Spring Cleaning Part II: Unique Ideas, Overlooked Spaces - Kitchen & Bath

spring cleaning unique ideasAfter a long harsh winter, it's time to emerge from our homes, open the windows, roll up our sleeves and ... clean! We all have tried-and-true spring cleaning traditions, but there are some great tips for cleaning more efficiently (use a sock over your hand) and healthfully (you may want to rethink that sponge.)

After yesterday's insightful advice on how best to clean living spaces, Healthy Housekeeper Laura Dellutri returns to tell us about more overlooked places in the home that need your cleaning attention -- the kitchen and bath.

Let's get cleanin'!

The handle of a refrigerator was rated one of the most-bacteria-infected places in the home. And, according to University of Arizona scientist Dr. Charles Gerda, aka Dr. Germ, your kitchen sink is dirtier than your toilet seat, "Why do you think your dog likes to drink out of the toilet." Yes folks, Fido knows something we don't.

Since "it's better to make a sandwich on your toilet seat than your counters," according to Dellutri, the kitchen sounds like a good place to start cleaning differently.


  • A lot of people don't realize that peroxide is a sanitizer and that it disinfects. In addition to being a great cleaner, it's also good for people with allergies and asthma. You can use it on your counters and all around the kitchen as an all-purpose cleaner.
  • Ironically, sponges have tons of bacteria in them, yet you want to use them to clean. Dr. Gerda says 20 percent of coffee cups are loaded with fecal bacteria as a result of contact with sponges. Dellutri suggests putting them in a bowl of water and into the microwave until the water boils -- 130 degrees is the key number. That will disinfect them. You can also toss 'em out more often.
  • Ice trays are another overlooked item to clean more often. "Stuff filters around after you open the freezer door and when you look at the bottom of the tray you see there is yucky stuff down there," according to Dellutri.
  • Imagine you are cooking chicken and after dealing with the raw chicken you wipe your hands on a dishtowel? That means the towel has salmonella and other bacteria. Later you pick up the towel to wipe the counter, or to dry your hands after you clean them (ironic!). Now that salmonella has spread. Dishtowels are another item that holds a lot of bacteria so clean them often.
  • Other things that people forgot to clean are their large appliances. Dellutri urges, "Clean the inside of dishwashers! You wouldn't bathe in a dirty bath, so why stick dishes in a dirty dishwasher? People think it gets clean because it's hot, but if people don't set it at 130 degrees or hotter, it won't clean. And if you put it on energy saver settings you don't get that heat." She suggests using Dishwasher Magic which costs $3.99. "You run it on empty and the whole unit gets disinfected and cleaned -- it even cleans the filter." Then there's the garbage-disposal cleaner. Dellutri debunks the 'throw a lemon in to clean it" practice: "It smells great for 30 seconds and then it leaves food particles, which causes bacteria, which causes odor." Luckily, there's garbage-disposal cleaners on the market, too.
  • Another overlooked item: can-openers. They accumulate tons of bacteria (just think of all the items you use them for) and can be easily cleaned with bleach and water. Also in need of cleansing are wood blocks that hold your knives, because they also harbor bacteria. At this year's National Houseware Show Dellutri noted that manufacturers are making blocks that feature sterilizing ultraviolet rays. "All you do is put it in and it sterilizes the knives." It's that easy.
  • And don't forget picnic coolers. You bring your fruits, uncooked meats and other items to the picnic or beach in them, then go home and rinse it in the sink. "Cold water isn't going to kill the gems and bacteria from the bloody meats that leaked into the bottom of the cooler," says Dellutri. "That stomachache or diarrhea you get later could be from this."


  • Ah yes, cleaning the much dreaded bathroom -- forget about the quick toilet wipe-down, you're missing some essential places. "Everyone gets around the sides where you can see, but behind the base is usually pretty yucky and the back of the tank frequently gets missed," says Dellutri. She also points out another area of the toilet that people seldom clean: inside the tank. "You would be shocked how much mold gets in there." Use bleach tablets or Ty-D-Bowl.
  • The shower area has a few overlooked areas as well and that's where you supposedly clean yourself. You wash the shower but do you clean the top of the shower door? "Hit that spot, and the shower doors as well. If you find you have a lot of buildup, get Lime-A-Way and take a cloth or sponge and let it sit five minutes. After you rinse and dry it off, get lemon oil and apply it." Then you will only have to clean the area twice a month, with lemon oil to maintain it.
  • Another spot in the shower that's often forgotten is underneath the soap dish. "If you look under there and it's been a while -- it's gross. I tell people to use a plastic putty-knife if you haven't done it in years." Years!

If you think what you are doing to clean around the house is the best way, think again. "If an alien came from space and studied the bacterial counts, he probably would conclude he should wash his hands in your toilet and crap in your sink," says Dr. Germ. Something to think about!
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