Sunday, December 11, 2011

Gentlemen, Nuke Your Sponges!!

In a recent MedHelp release about the 15 Places Germs Hide in Your Home, they suggest putting a damp kitchen sponge on a plate/bowl and microwaving it for 1 minute on high to disinfect. This struck me as a genius solution for a potentially sickening or expensive dilemma. It has also inspired me to post about sanitization and germ management.

To start off with I feel it is important to define the different levels of disinfection; you may not realize that to sanitize and to sterilize are not quite the same.

Microbe control can be divided into 3 categories:

Most people regularly clean their bathrooms more fastidiously than other areas of their house; meanwhile, they may be unknowingly leaving havens for germs untouched by their army of cleaning products.
As pointed out by the MedHelp article your dish sponge is one of the most bacteria rich places in your entire home; the soles of your shoes, the bottom of your purse, and infrequently washed kitchen areas are also high in bacteria.
However they failed to mention door knobs and handles, light switches, telephones, remote controls, and computer mice/keyboards; perhaps these represent numbers 16-20. Wrist watches, glasses, and belt buckles can also harbor our nasty little nemeses’.

They recommend microwaving things such as kitchen sponges in order to sanitize them; microwaves work by mobilizing water molecules to vibrate at very high rates to produce heat to cook food. This is a very clever use for that technology as far as I am concerned, but there are other ways, things like dish sponges can also be run through a cycle in the dishwasher to accomplish the same goal. The dishwasher is also a great tool for sanitizing cutting boards, coffee pot carafes and filter baskets, and just about anything that is made of hard plastic or metal and can withstand exposure to hot water.

Hard surfaces not intended for food preparation can be disinfected with wipes (made by Clorox or Lysol). These super-handy things can clean your tables (provided they are not a porous wood), doorknobs, light switches, phones, remotes, keyboards, faucets, soap dispensers, tile/laminate floors, glass mirrors/tabletops/screens and monitors, plastic cords and cables, stove knobs, fridge door handle, buttons of the microwave/television/alarm clock/other electronics, and much more.

For those items that may be harmed from exposure to excess moisture, or if you intend to do a more thorough cleaning of electronics, I recommend rubbing alcohol. A tissue held to the opening of a bottle of isopropyl alcohol while inverted or a q-tip dipped in a small cup of it can be a very useful tool for cell phones and deep cleaning your keyboard. Rubbing alcohol is convenient because it evaporates quickly and leaves no residue, but be careful because it can take the finish off of wood or remove certain coatings.

The CDC has also provided a document on sanitary practices for everyday disease prevention.

I hope this helps you kick your cleaning routine up a notch and has led you to be a bit more mindful of all the germ covered things we come in contact with everyday without even realizing it.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Whats in my food? #1: Flour

Sorry for the infrequent posting, but the life of a graduate student is an unpredictable one, and you just never know when you will have a chance to write.

In my last post I introduced the new topic “What’s in my food” and in this post we will be taking our first bite into the ingredients list on the back of your food package.

Why not start at the beginning? Water, we all know what that is, we all love it, and its pretty hard to consume enough of it to so any harm; though it is possible to die from water intoxication (check out this story about a woman who died from overdosing on water)

What’s next on the list? Flour for a lot of foods, again nothing to scary, we are all pretty familiar with this fluffy white powder, and many of us have a bag full sitting in the cabinet right now.
Flour is a starch made from grain and is typically used either as the main base for baked goods and the like, or used as a thickening agent (food glue). Sometimes multiple kinds of flours are used together.
However, food is not always made with the simple all purpose flour we all know, sometimes a substitute is used. Here’s a list of some other names that may be used for flour, or other ingredients that may be used in place of it (please note this is not a comprehensive list, but it is meant to give you an idea of how one thing can have many names):

Flour and its alternate names:
-          Flour
-          Enriched Flour
-          Bleached Flour
-          Wheat Flour
-          Barley Flour
-          Rice Flour
-          Corn Flour

Flour substitutes/things that are like flour:
-          whole wheat
-          whole grain wheat
-          wheat bran
-          wheat germ
-          whey
-          corn starch
-          modified corn starch
-          whey corn starch
-          corn meal
-          milled corn

As always if there are any questions, please leave me a comment; if you have an item to add to the list, you can leave a comment as well.