Why You Should Clean Your Spice Jars Immediately

Add this to your weekend chore list.

Spice Rack Kitchen Counter


This is a safe space, so be honest when you answer this question: when was the last time you cleaned your spice jars? Even those of us who find the time to clean the exterior of the fridge once a week and the folks who wouldn’t dream of going to bed with a sink full of dishes may not think to wipe down the paprika after making a pot of dirty rice. That’s why it’s perhaps not incredibly surprising to learn that, according to a recent study, spice containers are some of the most germ-ridden surfaces in the kitchen.

Since one in five cases of foodborne illnesses is acquired in the home, the Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service commissioned a study to determine how germs made their way from one surface to another during meal preparation. For the study, researchers instructed 371 people to cook up a batch of ground turkey patties, seasoning and preparing them as they normally would. The scientists added a harmless tracer virus called MS2 to the turkey so they could track germs as they made their way around the kitchen as people cooked. 

The authors found that generally folks did a good job cleaning up after themselves. The one glaring exception was spice containers, where 48% of the samples had evidence of MS2 cross-contamination. That’s compared to just 20% contamination in the rest of the kitchen. The researchers believe that while people are good about wiping down cutting boards, sinks, and countertops, fewer people remember to wipe down spice jars. That led the researchers to believe that “Spice containers may be a key vehicle for cross-contamination.

So the next time you’re doing a kitchen clean-up, be sure to wash your hands regularly and give those spice containers a wipe down, because they could be storing a lot more bacteria than you think

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