5 Kitchen Tools You’re Probably Not Replacing as Often as You Should

published Jun 1, 2022
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The kitchen is often considered the heart of the home, but you have to admit, because so much happens in that space, it’s not always as organized and well-kept as you want it to be. Plus, it’s easy to lose track of what you last replaced, and when. A busy kitchen likely contains tools that are way past their prime. Though some items are meant to last generations (like your old reliable cast-iron pan), not everything you use regularly in your kitchen can last forever.

Taking good care of your various kitchen tools may extend their lifespans, but they will eventually succumb to wear and tear. As you prepare to take on your next kitchen decluttering project, here are five items you need to replace regularly to maintain food safety and hygiene in your kitchen.

Kitchen Sponge

Kitchen sponges are high-risk because bacteria can thrive in the moist interior of a sponge, says Elizabeth Scott, PhD, co-director and founder of the Simmons Center for Hygiene and Health in Home and Community.

Microwaving and soaking sponges in boiling water are commonly recommended ways of disinfecting them, but they reduce the bacterial load by only 60 percent at most. This means you’re not really sterilizing them completely like you think you are.

“Because sponges support the growth of very large numbers of bacteria and can spread these bacteria to other surfaces during use, they also should be replaced very regularly,” says Scott. “I would recommend at least monthly or even more often.”

You may choose to replace kitchen sponges weekly or every two weeks, depending on how often you use them or how quickly they get soiled in your home.

Credit: Kitchn Video

Cutting Board

Cutting boards come into direct contact with your food, so you need to keep them clean and in good condition. Proper maintenance includes decontaminating and drying them well after every contact with raw meat and vegetables.

Although plastic cutting boards are easier to sanitize than wooden ones, they score somewhat quickly, which can lead to permanent grooves that harbor food and bacteria, says Benjamin Chapman, PhD, a food safety extension specialist and head of the Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences at the North Carolina State University.

To maintain food hygiene, you should replace your cutting board when it becomes scratched and damaged, recommends Scott.  If you frequently use your cutting board, take the time to check if it has already accumulated a lot of grooves. If so, it’s time to swap it for a new one.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Wooden Spoon

Last year, a TikTok video from Bonnie McNamara (@miss.clean.with.me) went viral after people found out just how dirty wooden spoons can get. She put her seemingly clean wooden spoon in a glass, poured boiling water over it, and filmed as the water turned murky with the small bits of food debris that got dislodged. Understandably, many viewers were grossed out by the realization that they may have been using dirty wooden spoons all this time.

“It’s certainly possible that wooden spoons can crack and hold food,” says Chapman. “I’d say that if you see visual cracks or fraying, it’s time to get another one.” To prevent wooden spoons from absorbing food or liquid, rinse them immediately after use. Just like cutting boards, make sure that wooden spoons dry throughly after you clean them, Chapman added.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Rubber Spatula

Rubber spatulas may become stained or discolored if you often use them for food with ingredients like turmeric or pesto. They can also melt due to the heat of the pan. As a rule of thumb, you should replace all food utensils — including rubber spatulas — when they become scratched and damaged, says Scott. If you see any cracking or crumbling on your rubber spatula, take it as a sign to buy a new one. “Cracks and scoring would indicate it’s time to get another one,” says Chapman. “Deterioration is going to happen with any high-use utensil, especially one that’s used with heat, [and] there’s no magic way to stop that.”

Vegetable Peeler

In an interview with Food & Wine, Food Network’s “Barefoot Contessa” host Ina Garten revealed that vegetable peelers should be replaced every year because they get rusty and dull over time. However, keep in mind that this isn’t a one-size-fits-all rule. “I try to stay away from ‘do this every year’ advice, mainly because it’s based on use,” says Chapman. “If you use a piece of equipment a lot, you should look to see if it’s deteriorating and go ahead and get another.” Your vegetable peeler will likely last longer than a year if you don’t use it that often. As long as the blade is still sharp and there’s no sign of rust, it’s still good to use.

Ultimately, all kitchen utensils that come into contact directly with foods or food preparation surfaces should be kept in a good condition and replaced at the earliest signs of wear and tear. According to Scott, that’s how you maintain a hygienic environment in your kitchen at all times.