Revealed: Britain's Gross Kitchen Hygiene Habits

The kitchen is the heart of any home. It's where families go to catch up at the end of each day, friends gather to celebrate and where we each head to when we're feeling hungry. You might think your kitchen is spotless, but what about everyone else's?

The Survey

We surveyed 1,000 Brits about their kitchen personal hygiene habits and were shocked by what we discovered. From drinking out of the milk carton to eating food off the floor, it's safe to say that Britain has some pretty gross personal hygiene habits in the kitchen. Here were our top findings:

  • 36% admitted to drinking milk straight out of the carton, even when it's being shared with other people
  • 8% told us that they find mouldy food in the fridge 'a few times a week'
  • 64% admitted to eating food off the kitchen floor, with 8% telling us that they would extend the '5-second rule' to 30 seconds or longer
  • 33% replace their dish sponge only once or twice a month
  • 55% sometimes don't wash their hands before they cook a meal
  • 13% clean their kitchen sink less than once a month
  • 6% sanitise their kitchen worktops once a month or less - 4% never sanitise their worktops
  • 63% admit to chopping food directly on their worktop - 8% do this every day
  • 9% never clean the inside of their microwave - 7% only do this once every few months
  • 8% are 'unlikely' or 'very unlikely' to clean a chopping board after cutting meat, before chopping other foods like fruit and vegetables

When it comes to following food safety and food hygiene rules though, it's clear that many Brits are falling behind. Let's take a deeper dive into each of our findings and share the facts when it comes to kitchen hygiene.

Sharing is caring: 36% of Brits drink milk straight out of the carton

We questioned our survey participants if they ever drank straight from the communal milk carton while living at home, despite it being shared with others. A surprising 36% of Brits admitted to drinking milk straight out of the carton at least 'sometimes' - 6% said they do this every day!

a person pouring milk onto a bowl of cereal

Less than half (43%) told us that they never drink straight out of the carton, which means you might want to think twice if you're a guest at somebody else's home. And it may come as little surprise that men were 10% more likely to drink milk straight out of the carton than women.

Is drinking milk out of the carton unhygienic?

In a study from Clemson University, researchers found eight times the number of bacteria in a carton of milk that had been drunk from directly. This extra bacteria won't kill you, but it does mean your milk is likely to go off sooner - meaning extra trips to the grocery store when your milk fails the sniff test. It's also just a bit gross, don't you think?

30-second rule? 64% of Brits would eat food they'd dropped on the kitchen floor

Over half of the Brits surveyed told us that they would pick up and eat food they dropped on the kitchen floor. The largest group (46%) would wait up to 5 seconds before handling food again, while a small but significant 5% would wait up to a minute or longer before they picked up and ate food dropped on the floor.

Just over a third (36%) told us that they wouldn't eat any food they'd dropped on the floor. For us, I think it would depend on what we'd dropped - a lollipop covered in pet hair feels more offensive than an untouched chip!

woman holding plate with a cake on

How hygienic is the 5-second rule?

When you drop food, the bacteria slowly makes its way onto it; the sooner it's picked up, the fewer bacteria there are on it, right? Wrong. A study found that 99% of the bacteria on your floor is transferred almost immediately to your food, and another discovered that the transfer starts in less than one second. Eurgh. Although this is unlikely to do your body much harm, it is an undeniably gross thought. Maybe we'll toss that runaway chip, after all.

Squeaky clean: 33% of Brits replace their dish sponge only once or twice a month

Dishes are a seemingly inevitable part of human existence. You eat, you clean, you eat, you clean... you get the picture. Whether you hate doing dishes or secretly enjoy the quiet time you get at the kitchen sink, the fruits of your labour are the piles of sparkling-clean dishes, ready to be tidied away for 5 minutes before being yanked back out when it's time for dinner.

But just how clean are your dishes? We asked Brits how often they replaced their dish sponge and a third (33%) told us that they do so only once or twice a month - the most popular answer we were given. Just over a quarter (28%) told us their sponge is replaced once a week, while a tiny 5% replace their sponge more than twice a week.

Person running sponge underneath sink

How often should you replace your dish sponge?

It's no secret that dish sponges are extremely germy, harbouring bacteria, fungus, algae and even viruses. That's why experts recommend replacing your dish sponge at least once a week. Over half of our respondents (52%) replace their dish sponge less than once a week, which means their dishes could be harbours of all sorts of unwanted nasties. Silicone sponges or scrubbing brushes are a better alternative to traditional sponges, as they aren't porous enough to create an environment in which bacteria can grow.

