The Toilet Tautology
Yes, your toilet is cleaner than your kitchen sink… because you clean it. You clean it because you are wary of its dirty function. And things you clean end up being clean things. Thus, in this BBC article, microbiologist Dr. Chuck Gerba calls your toilet seat the “gold standard” for its generally low microorganism count. The kitchen, by contrast, is a happy place. It is often thought of as the heart of the home. It nourishes, it prepares for the holidays, it smells like cookies. Perhaps because its function is so wholesome, you do not scour it with the same paranoid frequency and gusto. And while any moist and temperate environment can breed bugs, the kitchen has another major liability: meat. Contamination from animal derived food products is a prominent reason for the comparatively high levels of disease-causing bacteria found in the kitchen. Cutting boards and refrigerator drawers are among the worst culprits because, again, they are rarely or inadequately cleaned. The things you clean are clean; the things you don’t, aren’t.
Love Your Microbiomes
Remember, “clean” is sometimes but not always synonymous with “sanitized.” This is an important point both when considering the salmonella that slab of meat left on your cutting board and when considering that microbes literally are a part of us, playing a vital role in our immune systems among other things. Check out, “Why Getting Grimy as a Child Can Make for a Healthier Life”, for a look at the on-going research surrounding the “hygiene hypothesis”.
And Don’t Panic
As the BBC says, “we all touch these perhaps startlingly dirty things every day, and on the whole we don’t get constantly ill.” So if you’re not wretchedly sick by now, you probably won’t be. Good principles for cleaning are the same as those for life: balance and common sense. It’s the extreme of anything that is often unhealthy. But seriously, throw your can opener in the dishwasher every now and then– it’s probably disgusting.