Last updated: 13.12.23

Where Germs Hide in Your Kitchen


Employers who own food businesses across the UK want to ensure that their customers enjoy their product, whether it be a dining experience in a restaurant or on a larger scale with foods bought in a supermarket. This means creating foods that are both tasty and safe to eat.

If food is prepared in an environment that allows bacteria to spread and food-borne illnesses to develop, it is unlikely that customers will want to buy or experience the product again. When working in a kitchen, it is crucial that food handlers and professionals know of the germ hotspots so that they can clean them regularly and keep food as safe as possible.

While many people not familiar with food safety believe that germs and bacteria in the kitchen are brought in from outside, this is actually a myth. In most instances, food poisoning is picked up in the kitchen due to poor food and kitchen hygiene.

 Although everywhere in a professional kitchen should be cleaned regularly, there are some areas that need more attention than others. In this article, we take a look at the most common germ hot spots within a kitchen and how you can prevent the spreading of dangerous bacteria.

How Are Germs Spread in the Kitchen?

Germs are mainly brought into the kitchen environment on food products or from the people who work there. The main way that these germs are spread around a kitchen is on people’s hands, which then leave them on surfaces, equipment and other food products.

Cross-contamination is one of the biggest health and safety risks in a working kitchen and is caused by germs being spread around. Cross-contamination can be reduced using a combination of techniques, which mainly revolve around regular cleaning and using separate equipment. 

If you work in a kitchen then you will play a big part in whether germs are spread around the environment or not. It is not only important for you to know where you might pick germs up from, but also how to clean these places to minimise the risk of germs being present.

Where Are Germs Found the Most in the Kitchen?

When running a food business, it is crucial that areas where food is stored and handled are as clean as possible so that they are not susceptible to bacteria. In order to know where you need to be regularly cleaning, you first need to know where germs are most likely to be found.

Germs in the Kitchen Sink

In any kitchen, the sink is one of the most used items, which means it often gets dirty quickly. The kitchen sink can get contaminated with bacteria if it has been used to wash foods that are raw before cooking, which includes meat and poultry, fruit, salad and vegetables.

In addition to this, sponges, cloths and mops are frequently used and rinsed in the sink both before and after cleaning other areas of the kitchen that could be contaminated. This will allow bacteria to thrive within the sink if not disinfected regularly.

Kitchen Sponges Germs

Cloths and sponges can contain a huge amount of bacteria, and if not washed properly or changed regularly they can present a significant health hazard. Food professionals and handlers should try to avoid leaving wet or damp cloths or sponges hanging around, as bacteria can quickly spread among them.

The risk of kitchen sponges germs doesn’t mean having to constantly replace them with new ones after every use. You can prevent germs from multiplying by cleaning and soaking them in hot soapy water or kitchen disinfectant, or by washing material cloths with tea towels and aprons at a high temperature.

Germs on Bins

Bins and rubbish areas are one of the major places in the kitchen for germs to thrive. With rubbish, food juices and peelings regularly placed as waste here, bacteria are often present. 

To avoid the development of any food-borne illnesses, those working in the kitchen should use a bin with a lid to reduce odours and keep bacteria to a minimum. Bins should be sprayed every day and cleaned thoroughly at least once or twice a week by emptying and disinfecting all parts.

Food Contact Equipment and Utensils

Food contact spots will naturally become contaminated with bacteria if not cleaned regularly. Cutting boards, knives and worktops are often prone to this, especially if they have been used with raw foods like meat, poultry, salad items, fruit and vegetables.

It is also a good idea to separate raw foods from ready-to-eat items and a way that many food businesses do this is by using different coloured cutting boards. After preparing any type of food, these contact spots should be wiped, washed and disinfected. Food handlers should also make sure they wash their hands thoroughly afterwards.

Touched Surfaces

While there are many surfaces in the kitchen that don't directly come into contact with food, bacteria can often be passed to food from frequently touched surfaces. These surfaces include taps, worktop benches, door knobs and drawer handles, along with internal surfaces of the fridge, freezer and cooker.

