This often-overlooked piece can harbor germs that cause foodborne illness.

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dishes drying on wire rack
Credit: Yevhenii Podshyvalov / Getty Images

You shouldn't neglect your drying rack when cleaning your kitchen's many surfaces. The strainer, which often sits on the counter next to the sink and houses freshly-washed dishes, can become a breeding ground for germs and bacteria when ignored. Fortunately, keeping it clean (and you and your family safe) is easy. Ahead, an expert shares her best tips for sanitizing this essential.

Cleaning Matters

Although all of the dishes you place on your drying rack are technically clean, your rack might still come into contact with a lot of things that aren't. "Foodborne illness or other types of bacterial growth are the most likely issues we face in the kitchen," explains Vera Peterson, the President of Molly Maid, a Neighborly company. Since bacteria, dried food particles, and the occasional contact with contaminated surfaces (you could bump the rack with your hands as you go to wash them after handling raw chicken) can all be a problem for this strainer, it's wise to sanitize it frequently—and keep it up with light cleanings in-between.

Preventative Measures

You should wash your dish drainer daily, or at least after every use, says Peterson. "Once you put the dishes away, be sure to wipe it down and dry it off with a clean towel," she says. "This will keep away mold and mildew and is a good preventative measure." Apply some white vinegar for good measure: "If you rinse your strainer with this after every use and let dry, it will keep mold, bacteria, and mildew at bay," she notes.

Sanitizing Methods

Regular upkeep is a must, as is the occasional deep clean. "Oftentimes, these pieces are dishwasher safe. Running it through the dishwasher after every couple of uses would be the easiest way to ensure it stays clean and does not collect food particles that can cause bacteria or mold," Peterson says. "If this is not an option, simply washing it with hot water and dish soap after every use will prevent any issues with bacteria or mold." A good rule of thumb is to sanitize your rack after every couple of uses—or at least twice per week—Peterson adds. "If you notice anything besides water get on it (think food, drink, and other contaminants), then it should be cleaned at that time to prevent staining or bacteria formation."

Messes and Stains, Managed

If your drying rack is showing signs of staining, or has been subject to a recent spill, you can attempt to polish it up with a sprinkle of baking soda; then, scrub it with a damp sponge. Not only will the abrasive nature of the baking soda help with removing stains, it can help scour off odor-causing bacteria, as well.

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