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Sanitizing Solution: Taking the Extra Step

How do you clean your kitchen when you’re done preparing a meal? Do you wipe down the countertop with soap or another cleaner? Do you use store-bought sanitizing wipes or home-made sanitizer? Or do you do both?

When we are at home, we may not think about cleaning beyond wiping down countertops with soap and water. But it’s good practice to take it one step further by using sanitizing solution. It’s easy to make and can be used to clean countertops, equipment, utensils, dishes, and appliances. Why? Soap and water do a great job of cleaning grease, food particles, sticky stuff, and wiping away potential bacteria. Sanitizing solution doesn’t really clean grease, sticky things, or food debris, but it does kill any bacteria that soap and water didn’t wash away.

There are two ways to make your own sanitizing solution to use for food-contact surfaces:

  • Put 1 tablespoon of unscented bleach into a gallon of water (the cap on your bleach bottle is equal to one tablespoon)
  • Put 1 teaspoon of unscented bleach into a liter of water

Now you have sanitizing solution! You can keep it in a bucket with a lid, or in a spray bottle. When using a bucket, keep the rag or sponge inside the solution; don’t leave it hanging over the side. Make sure the rag is only used with the sanitizing solution; do not use one that is used for washing dishes or cleaning something else. Using more bleach is NOT better. Using more can make food contact surfaces and dishes smell or taste like bleach.

Follow these steps to ensure a clean kitchen:

  • With soap and water, use a rag or sponge to clean countertops and appliances that have come into contact with food. Make sure to wipe off food debris and clean any sticky or greasy spots.
  • Go over those surfaces one more time with sanitizing solution and another rag or sponge.
  • Let the surfaces air dry; no need to wipe them down with a dry cloth because that can reintroduce dust and bacteria.

The same steps apply when washing dishes, utensils, or small items. If they fit in the bucket, you can dunk them for about 7 seconds, take them out and let them air dry. Or you can spray them down or wipe them with the sanitized cloth before setting them out to dry.

How often should you change sanitizing solution? It should be changed whenever it gets dirty or cloudy, or after several weeks of non-use. Certain brands state that they start losing effectiveness after 24 hours while others state a 2-3 weeks shelf-life, so check with the manufacturer for their guidelines. Bleach should be stored at room temperature for up to 6 months, after which time it starts losing effectiveness. Again, check with the manufacturer for their guidelines. If you don’t use bleach often, it may not make sense to buy a big bottle.

NEVER pour bleach down a drain, even if it’s “old” bleach. The bleach will corrode the pipes. As a sanitizing solution, it is watered-down enough to pour down a sink drain. Also never use sanitizing solution for washing produce or any other food. Stay tuned for more tips on ways to use sanitizer at home!

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