Is Your Kitchen Toxic?

You clean your kitchen from top to bottom to ensure that no bacteria are able to thrive in the food you feed your family. But the very cleaners that you are using may actually be making your family sick.

Plate with knife and folk on white background. Plate has a skull and crossbones on it representing toxicity in the kitchen

Cleaning Supplies

Cleaning products are the major cause of poisoning of young children and family pets. And this isn’t just through swallowing the products directly from the containers. It can happen from children or pets being on or touching surfaces that have been cleaned by these products. This also holds true of certain pots and pans that we use. It is what the items are made of that can be harmful as well as what we clean them with.

In the kitchen the main sources of toxins include bleach, ammonia-based cleansers, all-purpose cleaners, glass cleaner, floor wax or polish, dish detergents and brass or other metal polishes.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency only a portion of the registered chemicals used to make these products have been tested completely for health concerns.

Many of these products are derived from petroleum and tar, which are the two major sources of cancer-causing carcinogens. This alone should be scary enough to make people want to use safer alternatives for cleaners.

Non-toxic cleansers can be made from products you already have in your kitchen. Combinations of products such as water, baking soda, vinegar, biodegradable soap, citrus based cleansers, and hydrogen peroxide can clean your kitchen safely and thoroughly.

Baking soda works well in sinks and on stovetops. Just sprinkle the baking soda on the dirty surface, let it sit a few minutes, then scrub clean with a sponge and water. Baking soda is also good for pots and pans.

For countertops, sinks and other surfaces you want clean you can use both white vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Place 3% hydrogen peroxide in one spray bottle and white vinegar in another spray bottle. Spray each alternately and wipe clean with hot water.

This combination is 10 times more effective in killing bacteria than commercial cleaners. Vinegar is also good for stubborn stains on dishes or plastic containers. Just pour some vinegar on the stained surface and let sit. Wash as usual and the stain should be gone. Lemon juice also works well as a natural non toxic catch all cleaner.

Pots and Pans

Harmful toxins can be cooking up alongside your food in the pots, pans and storage containers that you use. Copper and aluminum cookware, and even stainless steel can release toxic metals while interacting with food and heat. These metals accumulate in your body and can reach the point of toxicity.

Memory loss, headaches, Alzheimer’s, and indigestion have been linked to aluminum while high levels of copper can compromise the immune system.

Nonstick pans contain a plastic coating that has been proven to kill domestic birds when used at high temperatures. It is also linked to immune disorders and cancer. If only the fumes of the hot coating can kill an animal, imagine what it emits into your foods, and body, after a long period of use.

The safest cookware to use is glass, tin lined copper, lead-free terra-cotta clay, cast iron or cookware with porcelain enamel coating.

Storage Containers

Plastic containers that you store your food in and then re-heat it in can be dangerous to you too. When plastic containers are heated, pores in the plastic open releasing cancer-causing chemicals derived from petroleum into your food. It is recommended to use a ceramic or glass container to store and reheat your food whenever possible.

Do you know that each year Americans suffer from 76 million cases of food born illnesses each year? Of these number of illnesses, 325,000 cases of these illnesses results in hospitalization and 5,000 cases results in death. Could the some of these cases because from the bacteria in our kitchens?

The Bacteria Threat

What steps should we take to make our kitchens cleaner and what can we do to help eliminate some of the bacteria in our kitchens without using harmful toxic chemicals? Try these easy steps:

• Remember as soon as you enter a kitchen and begin touching things you are spreading around bacteria. This means the moment your hands touches the faucet of your sink, your refrigerator handle and even the knobs of your stove, germs and bacteria are beginning to get spread. These of course are places you must clean when you are cleaning up your kitchen.

• You must be vigilant about keeping germs and bacteria from cross contaminating. One great way to do this is by keeping color coded sponges in your home. Certain sponges are used for certain purposed. For instance, choose one colored sponge for wiping down counter tops and use this for only that purpose. Never use that sponge to clean your dishes.

• Every day or every other day take the time to clean and microwave your sponge. This is the only way to destroy germs and bacteria that gets into those sponges. Make sure the sponges are damp and place them into your microwave for about two minutes. The heat will kill the bacteria in them.

• If you don’t want to take the time to microwave a sponge, use paper towels or better yet use cloth towels that you can wash. Use these for a day and then toss them into your wash. When washing use hot water to kill any germs and bacteria on them.

