Anti-bacterial kitchen sprays and wipes may be useless

Anti-bacterial kitchen sprays and wipes may be a waste of money, according to TV doctor Michael Mosley.

He found potentially-harmful bacteria that can cause agonising food poisoning reappear on kitchen counters just one hour after disinfecting surfaces.

After 12 hours, ‘dramatic’ amounts of bacteria and fungi colonise worktops, according to research published on the BBC’s Trust Me I’m a Doctor. 

Microbial physiologist Dr Lynn Dover, from Northumbria University, who was involved in the recent investigation, adds, however, the majority of bugs found in people’s homes are harmless and may even be beneficial, with past studies suggesting they can strengthen immunity and boost mental health.

To protect yourself against potentially-harmful bacteria and fungi, Dr Mosley recommends people keep dishcloths and sponges as dry as possible and dunk them in bleach once a week.

Anti-bacterial kitchen sprays and wipes may be a waste of money (stock)


Kitchens are the dirtiest rooms in the house, research suggests.  

Bacteria such as Salmonella and E.coli lurk on 72 per cent of sponges, 45 per cent of sinks, 32 per cent of counters and 18 per cent of chopping boards, according to research released in 2011 by Michigan-based NSF International, which independently tests food and health science sectors.

Such pathogens are thought to enter kitchens via contaminated meat.

In bathrooms, illness-causing bacteria lurk on 27 per cent of toothbrush holders and nine per cent of taps. 

Kitchens are thought to harbour more germs due to the warm, moist environments of items such as sponges and coffee machines, which may not be frequently cleaned.

These provide the ideal breeding grounds for bacteria. 

Smooth, cold surfaces, which are commonly found in bathrooms, are less hospitable for bugs to reproduce.

The researchers carried out the investigation by having 22 families swab 30 everyday household items ranging from kitchen counters to mobile phones and pet products.

A previous study by Arizona University suggested kitchens harbour up to 200,000 times more bacteria than toilet seats.

How the research was carried out 

The Trust Me I’m A Doctor team gave three families a removable kitchen work surface.

Antibacterial wipes were given to the families, who were instructed to give the counters a thorough clean.

They then used the kitchen station as they would at home, while taking frequent swabs of the counter.

The swabs were later analysed.  

How to reduce your risk of illness  

As well as keeping sponges and discloths clean and dry, Dr Moseley also recommends using certain chopping boards just for meat and others for produce that will be eaten raw, such as salad.

Cleaning with vinegar, as well as soapy water, is a good way of disinfecting kitchen items due to its acetic-acid content. 

Some people also put sponges and cloths in the dishwasher or microwave to better kill germs.

Stainless steel sinks may be behind Legionnaires’ disease 

This comes after research released in August 2017 suggested stainless steel sinks and kitchen taps could increase people’s risk of contracting life-threatening Legionnaires’ disease.

The growth of bacteria responsible for Legionnaires’, which has previously been linked to rust, is highest in stainless steel taps, a study found.

Such taps are thought to encourage bacterial growth as their protective coating typically degrades over time, promoting rusting, according to researchers from the Netherlands, including the Regional Public Health Laboratory Kennemerland.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) recommends people avoid Legionnaires’ by keeping hot-water systems heated to between 50 and 60°C, as well as running taps regularly to avoid water standing for too long.

Legionnaires’ disease, which causes headaches, muscle pain, fever and confusion, affected around 7,000 people in Europe in 2015, however, the ECDC believes there may have been many more unreported incidences.