Coming to terms
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IN HIS BOOK The Secret Lives of Germs (Atria, 2004), author Philip M. Tierno
Jr. says, “We’re all infected with the psychic fear that at any moment, in any
setting, invisible agents may as easily give us an incurable, lethal disease as
they would a common cold.” Tierno goes on to point out that, while germs are
important to our existence, we are extremely vulnerable to harmful, deadly
infections—despite vast advances in medicine and widespread information
A recent study conducted by the Hygiene Council (www.hygienecouncil.
com) shows that the average American household is home to millions, if not
billions, of germs and bacteria. As a result, more than 65 percent of colds and
50 to 80 percent of food-borne illnesses are caught at home.
The kitchen and the bathroom are two areas where there can be large
numbers of germs—and where there is a possibility that these germs could be
spread to others. The best way to keep these germs at bay is to practice good
personal hygiene and to minimize exposure to harmful germs and bacteria. In
the bathroom, experts recommend minimizing the opportunity of spreading
germs by not sharing cups. Here are some other tips.
Kitchen sponges and rags are ideal environments for bacteria to flourish. Wiping counters and dishes with a bacteria-rich sponge or rag spreads the
offending culprits around the kitchen. To combat this scenario:
• Replace kitchen sponges and rags regularly.
• Allow them to dry out between uses, as most bacteria
can survive only a few hours on dry surfaces.
• Make sure to remove all food particles from
sponges or rags before leaving them to dry.
• Disinfect sponges regularly by putting them
in the dishwasher. You can also sterilize sponges
in the microwave. A dry sponge can be sterilized in
the microwave in 30 seconds, a wet sponge in one minute.
Dishcloths should be washed in the washing
machine and then dried on high heat.
Cutting boards are susceptible to cross
contamination. If you use your cutting board
for raw meat or fish, sanitize it thoroughly
before chopping vegetables.
• Clean cutting boards first by hand-washing
them with hot water and dish detergent
to remove any food particles. Next, use a
mixture of 1 teaspoon of chlorine bleach
in 1 quart of water to sanitize boards,
leaving them to air-dry, or clean them in