• Use rubber cutting boards such as the Sani Tuff Line – they do not leave as many grooves in the surface as the plastic models and if they do get grooved, they can be sanded down. Clean them well with hot water. If you use wood cutting boards then clean them with hot water and 100% straight household vinegar. Make sure you are using separate cutting boards for meats and vegetables to prevent cross contaminated.

• Be vigilant about cleaning and always wash your hands before cooking.

Yes, you must always take the necessary steps when it comes to cooking and cleaning to keep your family and yourself healthy. Remember if your kitchen is clean enough to pass a health inspection test it is clean enough to keep your family healthy and that disinfecting and cleanliness can be accomplished through more benign (to humans) natural chemicals such as vinegar, citrus based cleansers, and others. It is impossible to eliminate all toxins from your everyday life but taking as many steps as possible to reduce them will help you lead a longer, healthier life.

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About Lynne Jaques

Lynne is a stay-at-home mother of two boys. As a former US military officer and the spouse of an active duty US military member, Lynne enjoys traveling the world (although not the moving part!) and finding new cuisine and methods of preparing food. She also has the habit of using parenthesis way too much!

45 thoughts on “Is Your Kitchen Toxic?”

  1. Thank you for these great suggestions. It’s hard to keep your kitchen clean, and sometimes we go to such lengths to keep everything neat and tidy, but the truth is the way a kitchen looks is not always indicative of how clean actually is!

    I was already aware of the wonderful powers of white vinegar, but hydrogen peroxide is new to me, I’ll have to try it out. When I use strong chemical detergents I always think it’s like a medicine: it does reach its intended effect, but there are also side effects that you don’t expect!

    About the cross-contaminating sponges, I think that is one of the most common unhealthy things that happen in kitchens. I know I couldn’t convince my mother to use different sponges in her kitchen, she just has one that she uses to clean counter-tops and wash dishes, and she uses them for a long time! I tried explaining that sponges can be one of the most germ-filled objects in a house, but old habits die hard. Your suggestion, color-coding them, is wonderful, but I actually use completely different sponges for each thing. For pots and dishes I use sponges with a scrub side, while for counter tops I have a soft and thin one, similar to a rag, and a mail cast scrubber for more difficult tasks!

    I must confess I am guilty of letting plastic containers get hot. I knew that was not ideal, thank you for explaining exactly why!

  2. I’m so glad I’e read this arcticle. So many hazards I had no idea about. I think it’s time to change my kitchen habits! The thing about plastic containers is specially worrying.

  3. The numbers of people who get infected with bacteria due to unclean surfaces and/or food is shocking. I teach children how to cook, the first thing I teach is cleanliness and hygiene. You highlight some good points, re-heating is something to be very careful with.

  4. Well I was completely unaware that I could be doing more harm than good by cleaning up my kitchen. It is off to the hardware store to buy new spray bottles for me. It also seems that I will be saving a lot of money by getting these safer cleaning g rather than buying store bought ones. So it is a win win all around.

  5. I about to border on O.C.D {Obsessive Compulsive Disorder} after reading what the article entails…cleanliness for me is a must, sometimes i doubt my cleanliness, maybe i should call in the “Mr. Clean Inspectors” and see whether i ‘ve passed the cleanliness test…good thing i have Vinegar at my disposal…its time to trash out toxic cleaning supplies…time to use non toxic friendly cleaning supplies.

  6. I started using baking powder and vinegar (sometimes together) a while ago but I didn’t know I could use hydrogen peroxide. Thanks for the tip!

    I have dedicated washcloths for different areas and tasks and luckily we don’t microwave anything so my bowls are safe ;)…BUT, my pots and pans….now I’m getting stressed. LOL

    But the hand-washing? Yeah. It may be a little OCD of me, but I’m always washing hands and I’m teaching my king to do the same.

  7. I really do need to make the effort to get rid of all my flimsy plastic food storage containers. I always mean to, but when I see the price for glass ones, I back off. I guess the best thing to do would be to just buy one piece at a time.

  8. I’ve always hated the strong smells of heavy duty cleaning products laden with chemicals; I knew they had to be bad for you, and if just the smell of them could make me feel nauseous, it doesn’t bear thinking about what it could be doing to my body.

    Baking soda and vinegar have gradually been finding their way into my cleaning cupboard, although I am still learning about how to use them, and what various recipes I can make up from them. Hydrogen peroxide is new to me though – I am certainly going to read up a bit more about that, and see how I can use it for cleaning.

    I love the idea of making my own cleaning solutions, and it’s good to know I can feel safe about doing it without harsh products. Great advice for avoiding cross contamination, and I love the tip for microwaving kitchen sponges!