Top tip: throw your sponge into the microwave for 30 seconds to quickly sanitise it

55% of Brits sometimes don't wash their hands before they cook a meal

There's nothing like a homecooked meal to lift the spirits. Before you've even picked up the knife, the first step is to wash your hands, right? Surprisingly, only 45% of Brits told us that they wash their hands before they cook food every time.

That means over half (55%) will sometimes skip the sink before they begin cooking or preparing food themselves. 20% will wash their hands 'sometimes', while 7% will 'rarely' wash their hands and 2% will 'never' wash their hands.

person washing hands underneath sink

Is washing your hands necessary before cooking?

If you're wondering whether washing your hands is really necessary when handling raw food before cooking, the answer is a resounding yes. By washing your hands, you reduce the risk of spreading bacteria from handling raw meat to other foods or surfaces. So if you've been known to skip the sink before getting stuck into some serious chopping and stirring, it's probably time to change your ways.

Sud it: 13% of Brits clean their kitchen sink less than once a month

It's time to face the music - or, in this case, grimy kitchen sinks. You'd think cleaning would be on top of Brits' to-do list, but we were surprised to hear that 13% of Brits told us they clean their sink less than once a month. Another 11% said they do it every other week, while 23% clean their sink every week. It's not all doom and gloom though - 21% clean their sink more than once a week and 25% told us they scrub it down on the daily.

How gross are our kitchen sinks?

Whether you clean your sink once a week or every other month, it's likely to be pretty gross. In fact, some studies have concluded that there's more E. coli in a kitchen sink than in a toilet after it's been flushed. The kitchen sink harbours many types of bacteria - some of which can cause food poisoning -, which means cleaning your sink regularly is essential for reducing the risk of getting sick from contaminated food.

a person cleaning a pan in the kitchen sink

Cleaning your kitchen sink

What if you're part of the 13% who clean your kitchen sink less than once a month?

  1. First, we'd recommend putting on some gloves before you get to cleaning - it's going to require some elbow grease.
  2. Then, buy a disinfectant; this could be bleach-based or a natural cleaner like vinegar. For lighter cleans, a drop of washing-up liquid is often all that is needed.
  3. Use a soft scourer to lather the bottom, and sides of your kitchen sink, making sure to remove any grime that's built up.
  4. Finally, dry the sink with a clean cloth or paper towel to prevent further bacteria growth and let it air dry further for at least 15 minutes.
  5. To clean the plughole, use a specialist solution like Mr. Muscle, using a pipe cleaner if necessary to dislodge food or debris that might be lurking below.

Mouldy food: 30% of Brits find mouldy food in their fridge at least a few times a month

It seems it's a common sight to open the fridge and find mould lurking on that piece of cheese you'd forgotten about. 30% of Brits told us they find mouldy food in their fridge at least a few times a month, while 8% said it happens multiple times a week. If this sounds like your fridge, it might be time to give it an overhaul.

How bad is mould in your fridge?

Mould can cause food to rot and smell bad, but it can also be dangerous if you eat it. Inhaling spores from mouldy foods may trigger asthma attacks or exacerbate the symptoms of hay fever. If you spot mould on food in your fridge, throw it away immediately.

mouldy orange

How to prevent mouldy food

The best way to prevent mouldy food from spoiling your fridge is to store foods in airtight containers and regularly check for mouldy patches. You should also wipe away excess moisture from the back of the fridge regularly and make sure everything gets eaten before its use-by date. You should also store meat on the bottom shelf to prevent cross-contamination with other items in your fridge.

Dirty worktops: 18% of Brits clean their worktops less than once a week

It's clear that we're slacking when it comes to cleaning our kitchen worktops. 8% of Brits told us they clean their worktops every other week, 6% clean their worktops once a month or less, while 4% even told us that they never clean them. Reassuringly, 82% of respondents wash their worktops at least once a week, with the largest group (42%) cleaning their worktops every day - phew!

Should you clean your kitchen worktop every day?

Yes! Your kitchen worktop is where you prepare food, which means it should be sanitised every day (or almost every day). In fact, a study by NSF found that coliform bacteria (that's the group that includes E. coli) was found on 32% of the worktops it swabbed in 22 homes, which means irregular cleaning could lead to you and your family becoming ill.

The more regularly you clean it, the easier it becomes to clean, as you won't be dealing with a build-up of grease, grime and crumbs every time. Simply use a disinfectant designed for the kitchen, wipe your worktops with a kitchen towel or a clean cloth and then let it air dry. This is especially important for the worktop around your sink, where pesky bacteria can hide and spread.

