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How often should you clean your kitchen sink?

White modern kitchen with plants and porcelain farmhouse sink

The kitchen sink for many families is the heart of the kitchen. You’d be surprised to know however it is the second dirtiest space in your kitchen. It’s where we wash the cake batter off of our hands, defrost the frozen chicken, and begrudgingly clean up the dishes after cooking a nice meal. All of this food debris and bacteria from our hands however can turn the kitchen sink into a zoo of bacteria and bad odors. To keep your kitchen clean, and your family safe, you should be doing a deep clean of your kitchen sink often. Exactly how often is often enough? Keep reading to find out! 

Woman cleaning black and steel sink with pink sponge

How often you should clean your kitchen sink

The frequency at which you need to clean your sink will differ depending on what exactly you’re using it for. As a general rule of thumb, Lisa Yakas “a microbiologist and Senior Certification Project Manager of Food Equipment at NSF International, [recommends] that everyone should wash the sink’s bottom and sides at least once a week with a disinfectant”[3]. If you’re just using the sink for dishwashing, you can get by with a weekly deep cleaning. This means first cleaning the sink with soap and hot water, and then following up with a disinfecting product. Always include the faucet and handles of the sink in your disinfecting process as these high touch areas can contribute to bacteria spreading through the home. However, if you are washing dirty produce with visible soilings, like dirty potatoes, you should clean the sink more often. Most importantly, if you are defrosting meat, or cleaning items that have come in contact with raw meat or fish, you will need to clean and disinfect your sink right away. Raw meat and fish can leave traces of bacteria like E. coli and salmonella [4] in your sink. If this bacteria spreads to you it can make you very sick. Take the safe route and disinfect your sink entirely after handling raw meat or fish. If you want to go the extra mile, you can clean your drain and garbage disposal either weekly, monthly, or as needed to remove any unpleasant smells, and prevent clogging. 

How to disinfect your kitchen sink

Step 1: Clean your sink – The first step to disinfecting your sink is cleaning it with good old soap and water. Finish up any dishwashing, and clear the sink completely of any dishes, food items, or debris. Use a clean cloth, dish soap, and hot water to clean the sink and remove any stuck-on food. If you prefer to use a sponge to clean your sink, consider how long the sponge has been in use. “There are so many cracks and crevices for germs to hide in, and germs love moisture”[2], making your sponge the ideal place for germs to populate. Cleaning your sink with a dirty sponge is completely counterintuitive. 

Step 2: Disinfect your sink – Now that your sink has been cleaned with dish soap and hot water, it’s time to disinfect it. Believe it or not, hot water and soap alone are not enough to completely disinfect a surface, especially if this surface comes in contact with food. Use a disinfecting cleaning product or white vinegar diluted with water. You can use a fresh sponge or clean cloth to scrub and disinfect every nook and cranny of your sink, including the faucet and handles. After you’ve disinfected the sink you can rinse it clean with water. 

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Step 3: Disinfect your sponge or brush – If you use a sponge or scrub brush to wash your dishes or sink, it is very important to keep these clean as well. A good rule of thumb is, if you can’t remember when you started using the sponge, or if it smells…off, throw it away. Sponges in fact are the number 1 dirtiest item in your kitchen, the second being your kitchen sink[2]. Kitchen sponges should be replaced often, up to once a week. If you’re concerned about the amount of waste produced in replacing your kitchen sponge, try a biodegradable kitchen sponge that you can throw in your compost when it’s past its prime. If you use have a dishwasher-safe scrub brush, throw this in the dishwasher once a week to disinfect it. 

Stainless steel sink drain with water running

How to deodorize your drain

Want to take your clean sink to the next level? To remove any lingering odors from your drain or garbage disposal, you can disinfect and deodorize it using deodorizing tablets, or a mix of ingredients you likely already have in the home. Drains can trap bits of food, which can begin to rot and grow mold, causing offensive smells. No matter how clean your sink is, a dirty drain or garbage disposal can spoil the party. 

Vinegar and baking soda method: It sounds like a science project, but a mix of baking soda and vinegar can unclog and deodorize your sink drain. First, run the hottest water possible down your drain for 1 minute. Next, turn off the water, and pour a 1/4 cup of baking soda [1] down the drain. If you have a garbage disposal/ garburator, let it run for a few seconds. Let the baking soda sit in the drain for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, pour 1 cup of vinegar[1] down the drain as well, and let it sit for 3-5 minutes. Rinse the solution down the drain with hot water, and run your garbage disposal for another few seconds. 

Ice and salt method: If your drain and garbage disposal still aren’t smelling fresh, you can continue the cleaning with an ice and salt solution. Fill the drain with ice, about 2 cups and a half cup of salt[1]. Then run cold water down the drain until the ice is completely dissolved. The ice as it tumbles down the drain will remove any food debris trapped in the drain. 

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Cleaning tip: Make your sink smell fresh! Use the peels of citrus fruit, like grapefruit, lemon, or orange, and drop them in the garbage disposal as you run cold water. The natural fragrant oils in the citrus fruit peel will leave your sink with that fresh clean citrus smell. 

Garbage disposal cleaning pods: Not into DIYs? Luckily, garbage disposal cleaning and deodorizing pods exist. Simply drop one into your running garbage disposal to remove odors, clean food debris, and loosen any clogging. 

Disinfect drain stops and food traps: Just like the drain, food traps, and drain stops can collect moldy food, and mildew causing nasty smells. When you do a sink deep clean, wash these thoroughly with soap and water, and then finish off with a disinfecting spray. 

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A clean sink makes washing dishes less painful

There’s nothing worse than washing the dishes in a dirty sink. It makes the process that much more unappetizing, and you’re never really sure if your dishes are getting as clean as they should be. To keep your dishes as clean as possible, periodically cleaning your sink is the key. Clean counter space with less clutter as well can make the task seem less daunting, as you are more easily able to focus on the task at hand. When you’ve finished cleaning your dishes, don’t leave a dirty sink. Do a quick scrub with soap and water to remove any food bits or dirty water residue. Not only will your sparkling clean sink act like a prize at the end of a dish cleaning marathon, but it will also visually motivate you to keep it clean. 

While the kitchen sink may be called the second dirtiest spot in the kitchen[2], you can change this! When we wash dishes and produce, little bits of food and dirt spray all over the inside of the sink. This grime in conjunction with the moisture in the sink becomes an oasis for bacteria. These bacteria, especially those found in raw meat and fish can spread harmful illnesses and bad odors. Washing your hands, or doing your dishes in a dirty sink is just circulating this harmful bacteria, much like washing your dishes in a dirty dishwasher. To keep your kitchen smelling fresh, and reduce the number of bacteria spread in your home, deep clean your sink once a week


Article Sources:

  1. ARS. Rescue Rooter. “Baking Soda & Vinegar Drain Hacks to Clean a Clogged Drain
  2. Bon Appetit. “Are You Cleaning Your Kitchen Sink Often Enough?
  3. The List. “How Often Should You Really Clean Your Kitchen Sink?
  4. Web MD. “Raw Food Dangers”