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Coronavirus Kitchen Cleaning Tips

While sanitizing in the kitchen should be a priority all of the time, during this pandemic, it is especially important to sanitize surfaces. What can we do to protect ourselves and the family from falling ill to foodborne illnesses? One practical step is to clean and sanitize or disinfect kitchen surfaces regularly. 

Clean and sanitize all food contact surfaces and equipment before and after food preparation as well as all frequent touchpoints (doorknobs, cabinet handles, faucet handles, refrigerator and freezer handles, etc.).

The words cleaning, sanitizing, and disinfecting are being used a lot right now, but do you know the difference? Having a better understanding of these three words may help you prevent someone from becoming ill.


According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), cleaning removes dirt and other impurities from surfaces and objects. Cleaning is done by using soap or detergent and water, then physically scrubbing to remove pathogens from the surface. It is important to remember that cleaning just removes visible dirt. Before you can sanitize or disinfect, the dirt and debris must be removed. Contact with any type of organic matter or with detergent makes sanitizers ineffective.


Sanitizing and disinfecting are two different terms. According to the CDC, sanitizing refers to lowering the number of germs on surfaces to a safe level. A sanitizing solution is not as strong as a disinfecting solution. In order to be considered a sanitizer, a product must reduce bacteria on a surface by at least 99.9 percent.

For general kitchen sanitizing, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends the standard solution for bleach and water sanitizing mix is 1 teaspoon unscented, regular (not splashless) chlorine bleach into 1 gallon of lukewarm water or 1/4 teaspoon bleach into 1 quart of lukewarm water. After applying this concentration of mix, it requires a contact time of 1 minute to sanitize. This solution can be tested to ensure the concentration’s strength by purchasing sanitizer test strips. The chlorine bleach solution should be made new each week and stored it in a dark place. Chlorine’s effectiveness dissipates over time.


A disinfectant must kill 99.999 percent of germs, compared to 99.9 percent for sanitizers. Disinfection uses a higher concentration of the bleach than sanitizing. For disinfecting kitchen areas, use bleach solutions, alcohol solutions with at least 70% alcohol, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered household disinfectants.

Unexpired, unscented bleach is effective against coronaviruses when correctly diluted. To prepare a bleach solution to kill coronavirus, mix 5 Tablespoons (or 1/3 cup) bleach per gallon of water or 4 teaspoons bleach per quart of water with a contact time of 1 minute. Never mix household bleach with ammonia or any other cleaners! Be sure to wear disposable gloves when disinfecting to avoid contracting the germs and viruses on your skin. If you don’t wear gloves, thoroughly wash your hands with warm water and soap for at least 20 seconds after you’ve finished cleaning.In addition to bleach, undiluted 3 percent hydrogen peroxide or 5 percent white distilled vinegar are effective against pathogens after one minute. However, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide must be warmed to 150°F and used while still at or above 130°F to kill pathogens. Combining hydrogen peroxide and vinegar can be dangerous, so never mix the two!

Sanitizers and disinfectants must be used appropriately to be effective. Follow these guidelines for using them:

  1. First, clean surfaces (counter, stovetop, sink, appliances) with soap and warm water.
  2. Rinse with clean water.
  3. Allow the surface to air dry, or dry it by hand with a clean paper towel.
  4. Spray surfaces with sanitizer or disinfectant.
  5. Allow the sanitizer/disinfectant to work for the recommended contact time.
  6. Allow the sanitizer/disinfectant to air dry or dry it with a clean paper towel.

There is no guideline on how often to clean and sanitize the kitchen. Households with members who are very young (under the age of 5), elderly, or who have a chronic illness are at higher risk for foodborne illness. Consider sanitizing surfaces daily or at regular frequencies. It may seem like a lot of work, but for most kitchens, this will take just 10-15 minutes a day.

Basic Kitchen Cleaning

Although your kitchen may look clean, it can harbor harmful pathogens that can cause illnesses. If you clean your kitchen routinely, you can rid it of pathogens to keep you and your food safe.

Don’t forget to wash your hands! Wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food. Thoroughly wash and sanitize all surfaces that come in contact with raw meat, poultry, fish, and eggs before moving on to the next step in food preparation.  

Clean and sanitize your cutting boards and cooking utensils. If you are prepping meat, you’ll need to wash everything that touched the raw meat, poultry, fish, or eggs before using it again for fruits, vegetables, or ready-to-eat foods.

Sanitize and replace sponges, scrubbers, or dishcloths and kitchen towels regularly. Put them in the hot cycle of your washing machine and dry thoroughly on a high setting. Daily microwave damp sponges for one minute to sanitize.

Wash reusable grocery bags regularly. Wash bags anytime they’re used for meat, poultry, fish, or eggs.

Consider having separate dishcloths for different purposes, such as hand-washing and dish drying. Use different colored towels to help everyone in your home know the difference.

Now that your kitchen is clean, cooking at home will be easier and safer. After deep cleaning, spending a few minutes each day on basic cleaning tasks will keep it cleaner, and your next deep cleaning session will be that much easier.

Bonus tip: household chores, like cleaning your kitchen, vacuuming, sweeping, and mopping count as moderate physical activity!

Written by Vicki Hayman, MS, University of Wyoming Extension Nutrition and Food Safety Educator


  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC); United States Food and Drug Administration (USFDA); USDA; Virginia Cooperative Extension
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Extension Educator:
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University of Wyoming Extension

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Issued in furtherance of extension work, acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kelly Crane, Director, University of Wyoming Extension, College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, University of Wyoming Extension, University of Wyoming, Laramie, Wyoming 82071.

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