8 Things You Should Never Keep on Kitchen Countertops (and Why)

Items You Shouldn't Keep on the Kitchen Countertop AI-Generated

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Items You Shouldn't Keep on the Kitchen Countertop AI-Generated
Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Countertop Mishaps

While it's easy to just throw everything on the kitchen countertop, not everything belongs there. Countertops are high-traffic areas that are frequently exposed to spills, splatters, and varying temperatures. This can lead to the deterioration or cross-contamination of food items and even the countertop surface itself. 

Cluttered countertops can also harbor bacteria and attract pests — making your kitchen space feel more chaotic and less clean. Safety is another concern, as certain items like raw meat knives can be dangerous if left within easy reach of children or pets. Here are 8 items you should avoid keeping on your countertops and why. 

Raw beef steak cooking

1. Raw Meat

Leaving raw meat on countertops can lead to cross-contamination with other foods. Since meat can harbor bacteria like salmonella and E. coli, these can spread easily and taint other ingredients that are stored with it. If you're wondering how to safely store and defrost raw meat, check out our guides for more detailed information. 

White tablets spilling out of medication bottles, addiction concept.

2. Medications

Medications including vitamins, supplements, and over-the-counter drugs should be stored in a cool, dry place to ensure their effectiveness and longevity. Countertops — especially ones near stoves or sinks — can fluctuate in temperature or be overly humid, which can affect the efficacy of your medicine.

Janine Lamontagne/istockphoto

3. Non-Kitchen Appliances

If you're used to coming home and tossing everything on the countertop, think again. Items like cell phones, keys, cash (you'd be surprised how many pathogens can stick to money) or even the mail can carry germs into your kitchen and other food preparation areas that you'd like to keep sterile. 

Herbs and Spices

4. Spices

Exposing spices and seasonings to heat and light can degrade their quality and change their taste or texture. Instead, store them in a cool, dark place in a pantry or cabinet to preserve their flavor and extend their shelf life. While you're at it, check out our guide to learn how to make delicious and easy seasoning blends at home. 

Related: 15 Spices and Spice Blends That Will Make Almost Any Meal Better

Various vegetable and nut oil in bottles on a bright background.

5. Cooking Oils

Similarly, oils can degrade and become rancid when exposed to heat and light. Certain countertops can also become damaged if the oil seeps into the surface — resulting in stains or deterioration. This is especially true in porous materials like natural stone, unsealed wood, or certain types of grout. When it comes to cooking oils, it's best to store them in a cool, dark cabinet.

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Man's hand cutting chicken breast

6. Cutting Boards and Knives

Unless they're being used, cutting boards and kitchen knives should be stored in a safe place to prevent potential injury and cross-contamination. Cutting boards can also harbor bacteria — especially if they've been used for cutting raw meat. To thoroughly disinfect your cutting boards, make a solution of vinegar and water or create a mixture of two tablespoons of chlorine bleach diluted in a gallon of water. 

Related: 8 Methods You Should Never Use To Thaw Out Frozen Food

Red apple and green apple on the white table in the kitchen.

7. Perishable Fruits and Vegetables

Some fruits and veggies spoil faster at room temperature. Root vegetables like potatoes, yams, and onions should be stored in a cool, dark place, while fruits like berries and apples should be refrigerated for optimal freshness.

Pro tip: To keep long-stemmed vegetables like green onions, herbs, and kale fresh for longer, place them in mason jars filled with water, similar to a bouquet of flowers. Cover the herbs loosely with a plastic bag and store them in the fridge. This will help the vegetables maintain moisture and stay fresh and crisp for longer. 

Related: Thinking About Home Canning? Here’s Everything You Need to Get Started


8. Pet Food and Bowls

Leaving pet food and bowls on countertops can attract pests and spread bacteria. Pet food like kibble and treats, in particular, can attract various pests such as ants, roaches, and rodents. These pests are not only a nuisance but can also carry diseases and contaminate your food preparation areas. It's best to feed your pets at floor level and store their food properly by keeping them in airtight containers or ziplock bags.