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The Kitchen Towel Playbook

Man dries hands on paper towels while preparing food.If you cook at home, you probably use either a kitchen towel or a paper towel to dry dishes, wipe up spills, or dry your hands.  Recent research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and Kansas State University identifies kitchen towels as the number one source of cross contamination in the kitchen.  Protect your family from food poisoning by following this kitchen towel playbook.

Keep it Clean

Hand washing is the first step to avoid spreading bacteria around your kitchen.  Poorly washed hands can contaminate your kitchen towels with bacteria. The bacteria stay on your towels contaminating any surface they touch. You should wash your hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds. Washing your hands at the start of cooking is not the only kitchen play that involves hand washing. The plays listed below all end with hand washing:

  • Handling raw meat,
  • Handling raw meat packaging,
  • Handling raw eggs (even if you just touch the shell),
  • Throwing away trash,
  • And after cooking.

Keep Them on their Toes

Never reuse paper towels.  They are meant for single use only. When used multiple times, bacteria can find itself onto the paper towel and hitch a ride around the kitchen. When used once, that bacteria ends up in the trash along with the paper towel not in your kitchen and on your food. Keep bacteria out of the action by calling in a new paper towel with each new kitchen play.

Keep Them Fresh

Kitchen towels build up bacteria after multiple uses. To keep the bacteria from getting the upper hand, you should wash towels frequently in the hot cycle of your washing machine. This will remove the bacteria contaminating your kitchen towels. Keep multiple dish towels in your cabinet so you can call in a substitute when your current towel is overused.

With proper “coaching”, your kitchen towel can be the best tool for protecting your family from food poisoning. Remember, when in doubt, wash your hands again and grab a new towel.


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Posted in: Kitchen SafetyTagged: Food safety. Kitchen safety | cross contamination | check your steps | seasonal