Chopping board be gone: 8% of Brits chop food on their kitchen worktop every day

With what we now know about the presence of E. coli on kitchen worktops, it's a little concerning that 8% of Brits surveyed cut food directly on their worktop 'every day'. A further 5% commit this hygiene crime 'almost every day', while 20% told us they only 'sometimes' partake in this act. Fortunately, 37% of people 'never' chop food on their worktops, instead using the appropriately named chopping board for their food prep tasks.

Which worktops are the dirtiest?

Any material that is porous is far more likely to harbour nasty bacteria like Salmonella, E. coli and Listeria, which can cause food poisoning and other ailments. These materials include wood and some types of natural stone, if not sealed completely. Whichever worktop material your kitchen has, cutting directly onto its surface won't just cause visible damage, it can also lead to poorly stomachs and days off school or work.

Going in circles: 9% of Brits never clean their microwaves

Microwaves are one of the modern home's most convenient kitchen gadgets - but what lurks behind the microwave door? I'm sure we've all witnessed an explosive bowl of soup or splattered leftovers, but how many of us actually clean up after ourselves? Well, our study revealed that less than a quarter of us (24%) thoroughly clean our microwave once a week, while over a fifth (21%) do so once every few months.

Shockingly, nearly one in ten of us (9%) never clean our microwaves, which begs the question: how clean are they?

silver microwave oven on black kitchen worktop

How regularly should you clean your microwave?

It's a known fact that microwaves don't sanitise themselves, only killing bacteria in food when heated to a certain temperature. That means it's all the more important that you clean yours on a regular basis. Generally, once a week is sufficient for most homes, with quick wipes in-between if something is spilt inside.

A thorough clean should include a disinfectant spray/wipes, and the removable glass plate should be hand washed or put through the dishwasher (double-check it's dishwasher-safe first, though!). Remember to unplug the appliance before using it, and ensure all disinfectant is mopped up and the interior has dried before you use it again.

On the chopping block: 14% of Brits are unlikely to clean their chopping board after cutting meat

When it comes to kitchen hygiene, some things aren't negotiable. Raw meat contains many of the food-borne bacteria that can cause food poisoning, which means preparing it in a hygienic way can make the difference between a great meal and a trip to the toilet. Surprisingly, less than half (49%) of respondents told us that they 'always' clean their chopping board after cutting meat, before then using it for other foods like fruits, vegetables and seafood.

Perhaps even more shocking is that 8% told us they were either 'unlikely' or 'very unlikely' to clean their chopping board after cutting meat. What's more, 6% of Brits surveyed admitted they would 'never' sanitise their chopping board after preparing meat on it.

cutting meat on chopping board

The truth about raw meat on chopping boards

As we already know, some raw foods and meat can contain bacteria that, if ingested, can cause illness. Here are some tips for preparing raw meat at home:

  • Always thoroughly clean, sanitise and dry your chopping board after preparing raw meat on it
  • Don't use the same chopping board for raw and cooked food without sanitising the surface first
  • Prepare meat on a non-porous surface that can be easily cleaned, such as acrylic or hard rubber
  • Use a separate chopping board for vegetables, fruit and ready-to-eat foods
  • Replace chopping boards that are cracked, chipped or damaged, as bacteria can get into these gaps and multiply
  • Air dry your chopping board and use a clean towel to wipe the remaining moisture away before storing it

Personal hygiene tips for the kitchen

The best way to practice good kitchen hygiene is by following these rules:

  • Regularly cleaning surfaces - particularly countertops, cutting boards and cooking utensils
  • Carefully handling raw food and washing your hands between preparation tasks to avoid potential food poisoning
  • Washing your hands before and after food preparation
  • Keeping perishable food in a sealed container in the fridge
  • Replacing dishcloths and sponges frequently
  • Cooking food to the appropriate temperatures

By following these food safety practices every day at home, you can prevent harmful bacteria and avoid cross-contamination - keeping you and your family safe.

Where do we come in?

Hot Water Taps are one of the UK's leading suppliers of boiling water taps. Our taps instantly dispense boiling water, which makes cleaning and sanitising your kitchen quicker and more convenient than ever. Boiling water can kill many of the pathogens associated with poor kitchen hygiene, which makes it ideal for tasks like cleaning chopping boards, rinsing pans and mopping.

In conclusion

There you have it: Britain's kitchen hygiene habits are out on full display. Are you surprised by our findings? We certainly were!

At Hot Water Taps, we make it our mission to provide convenient solutions for better kitchen hygiene - check out our range of boiling water taps, and see how you can keep your kitchen clean and germ-free!


We surveyed 1,000 British residents in February 2023. Respondents were over the age of 18 and lived in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. To read the survey results in full, please email

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