. The new pathogen is in the dust. The newly
contaminated dust drops into your ready and waiting glasses on
the table and the open foods. Of course, there is no defense if
somebody should cough or sneeze at the table.
Teach children to cough and sneeze into a suitable collecting
place like a tissue, not their hands. Pathogens live
bountifully on hands. Hands not only provide moisture but often
food from the last meal. Hands are second only to the dish cloth
in contamination level. If you must cough or sneeze and a tissue
is not within reach fast enough, use your clothing! That's what
clothing is for—to protect you. Cough and sneeze into your own
clothing; this protects the cougher and sneezer, as well as eve
rybody else. A sleeve is handy for children. The inside of your
T-shirt for T-shirt wearers. The inside of coat for suited persons.
The inside of the neck line for dresses. Of course, paper is best,
but in emergency use cloth. Never, never your hands unless you
are free to immediately dash into the washroom and clean the
contamination off your hands.
Teach children this old rearranged verse:
If you cough or sneeze or sniff
Grab a tissue, quick-quick-quick!
And if you're sitting at the table
Do it in your sleeve if able.