Whether you cook elaborate dinners or stick to simple one-pot meals, the kitchen is one of the dirtiest rooms in your house. Even if you regularly clean up, there’s bound to be some grime in your cooking space. The messes in your kitchen can range from benign crumbs and spills to more sinister things like bacteria and mold.
Mold can be present in nearly every corner of your kitchen. It can coat the top of old leftovers, cover the surface of bread, and even linger inside your most commonly-used appliances. But there’s one kitchen tool that’s almost guaranteed to be teeming with mold. And it’s one that you might use on a daily basis: a rubber spatula with a wooden handle.
You know that affordable spatula that comes in a variety of fun colors and prevents you from scratching nonstick surfaces? Yeah, that one. If you have one of those in your home, pull off the rubber tip immediately and take a look. Odds are that you’ll find some nasty and dangerous moldy buildup.
While wood is a sturdy material, it’s not meant to withstand prolonged exposure to moisture. Rubber or silicone, on the other hand, can handle it. So when it comes to cleaning the utensil, you should always separate the two parts. The rubber end can be washed in any dishwasher, and the wood handle should be gently hand-washed.
Pulling the spatula apart makes it super easy to properly clean. But there’s a flip side: keeping the pieces attached makes your spatula one of the dirtiest tools in your kitchen.
Since the wood and rubber aren’t permanently attached, it’s easy for water to get trapped inside. That space lacks air circulation and can easily become full of moisture. According to the USDA, this is the prime environment for mold growth.
And with mold getting comfy in your spatula, that means every stir, fold, and flip can infect your food with potentially dangerous spores. It sounds terrifying—and it kind of is. But don't fear, there are ways to clean off the mold and prevent future growth.
In a perfect world, you should wash the components separately every time you use it and give them plenty of time to dry before reattaching the spatula. But our associate food producer Justin Sullivan says giving your spatula a deep clean after about every two uses should be sufficient.
If you already have considerable mold growth inside your spatula, you can remove it by scrubbing the handle with hot soapy water and a sponge. The inside of the rubber tip is where it gets a little tricky. Use a toothbrush or those pipe cleaners that come with reusable straws and thoroughly scrub the inside with dish soap. Make sure the inside is thoroughly dried before reattaching it to the handle.
Sounds like too much work? Honestly, we don't blame you. Instead, we suggest tossing these spatulas-slash-mold traps and replacing them with tools made of different materials. We like to use all-silicone spatulas that are one continuous piece, so there's no hidden nooks and crannies for mold to hide. Here are some of our favorites: