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Just had my kitchen remodeled and this is the first time I've had a kitchen with enough counter space that it's big enough to roll dough etc on. Plus it's the first time it's not a tile countertop so clean up is much easier.

I've been cleaning the counter tops using soft scrub with bleach - and I'm guessing any residue from that will not taste good, or be good for your health :)

What would be the best solution for cleaning a countertop that will come into direct contact with food? Just dish soap and water?

  • I don't know about 'best', but after I use something like soft scrub, I'll wipe it down with a wet cloth to get off any residue. I don't think that bleach itself is a problem, as there are many recommendations for 'sanitizing spray' which is just watered down bleach (and you don't rinse it off afterwards) – Joe Jan 8 '16 at 0:11
  • In some parts of France, they mix some bleach with the tap water against bacteria. It's still potable (but it tastes bad). Cf. also the bleach commonly used in swimming pools. – Cerberus Jan 8 '16 at 0:30
  • @merk : okay, I should have said 'diluted with water'. It's been a long day. ucfoodsafety.ucdavis.edu/files/26437.pdf ... 1TB bleach into 1 gal of water. Chlorine (in bleach) and ozone (O3 form of oxygen) are the main two treatments for water treatment systems. Chlorine will maintain its antimicrobial properties longer. Some also use UV light, but that's only a one-time thing (it doesn't help if the water is later contaminated). – Joe Jan 8 '16 at 0:47
  • Steam, ultraviolet light and ozone, and perhaps a flamethrower. Or you may find soap, water and rinsing with clean water somewhat more convenient and less hazardous to work with. If you'd like a non-bleach handy no-rinse sanitizer, grab some star-san (phosphoric acid solution, mostly) at a home-brew store and mix up a spray bottle of the solution (what you buy is a concentrate - the mixed solution is good for about a month.) But plain soap kills bacteria. – Ecnerwal Jan 8 '16 at 3:29
  • Whether you use bleach or soap (and I use both depending on both what I've done and what I'm about to do), rinse well, then dry with a clean cloth then allow to air dry before flouring for rolling out. Flour will find the slightly damp bits that you can't. – Chris H Jan 8 '16 at 9:56
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You routinely prepare food on cutting boards which have been cleaned just with soap and hot water, even after being heavily contaminated with raw meat. So thorough cleaning with diluted soap and water should be sufficient here as well. Just make sure that you use the same standards you would for your cutting boards, namely, that you've removed anything that might be stuck there.

However, if you're really worried, the FDA recommends using bleach to sanitize counters*:

One teaspoon of liquid chlorine bleach per quart of clean water can also be used to sanitize surfaces. Leave the bleach solution on the surface for about 10 minutes to be effective.

(Pardon the "Food Safety for Moms-to-Be" title on that page - obviously people besides mothers can cook and be safe as well.)

I think the point is to be safe against routine incidental contact, not for deliberate food preparation on the counter, but making one safe should make the other safe too - and it's clearly a step beyond soap and water.

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There is a difference between cleaning and sanitizing.

Cleaning

  • If you have something greasy on the counter then you need some sort of detergent to solubilize the grease. (You might want to then use a vinegar solution to be sure and get all the detergent off the counter.)
  • If you were doing something like kneading bread, then you need something a bit more abrasive to scrub the countertop to get off stuck bits of dried out dough.

Sanitizing

  • A diluted bleach solution works well. (Say if you leaked some juice from raw meat on the counter.)
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White vinegar will very effectively clean and sanitize your countertop, and it's completely non-toxic! I keep a decanter on my counter, making it easy to splash some out, and wash down the counter with a paper towel.

In addition, baking soda is an excellent scouring powder, and also completely non-toxic. (Baking soda can also extinguish a grease fire, which is another reason to always keep some handy.)

The acidity of the vinegar will kill many pathogens, though not as effectively as chlorine bleach. If you do use bleach or other toxic cleaners, washing down the counter after with vinegar will help remove any chemical residue.

The vinegar will mostly evaporate when it dries, but a final wipe with clear water will leave the countertop sparkling clean for kneading dough.

  • One caveat: Vinegar should never be used if you prepare food cultures. The acetobacters can contaminate the culture. – Escoce Jan 8 '16 at 15:02

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