  9. This is constantly on my mind when I’m cleaning. It’s one of my biggest fears. I think I’m going to try adding some of your tips to my routine. As disgusting as it sounds I tend to have two sponges that I use for everything. That sounds really bad to me after reading this. I’m definitely going to get some extra sponges today. Thanks for the tricks and tips.

  10. So many of these things need to be beaten into my skull. Especially the cleaning supplies! I always clean off the counter before I use it, then cringe at thinking what I’m doing to my food.. but then I cringe to think of what I’m doing without cleaning it with the chemicals. It’s sort of a double-edged sword.. but now I know that there are cleaner, healthier options! Thanks!

  11. Thank you for this article.

    I have been very intricate lately with cleaning food containers and my pans lately after an event of food poisoning. My tummy is very sensitive and I don’ t want to risk happening that anymore although that happened in a fast food restaurant and not in my own home. I have also been replacing my sponge every week, although that cost a lot, just to be sure its clean and would not harbor any bacteria that may poison me.

    I may also not use my non stick pans anymore, because aside from the tearing off of the non stick material, the risk of cancer is just not worth it. If it can kill birds at a single event exposure, what more with people who actually use it everyday.

  12. I am always pretty paranoid about bacteria in my kitchen. I always keep cross contamination in mind. An area I need to improve on is sanitizing my sponges and throwing them out when needed. I never really thought about chemicals in containers but that makes a lot of sense. I’ll have to look over mine. It’s probably time for me to buy a new set anyway.

  13. Thank you so much for this article, I have a lot of plastic containers but don’t really use them to reheat the food in that much, but I am going to be sure and not heat any food in them from now on. I also never thought of cleaning the faucet, refrigerator handle, and stove handle every time I clean the kitchen, but I’m going to start, I’m also going to lay off of the all purpose cleaners.

  14. Vigilant indeed! Since finding out about these issues my kitchen has turned into a battleground. I have used nonstick pans for years. When I noticed that the non-stick was starting to stick, I realized there was a great possibility that the material that was flaking off of the pots that made it non-stick was likely mixing in with the food being prepared and was probably being ingested. It was time to go shopping.

    Plastics were another sore spot, but I think most importantly avoiding their use in the microwave was a big start.

    As far as controlling bacteria in the kitchen, hand-washing is not overrated. It is astounding to me to watch the number of people who overlook this important sanitary step and just go straight into their fridges, prepare food and drink without even the first thought of washing their hands.

  15. Wow, this is making me cringe! I do my best to keep my kitchen clean, but I had no idea that what I use to clean it could be making things even worse. I love the tip to microwave a sponge. i would’ve never thought of that. This article has given me a lot to think about. I’m going to go wash my hands now. lol

  16. It actually worries me how paranoid people are about sterilising their kitchens and homes – we will never remove all bacteria and most of them are benign or helpful anyway. All these antiseptic washing products are unnecessary and potentially harmful so it’s great you are suggesting more natural cleaning products and methods.

    I also use eucalyptus oil in water as a cleaning agent, too. It kills many things and smells nice.

    I do wash many cleaning cloths – usually in cold water but I add vinegar in the rinse phase (best fabric softener & brightener!) and dry them on the line so the sunlight kills anything worrying.

    I used to iron tea towels as the heat can kill a lot of bacteria and viruses but I just don’t have time anymore.

  17. I like using hydrogen peroxide to clean my kitchen and bathrooms. It doesn’t leave an odor and the fizzing away is a pretty satisfying sound.

    I always thought stainless steel does not posses much of a health risk and the only risk is if you scrub away the surface to reveal the inner cores. The alloys used in making stainless steel pans should be more stable than other materials.

  18. We have not bought a multipurpose spray cleaner in over 2 years. Vinegar works perfectly to cut grease and disinfect. It only stinks like vinegar for a few minutes. By the time it evaporates, the smell is gone. If it really bothers you, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Vinegar is by far cheaper than anything else out there. I can get a gallon of vinegar for $1, and it will last me for a year.

  19. I have found my spray and wipe cleaner isn’t that great of a cleaner. I have been using more natural cleaners such as lemon juice, vinegar and baking soda. I am still getting the hang of it and I’m hoping that I can clean the stains baked on my oven trays eventually.

  20. Keeping the kitchen clean is a hard job, you are always wiping and cleaning the counter tops. The handles on doors and faucets have to kept clean and wiped down often. Any blood from meat must be cleaned up while cooking. I have used hydrogen perioxide and vinegar to clean the kitchen and bathroom several times.

