Don’t Let Food Safety Practices Go Down the Drain!

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Tips for keeping your sink germ-free

Most folks clean their kitchen countertops frequently, but the sink – that catch-all for food preparation – doesn’t receive the same careful attention. At least that’s how people responded to a recent survey. Half of the respondents said that countertops are the household surface they have to clean most frequently throughout the week. But only 10 percent of respondents named sinks. Since sinks and countertops go hand-in-hand in food preparation, this is an alarming figure.

Preventing foodborne illnesses is important for the health of all family members. In this hectic holiday season, its symptoms can often be mistaken for the flu. And if there are household members who dealing with health challenges that can compromise their immune systems, such as HIV/AIDS, diabetes or chemotherapy, it’s even more important to be vigilant about food preparation practices. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, each year in the United States there are approximately 76 million incidents of illnesses, 325,000 hospitalizations and 5,000 deaths, all a result of foodborne maladies.

The first step toward preventing foodborne illnesses is to keep both hands and food preparation surfaces clean. This includes the sink!

In today’s kitchens, sinks are made from a variety of materials, each with its own requirements for cleaning and disinfecting.

  • Cast iron:  Clean with an all-purpose, antibacterial cleaner. Rinse thoroughly and use a soft cloth to wipe the product dry after each use. To disinfect, use a solution of one part chlorine bleach to 16 parts water.
  • Ceramic:  Clean with an all-purpose, antibacterial cleaner. Rinse thoroughly and use a soft cloth to wipe the product dry after each use. To disinfect, use a solution of one part chlorine bleach to 16 parts water.
  • Stainless steel:  Clean with hot, soapy water. Avoid abrasive cleaners, as they may scratch the surface. If the surface looks dull or cloudy, moisten a soft cloth with undiluted white vinegar and wipe clean. To disinfect, wipe the surface with a solution of one part chlorine bleach to one part water. Rinse immediately and wipe dry with a soft cloth.
  • Copper:  For basic cleaning, use mild soap and water. Because abrasive materials and chemicals can harm the copper, avoid letting dirty pots and pans sit in the sink for an extended period of time. To help protect the surface, treat it periodically with a wax that is specially designed for copper. Since copper is a natural antibacterial surface, it isn’t necessary to disinfect it.
  • Engineered stone, such as soapstone:  Use an abrasive or nonabrasive cleanser. To disinfect, wipe the surface with a solution of one part chlorine bleach to one part water. Rinse thoroughly.

Clean hands are another factor in the prevention of foodborne illnesses. Hands should be washed before beginning any food preparation, as well as after handling raw meats, fish and poultry. To properly wash hands:

  1.  Wet hands with warm, running water. Then apply soap.
  2.  Rub hands together vigorously to a make a lather, and scrub all surfaces. Continue for 20 seconds, which is about how long it takes to sing “Happy Birthday” twice through.
  3.  Rinse well under warm, running water.
  4.  Dry hands thoroughly using paper towels or an air dryer. If possible, use a paper towel to turn off the faucet.

Written By

Photo of Emily TroutmanEmily TroutmanExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences (828) 764-9480 (Office) emily_troutman@ncsu.eduBurke County, North Carolina
Updated on Nov 9, 2017
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