We all have our familiar cleaning routines. We clean up after we prepare meals. We wipe down our counters at the end of the day. We clean our high-touch surfaces and feel satisfied, knowing that we’ve done what we can to keep ourselves and our loved ones safe and healthy.

Here’s the thing, though: Our kitchen countertops are often teeming with dangerous pathogens and opportunistic bacteria. These tiny invaders are invisible and hardy. They can grow back off small, unseen spills. They can evade natural cleaners and posit risks in a relatively small amount of time.

Just how long do we have before returning to levels of dangerous dirtiness? We did a deep dive into the science behind bacterial and viral regrowth in common kitchen scenarios. Here’s what you need to know.

What exactly are ‘dangerously dirty’ levels of kitchen pathogens?

From your kitchen sponge to your kitchen sink, your cooking areas tend to be the dirtiest, grimiest parts of your home. This tends to be particularly dangerous because, as opposed to other parts of your home that may have more visible risks, many of the most insidious contaminants in your kitchen are completely invisible.

Cutting boards often play host to 200 times more bacteria than the average toilet seat. If you regularly use cutting boards to cut up raw meat, they can exhibit traces of salmonella and campylobacter.

Your fridge handle is festering with E.coli and salmonella; your kitchen sink is home to more fecal material than a flushed toilet. And, as one of the most-touched surfaces in your entire home, your kitchen counter has ancient spilled food residues, contaminants from your hands and keys, and more. It’s enough to make your skin crawl.

What constitutes dangerous levels of dirt? This depends on your immune system and the specific viral loads of each contaminant (or blood concentration of unique viral matter) necessary to make you sick.

However, suffice it to say that a completely safe kitchen probably would have zero or extremely minimal levels of fecal matter, bacteria, and other microbes on its high-touch surfaces.

How quickly do surfaces achieve ‘dangerously dirty’ levels?  

Microbes and germs are tricky, resilient little things. Under optimal conditions, bacteria can double every twenty minutes. A recent study from the University of Missouri stated more specific (and troubling) data: If your food—any food, including, potentially, a sticky spill behind your cutting board!—has just four bacteria in it, leaving it out at room temperature for two hours could result in 256 germs. After another hour, you’ve got over 4,000 bacteria.

This is not good. If you spill something before you leave for work and forget to clean it (or clean it up haphazardly), your kitchen will be crawling with bacteria upon your return home.

What can you do to make sure that your kitchen is a safe place to be? 

It’s possible to test your kitchen counters for levels of bacteria. All you need is a petri dish, a cotton swab, a growth medium (e.g., a gelatinous substance to allow bacteria to grow), and 24-48 hours of time on your hands. You’ll also need access to a microbial lab to get accurate results, though, which can be tricky.

Fortunately, there’s an easier way to make sure your counters are as safe as can be. Regularly disinfecting your kitchen countertops will eliminate any microbes that are currently present, and applying a trusted antimicrobial agent will assure you of safe levels of cleanliness in the near future.

Keep Your Kitchen Clean—Efficiently—with a Trusted, Tested Disinfectant Antimicrobial

Looking for a solution to prevent germ growth now and later?

If you need to know that your gross kitchen countertops are perpetually germ-free, it’s vital to establish a regular cleaning, disinfecting, and microbe-fighting routine. You’ll need a good cleaner that you can trust, but the secret ingredient in your anti-germ arsenal should be MicroGold’s® Multi-Action Disinfectant Antimicrobial. This combines the short-time efficacy of a great disinfectant with a long-lasting virus-busting antimicrobial agent for the long-term cleanliness you crave.