Using common kitchen items—like sponges, dish rags, and cutting boards—for too long can spread germs and bacteria. Learn which ones you're probably forgetting to clean and when it's time for a replacement.
1. Cutting Boards
Cutting boards are one of the most versatile kitchen tools. They're perfect for prep, and their stable surface makes cleanup a breeze. Plus, most cutting boards have a long life if properly maintained. Simply run them through the dishwasher after each use or clean with hot, soapy water if you're using a wood or bamboo model. Replace cutting boards when they show signs of wear, such as deep groove marks or an unstable surface. Crevices can make cutting boards impossible to fully clean, leaving harmful bacteria behind.
Because sponges come into contact with so much grime and bacteria, they're bound to build up a layer of their own filth. Clean your sponges daily by tossing them into the microwave or into your dishwasher to help kill germs. However, this is only a temporary fix. No sponge will or should last forever. We recommend replacing sponges every month or so.
3. Water Filter
Using a water pitcher with a built-in filter is an easy, inexpensive way to increase the quality of your drinking water. But can you remember the last time you changed the pitcher's filter? If you're not keeping up with the manufacturer's recommendations for replacement, the filter won't be able to do its job. Consult your manual for recommendations, but most filters need to be replaced every 2–6 months.
4. Water Bottles
Reusable water bottles are a sound investment. They're great for quenching your thirst and keeping you hydrated on the go, and can help reduce your carbon footprint. Plus they can last for years with proper maintenance. As a general rule, you should wash your water bottle every day. Pay attention to easy-to-miss areas like the mouthpiece, and invest in an elongated brush to help you reach the bottom of the bottle. Replace when your bottle shows serious signs of wear, like exterior cracks or funky smells.
5. Dish Rags and Towels
Your trusty dish rags and towels have been there for you through every kitchen spill and sticky situation. They pick up juice that's leaked onto the counter or wipe away spilt crumbs. But as great as these linens are for wiping up surfaces, they're also prone to transferring germs. Laundering dish rags and towels daily in hot water can keep germs at bay. Or seek out disposable replacements, such as paper towels.
Next time you clean out your pantry, pay attention to your spice rack. Cooking with old spices won't hurt you, but they can make your food less flavorful. Toss spices every few years, depending on their makeup—whole spices typically last longer than ground versions. When you buy new spices, write the date of purchase on a piece of tape, then attach it to the spice so you'll know exactly how old it is.
7. Plastic Storage Containers
We all know somebody who loves to reuse old yoghurt containers for years on end. But reusing any plastic container for too long—especially one that was meant to be disposed of—can be dangerous. Over time, plastic breaks down, causing the chemicals to leach into your food. Look for signs of wear after each use—like cracks, discolouration, or unusual smells—and always toss disposable packaging once you're finished with the product.
This article originally appeared on www.bhg.com