Join us at 7 p.m. ET Thursday as experts answer your questions about the coronavirus delta variant, boosters and self-care. Find out more.
by Beth Goulart, AARP Bulletin, March 18, 2009
Myth: Lemon juice and salt can be used to sanitize kitchen tools like cutting boards.
Facts: Lemon juice and salt may leave your cutting boards smelling fresh, but the combo won’t leave them germ-free. To sanitize any kitchen tool effectively, food-safety experts recommend a series of steps: First, wash with hot water and soap. Rinse. Then apply a solution of one tablespoon unscented bleach to one gallon of water and let the tool stand for a few minutes. Then rinse it and blot it dry with clean paper towels.
The bleach step is key to killing bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, which can cause grave illness, according to Shelley Feist, executive director of the Partnership for Food Safety Education. However, using too much bleach can be unsafe. “Sometimes consumers think if one tablespoon is good, then a quarter cup is probably really good,” she says. But a tablespoon “is a very effective killer of these kinds of pathogens that could cause illness.”
So where did the lemon-and-salt approach come from? Both ingredients do have antimicrobial properties, just not in sufficient strength. According to John Floros, head of the Department of Food Science at Penn State University and a food science communicator for the Institute of FoodTechnologists, acidic lemon juice is unfavorable to the growth of most microbes, though it doesn’t kill them directly. And salt, he adds, has its own antimicrobial effect, drawing out water that microbes need to survive. Even in combination, lemon juice and salt “will not necessarily kill all the microbes, particularly the pathogens that we want to kill,” says Floros. “Bleach is a better alternative.”
Beth Goulart is a freelance journalist based in Austin, Texas.
Please leave your comment below.
You must be logged in to leave a comment.
You are leaving AARP.org and going to the website of our trusted provider. The provider’s terms, conditions and policies apply. Please return to AARP.org to learn more about other benefits.
Your email address is now confirmed.
You'll start receiving the latest news, benefits, events, and programs related to AARP's mission to empower people to choose how they live as they age.
You can also manage your communication preferences by updating your account at anytime. You will be asked to register or log in.
In the next 24 hours, you will receive an email to confirm your subscription to receive emails
related to AARP volunteering. Once you confirm that subscription, you will regularly
receive communications related to AARP volunteering. In the meantime, please feel free
to search for ways to make a difference in your community at