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The Terrible Hand Hygiene Mistakes You're Making in the Kitchen

Everyone understands the importance of proper hand washing, but there are some things you're doing that are spreading more germs.

It's safe to say that the world has collectively learned just how imperative proper handwashing actually is as everyone is doing their part to keep safe and stop the spread of germs during this pandemic. There's a good chance you're spending more time in your kitchen, cooking tons of meals, as you're living the quarantine life and it's in the kitchen where you just might be making hand hygiene mistakes. This is where you're handling your food, so it's about time to correct these habits!

Here, we break down exactly what you might be doing wrong in the kitchen when it comes to hand hygiene. And be sure to click here for all of our latest coronavirus coverage.

You're not washing your hands enough.

preparing chicken in the kitchen

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), it's important to wash your hands before, during, and after preparing food, and before eating, too. So if you wash your hands at the start of cooking dinner and that's it, you'll want to ramp that up a bit. Just think about the packages from each food item you're cooking that you touch, along with all the actual food, kitchen tools, and appliances. Yep, that's a whole lot of germs spreading around!

You're not washing your hands for the right amount of time.


A quick rinse before you start cooking is fine, right? Not so fast! The CDC recommends that you scrub your hands for at least 20 seconds after lathering up with soap every time you wash your hands. Especially if you're touching food that you know, you're then going to eat, you want to make sure you're washing your hands for the right amount of time. You can sing "Happy Birthday" to yourself, or even the chorus of many popular songs are actually 20 seconds in length. Need an example? Britney Spears' "Oops, I Did It Again"—you're welcome.

You're lathering up with soap first.

The hands of a man who washes his hands with soap dispenser

The CDC says it's best to wet your hands with clean water first before applying soap. So going for the soap on dry hands and then adding water is not the best method when it comes to proper hand hygiene! Looking for more tips? Be sure to sign up for our newsletter to get the latest coronavirus foods news delivered straight to your inbox.

You're touching the faucet right after washing your hands.

fingers under hot water out of a faucet of a sink

So you're washing your hands for at least 20 seconds and then you reach for the faucet to turn it off so you can get cooking. Well, you basically just made your hands all germ-infested again. See, faucet handles can contain harmful bacteria and if you touch it right after washing your hands—you get the idea. The best thing to do after you wash your hands is to grab a paper towel first and use that to turn off the faucet. And for more helpful reminders, check out these best kitchen cleaning tips.

You're not cleaning your hand towels.

Woman in apron wiping her hands

Using the same towels in your kitchen to dry your hands, dry the dishes, and perhaps even dry up a spill on the countertops is only going to enable the spread of more germs. Not only are you going to want to make sure you have different towels for these different scenarios, but you'll want to wash these towels regularly, as one study uncovered that 49 percent of kitchen towels that were tested had bacterial growth. You don't want them to sit around in your kitchen wet, either!

You're touching your face while cooking.

Woman cooking vegetables in the kitchen

If you find yourself touching your face often while you're cooking, this 100 percent a way to spread unwanted germs. If it makes it easier to remind you not to touch your face, perhaps wearing gloves right after you wash your hands and before you start cooking is a helpful tip. Which brings us to the next point…

You're cross-contaminating your gloves.

Man wearing gloves washing peppers vegetables produce in large bowl water

Using the same pair of gloves to clean vegetables that you just used while chopping up meat is a no-go. Germs that can lead to foodborne illness thanks to cross-contamination are still something you should be thinking about when you're in the kitchen. And using the same pair of cleaning gloves over and over without cleaning the gloves themselves isn't ideal, either. It's best to switch out your gloves and properly dispose of the disposal type, along with cleaning your reusable cleaning gloves.

Jennifer Maldonado
Jennifer Maldonado is a senior editor at Eat This, Not That!, specializing in food and health content. Read more about Jennifer
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