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The Safety-First Step
Before you tackle the dishes, deal with the food itself and store the leftovers. That chicken-and-rice casserole has probably been sitting on the table for at least 15 minutes—and at room temperature, bacteria in food can double every 20 minutes. Once you've wrapped and refrigerated tomorrow's lunch, fill extra-greasy pans, or dishes with stuck-on food, with hot, soapy water and set them on the (turned-off) stove to soak. (We'll get back to them in a few minutes, once that soap has had a chance to work on the rice.)

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The Dishwasher Loading Secret
Clean Mama blogger, Becky Rapinchuk,who is author of The Organically Clean Home loads items in groups to make it easier for her 8-year-old daughter to unload the washer later (e.g., all drinking glasses go in the same row, all kids' plastic cups are together, all large dinner plates are near each other). If you used any utensils that separate from their handles, such as rubber spatulas, pull the pieces apart before loading, or dirty water may collect inside. And just before you turn the machine on, follow this advice from the experts at Mr. Appliance: Run the hot water in the kitchen sink so the cycle will begin with hot water.
Faucet and sink

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The Spots Everyone Forgets to Wipe
The counter, table and stove are the obvious places, but Rapinchuk finds people often forget to hit the faucet or faucets of the sink, which can be some of the dirtiest places in the kitchen (not to mention the sink itself, which, as most of us know, can contain more bacteria than you'd find on the toilets of public bathrooms). Other easily overlooked germ hotspots: the refrigerator door handle, microwave buttons and stove dials.
Cleaning up after dinner

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Three Final 30-Second Tasks
Before the buzzer rings, get back to those pots. Rapinchuk balls up a piece of aluminum foil that had been used to cover a dish earlier in the day and uses it as a scrubber, which avoids getting scrub bristles dirty (adding to your list of things to clean). This, she says, is especially effective on reheated leftovers since food that's been warmed twice tends to be harder to remove. Next, the floor. Experts vary in what they like to use, from Swiffers to hand vacuums to brooms, but they all say don't just go under the table and near the stove—sweep the baseboards, too, since crumbs tend to cluster in the little gap between the wall and wood. Finally, tie up the trash, take it out, replace the bag and—ahhh—hit the couch.