  21. Another natural cleaning tip I learned from my grandma: for earthenware, do not wash them with soap because it tends to seep in, rendering the pot unusable. The best way to clean it is to rub it with salt while it is warm then flush with hot water. That way, the pot also “ages” and provides better flavor each time you cook. =) This would be perfect for slow cooking or stewing.

  22. It’s a consensus that plastic cutting boards, sponges, and drain covers are the most dirty objects in the kitchen. They can harbor a multitude of bacteria including salmonella. That’s why it’s always important to have a designated day for thorough kitchen cleaning bi-monthly.

  23. Thank you for such great information. I especially liked your cleaning ‘recipes.’ I think I’ll try the baking soda on the stove.

    One product that I like is Simple Green. I believe that it is non-toxic, and I love the scent. Kindof like licorice.

    I’m overdue to replace my cookware. I do use a lot of cast iron, but there are some non-stick pans. I didn’t realize just how bad these were.

  24. I’m obviously going to have to rethink my waning supplies for my spring cleaning. I’ve used the baking powder and vinegar on clogged drains before and it worked great! If I can get away withess harsh chemicals in the house it’s worth a try

  25. Isn’t it funny how getting rid of the germs can easily leave your kitchen in a different kind of hazardous condition! Luckily, there is a wealth of natural alternatives to use and they are also a lot cheaper. It definitely sems to be worth making the switch.

  26. I love the idea of color coded sponges, I have been doing this for a long time. I will have to start microwaving my sponges, though, as tend to use them for about a month, then toss. I rinse them with vinegar when they get questionable, but that is just something I started doing because I clean my sink/counter with vinegar, and actually enjoy the smell. I wasn’t aware that many cleaning products were made from tar and petroleum, which concerns me. The cat litter I use also has some sort of petroleum base, which concerns me, and I am considering switching. Thanks for writing such an informative article.

  27. A few years ago I started to wonder whether the cleaners I was using in the kitchen were really safe. I’ve slowly been making the switch to more natural products, and this article has encouraged me to try other natural alternatives. I’m also a fan of color-coded sponges, I’ve actually witnessed people have fights about using the wrong sponge for a task and that could have been prevented by having a simple system like that in place. Lots of useful tips in this post, I’ll have to bookmark it for future reference.

  28. I love the smell of cleaners but i know they are horrible. I started using vinegar in a lot of things so I know that you can use it for so much more. that and lemons can do anything. I just get the containers and I will start to make my own things. It will also save me so much money.

  29. I already use baking soda and vinegar (not at the same time, of course!) to clean in the kitchen, but for some reason, I’ve never considered hydrogen peroxide. I use it along with baking soda to whiten up my teeth and to clean up stubborn stains and dyes on counter-tops, but I’ll definitely have to try it out during cleanup. Also, a really good way to clean out used glass (such as jars or bottles) is to use a bit of either vinegar or vodka, plus a couple pinches of salt, and shake it. It scours and disinfects the glass really well. I really love the new resurgence of using natural-based cleaners, though. I always get a bit queasy thinking about how the ground and water absorbs all the junk we put into it.

  30. This article was very informative. I have already rid my home of most man-made chemicals and use only organic or all natural cleaning supplies. However, I was unaware of all the other toxic items in my home such as the non stick pans and the plasticware. So all of this information was very helpful and I will not start makign the additional transition so that I can be as toxic free as possible.

  31. It’s funny how lack we treat these kitchen chemicals. If this was a workplace you would need gloves and other PPE to deal with these chemicals, but we just use them carelessly at home!
    Bleach is the worst offender, we are not even allowed to use it at work yet many people will not dilute it enough and use it at home.

  32. I never heard of hydrogen peroxide being used as a cleanser. I will try that the next time I go shopping. My question is, if simple things like vinegar are effective enough, then why not make cleaning products with these everyday household items? Wouldn’t it be cheaper? Plus, you have to wonder why make products that are portrayed as good but are harmful? These are just the things that go through my head when I come across articles like this. Either way, I enjoyed the article and I’ll definitely be trying the hydrogen peroxide idea.

  33. I have become increasingly aware of this issue since I realized that cancer-inducing triclosan was the active ingredient in many antibacterial hand soaps (and what do we do before we cook? We wash our hands). I am appalled that the FDA has not cracked down on this like they should. I’ll definitely take a majority of the advice in this article, especially the tip about ridding the dish-washing sponge of bacteria with heat. Thank you for all this pertinent information!