In the kitchen, the hands are one of the most important causes of cross-contamination and infection, which is why it is crucial to wash hands frequently.

To avoid the transmission of germs, food handlers should wash their hands with soapy and hot water before handling food, even when they don’t appear dirty. Employers should also ensure that these surfaces are regularly disinfected so that they are not contaminated by bacteria. 

How to Reduce the Germs in Your Kitchen

Now that you know some of the key areas where germs are most likely to be hiding in your kitchen, here’s advice on how you can reduce the risk that they pose and keep these areas as clean as possible.

Sanitise Surfaces

Germs on kitchen counters and germs in the kitchen sink are some of the biggest health hazards in a kitchen. The best way to remove these hazards is to keep surfaces and sinks clean by sanitising them regularly.

Surfaces should be cleaned before and after they are used, as well as when they are visibly dirty. To properly sanitise a surface or a sink, make sure to use an antibacterial or disinfectant spray, thoroughly wipe the area so that it’s covered in the cleaning substance, and then dry the area after leaving the disinfectant to work for a minute or so.

Keep Equipment Clean

To reduce the presence of germs and bacteria in the kitchen, you should also keep all of the equipment that is used in cooking and preparing food clean as well. Utensils, chopping boards, pans and containers should all be cleaned after every use and never used for different products without being cleaned in between.

Depending on the material, kitchen equipment can be cleaned either by putting it in the dishwasher, washing it by hand or wiping it down using disinfectant spray. If you’re washing equipment by hand, make sure that the water you’re using is hot and that you’re using a cleaning product, not just rinsing the utensils. 

Regularly Remove Rubbish

Bacteria in the kitchen is often concentrated in areas where rubbish is kept, so one of the best ways to reduce the risk that this poses is by taking out the rubbish at least once a day. Any full bins should always be emptied immediately, but to avoid rubbish and food waste sitting for a long time and potentially attracting pests or generating more germs, bins should be removed from the kitchen at the end of every working day.

Constantly Wash Hands

Finally, one of the best ways to reduce germs in your kitchen is to ensure that everyone working there is washing their hands. When you’re picking lots of things up, moving around the space and touching food products it is easy to get germs on your hands, and washing them in between tasks will help to avoid cross-contamination as much as possible.

Hands that are visibly dirty should always be washed, but employees should also wash their hands before and after every cooking or preparation task. This is particularly important if they’re switching between ingredients or dishes, as this will massively reduce the spread of germs and bacteria in the kitchen if they are present in a certain product or area.


How long do germs live on surfaces?

Different germs can survive for different amounts of time on surfaces, which is why it’s important to regularly disinfect them. Typical cold germs can live for up to a week on a surface, although they become less effective after 24 hours, whilst other germs can survive for several weeks if the surface they are on isn’t cleaned.

How do germs enter the body?

Germs can enter the body in a variety of ways, but the most common is from germs being picked up on your hands and then transferred to your mouth and ingested. They can also enter the body through your eyes, nose and through any open wounds.

What temperature kills germs?

General advice is that the majority of germs are killed by temperatures above 65°C, although many recommendations suggest that you should heat food and drink higher than this in order to be certain that any harmful germs have been killed. Many germs thrive and multiply faster at temperatures in the danger zone just below this value, so it’s incredibly important to ensure that the correct temperature is reached and exceeded for a long time if you’re trying to kill germs.


If you work in a kitchen as part of a food business, understanding the germs that may be present in this environment and how you can reduce the risk they present is an important part of your role. By following health and safety measures, keeping germ hotspots clean and being aware of which areas present the biggest hazard, you’ll keep yourself and the customers you serve as safe as possible.

If you’re looking for food hygiene training that will help to minimise the risk of germs in a kitchen, we offer a collection of online food safety training courses that cover this topic and more, helping to keep staff and customers safe at work.