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When it comes to germs, it's not all about the bathroom. The kitchen is the germiest room in the house. From the countertops and sink to the cutting boards and refrigerator, the kitchen is teeming with billions of microorganisms.

But you can tackle those nasty kitchen germs that lurk where you prepare your family's meals. Here are some kitchen hot spots and tips for how to clean them.

The Germiest Kitchen Item?

Kitchen sponge. This is probably the most germ-filled item in your house. It's used to sop up all kinds of germs and grime and then often stored under the sink -- a wet, dark place that's a perfect environment for bacteria to grow.

Experts point out that when you use a sponge throughout your kitchen -- wiping dishes, counters, or the sink -- you're just moving germs from one spot to another. While zapping the sponge in the microwave will get rid of some germs, it won't get rid of all of them. There are dead spots where the microwaves or heat doesn't reach, like cold spots in food, and germs survive there.

Washing a sponge in the dishwasher also isn't enough to kill germs unless you have an extremely high-heat germicide cycle. As an alternative, you can use paper towels or a clean cloth; be sure to use the cloth only once and then toss it in the laundry. If you do use sponges, you can soak them between cleanings in a solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water, or vinegar and water. Soak them in the bleach solution for about 5 minutes or in the vinegar solution for 20 to 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and let air dry.

More Kitchen Hot Spots

Counters. Spraying a 10% vinegar solution on counters will wipe out lots of kitchen counter germs at once. Keep the surface wet for 30 to 60 seconds, then wipe. Keep purses, briefcases, lunchboxes, keys, mail, and electronic devices like remote controls off countertops because they're teeming with germs.

Cutting boards. It's a good idea to have one cutting board for raw meats, poultry, and seafood, and another for produce and bread. Disinfect cutting boards by soaking them in straight vinegar or a bleach solution of no more than 1 cup of bleach to 1 gallon of water for about 30 minutes. Then rinse thoroughly with hot, soapy water or put them in the dishwasher. Using the dishwasher alone isn't enough to sanitize them.

Refrigerator. Refrigeration doesn't kill bacteria -- it just slows their growth. The more you open and close the refrigerator door, the greater your chance of bringing in mold. Every so often, wash down all surfaces of your fridge -- including racks and drawers -- with a vinegar solution. Wash the refrigerator door handle frequently.

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