    • I agree, but sadly I don’t have much hope or trust in the FDA any more. I’ve been appalled by such agencies for some time now. I guess we just have to practice due diligence as best we can, on our own. At least we have venues for information, such as this one. We can do further research from here and make more informed decisions of what we bring into our homes, especially our kitchens.

  34. This is very interesting considering all the household cleaning products sold in stores claim to be safe and used for countertops, stoves and sinks. I guess I should have known better because I’ll clean my stovetop and counters and table, but I won’t eat off of them if I drop food. I will be looking into more healthy and organic products to start cleaning my home with.

  35. I’m kind of obsessive when it comes to cleaning, especially in the kitchen where something that is expired or rotten can “infect” the rest of the food as well. I always clean up everything to make sure every bit of food is fresh, call me crazy but I’m a germophobe. 😛

  36. This is some great advice. If you’ve ever had food poisoning, as I have, it makes you more conscientious about your own kitchen. I never liked using harsh chemicals around food, so I use a lot of vinegar on my sinks and countertops. I hadn’t heard about hydrogen peroxide as a cleaning aid though. I’ll give it a try. Your kitchen can never be too clean.

  37. About six months ago I switched from using chemical cleaners to mon toxic. I definitely see a difference in my skin as I used to get rashes and dried out skin after I would clean. I also try using as many household items as possible. Vinegar and lemon juice are my two favorites. Throwing left over lemon peels in your garbage disposal is a great way to get rid of any odor.

  38. Wow, this is scary stuff. I mean, I had a basic idea about some of it, but I really didn’t know it was this serious and abundant. Thanks for the information.

    I’ve long been concerned about certain brands of dish washing liquid (since it’s used for a variety of other things that make you think it might not be a great idea to use on dishes you and your family eat from). People just roll their eyes when I mention it though, and seem to think it’s much ado about nothing.

    I feel validated now, ha ha. I’ve been moving toward more natural solutions anyway. Baking soda is definitely one that I’m using more and more.

  39. I am a firm believer in cleaning with only all natural products. For one I am a mother of small children and two, I am allergic to certain chemicals and smells. I generally use white vinegar and baking soda to clean my home from top to bottom. I sometimes include bleach as long as my nose, mouth and skin are fully covered. This is also a cheaper way and the products last longer if you buy in bulk. I usually mix baking soda with water to make a paste and scour, or I use the vinegar and mix water with it, and a touch of lemon for a great spray cleaner. The lemon smells amazing and it works like no other. You can also use these two household staples for washing and deodorizing clothing.

  40. I had no idea that you could sterilize sponges in the microwave. I have a bunch that I barely ever use because I’ve been worried that they can’t be cleaned properly, so that’s good news. I’m going to try out a few of the suggestions for natural cleaners too…I’m not a big fan of using a lot of chemicals in my house and I didn’t realize that peroxide and vinegar was so effective at killing bacteria. Way more budget friends than conventional cleaners too, that stuff gets expensive!

  41. The is very useful, as I have to avoid most standard kitchen cleaners anyway thanks to the cats. Vinegar really is underestimated as a cleaner: it may take a little more elbow grease, but it can lift most stains, and it is good at shifting limescale and dirt trapped in it. White vinegar also freshens washing machines wonderfully!

    With cutting boards, I think most of the people I know use toughened glass or ceramic cutting boards. It is simply easier to clean them, they are heat-proof, and they don’t end up with scratches or grooves. If you need to you can boil them clean, which I’ve found lifts most things off it.

  42. I always buy new sponges because I know they get filthy very fast if you leave them laying around after using them.
    I would not boil or sterilize them because it is just disgusting for me. But it is good t know that this is possible. I do not want to risk my kids getting sick!

  43. I surely will show this to my mom, out kitchen must be really dirty and full of bacteria, she cleans it, but I somehow feel that it always ends up the same. These are some good tips indeed. Thank you very much for sharing this, hopefully my mom will take this into account.

  44. These are all good tips. The thing that concerns me is about the cookware. It looks like there is a lot that can be toxic. Unfortunately, the alternatives seem to be on the expensive side. It makes me wonder if it’s really worth worrying about, and how much of those coatings does it take to actually affect the food enough to make someone sick? I know that some metals corrode when exposed to acids, like those in canned tomatoes. I’ve never had a problem with cookware, and although I’ve heard things about nonstick coatings being carcinogenic, I’d heard that those were phased out in the 90s, so that might apply only to older cookware. Does anyone know of any articles or sources to support or refute this?

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