Cleaning What I've Got To Prevent Cross-Contamination

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Hi all, I'm new. 


I just started my gluten-free lifestyle today and I need some help in figuring out how to care for my kitchen. My husband is not interested in going completely gluten-free, so we have glutened products around. I do most of the cooking, so I can control making dinner gluten-free and he's cool with that. But he does use regular whole-wheat bread for his sandwiches that he takes for lunches, heats up frozen breakfast sandwiches in the microwave for breakfast, and so on. So gluten still gets around. Of course, I've been cooking things with gluten in them up until today. 


I absolutely do not have one dime to spare to get new and separate cookware, toasters, and other things. Yes, my pots and pans are scratched up and so are my plastic cooking utensils. My countertop is grouted tile which is a pain and a half to clean and I sincerely doubt that it will ever fully be rid of gluten particles until we can get the kitchen redone someday. Right now every spare dime we've got has been going to deal with paying down my medical bills.  :wacko:  I'm really NOT kidding when I say that I do not even have $10 to spare right now for a new cutting board from Walmart. Eventually I'll build up a gluten-free collection of pots, pans, utensils, and appliances...but that's going to be a long and slow process. I was at least able to get a new sponge and brush to do the dishes with. 


I need some suggestions on working with what I got. Got any cleaning and prepping suggestions? 



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I have gotten cutting mats 2 for a dollar at the dollar store. But you could always cut on a clean plate. Wash things really well. Use foil or parchment paper. Don't put anything on the counter. Really can't think you would want to put food on that old grout anyway.

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Thing is, there are some things you CAN'T clean away.

Those scratches on non-stick cookwear?  You can't scrub them away without ruining your cookwear, but they can harbor gluten.

That toaster?  You can't completely clean it.  (You can, of course, simply not ever use a toaster.)

The plastic cutting boards that have scratches in them?  You cannot clean out the scratches thoroughly.  You could sand down wooden cutting boards, I suspect, though.

And if you keep getting contamination, you may keep racking up medical bills.


So, if you really can't spare a dime (and I believe you!), then you have to focus on not using those items.  Find another way to cut things than on your scratched cutting boards.  (I'm no real help here - I would be too worried about ruining knives, and good knives cost WAY more than a cutting board.)  If you have any stainless steel pans, use only those for food that you will eat.  Don't put your pasta in a collander that you've used for wheat pasta ever - don't put anything in there, including salad greens, beans, etc.  You'll have to find something else for rinsing items like that.  Skip the toaster and possibly just forgo bread.  (I did that for a while, as I didn't bother to get myself a toaster for a long time.)  Do not cook with your scratched up plastic utensils - use your eating silverware (presumably stainless steel) instead.  You might have to shift the things you cook so that you don't need these sorts of cooking utensils, until you are able to replace them.  That's ok too!


And, like the previous poster said - find dollar stores that can help fill in the pressing gaps.

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Call your hospital, if some of your bills for testing are there and explain the situation to the billing dept. It is quite possible they may allow you to skip a months payment or you may even qualify for forgiveness on some percentage of your bills if you have a low income. That way you could use part of that money to replace things like your toaster and cutting board and maybe even buy a new pan to dedicate to your food. Your doctors office may do the same thing. It doesn't hurt to ask as the worst they can do is say no.

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I agree about calling the hospital. There is no reason at all to pay the price they put on the bills without negotiating them, that is just crazy.


As for what you can do to be safe? The most important thing, since you seem to point out all the things you know you need to replace, will be to figure out how to replace them. Again, I'm going to agree here with what was said, but if you just keep using your old banged up pots, utensils and cutting boards, you're going to keep racking up medical bills and never pay them off. From someone who knows exactly where you're coming from, you need to find a way. At the very least for a cutting board, and one or two safe pans if you don't have something stainless steel in the house. You can live without a toaster and bread (which is ridiculously expensive anyway) and you can live without pasta and a colander. What is going to get you are those couple of things that you use literally every day that will keep you from being so sick you end up with more medical bills.


Since it sounds like maybe you're a homeowner, I do have a suggestion. Ditch the sponges. They are easily contaminated and once that is done it is done forever. I keep a stash of dishcloths, this allows me to clean the counters after people have had bread or whatnot and put the cloths in the wash. This way I don't have to worry about what they've been touching, and I don't have to replace them which costs money. Yes, washing costs money but less than I would spend in other ways trying to wipe and wash from sandwich making.

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It sounds like what you are trying to do is raise $100 for a gluten-free pan or two, spoons, toaster, cutting board, colander, etc.

You might want to cut out convince foods like frozen breakfast sandwiches and eating out. You can make scrambled eggs in muffin trays ( for hub so they don't have to be gluten-free) . Add the bacon and cheese to scrambled eggs and bake in the oven until done. Freeze. He can microwave one or two and put it on his own bread.

You should be able to negotiate on the medical bills. Hospitals especially are known to give discounts if paying cash. Processing Insurance costs them a lot. Sometimes, they would rather have half a bill paid over 12 months than no bill paid.

Do you have a birthday coming up? Tell your mom or dad that Instead of going out, you would like a toaster or a Walmart gift card.

Make sure hubs keeps his gluteny food in one place and is extra careful.

Not sure if you would consider a food pantry? gluten-free items they have - PB, Chex, milk, veggies or fruits, beans, rice, pasta sauces ( pasta sauce on rice is yummy), stuff Gluten Hub can eat. You could look at it as a loan. When you get back on your feet, you can donate.

More thoughts. when you get a dollar store spatula, for example. They way to keep it separate from the other ones, is to make it a different color. Lots of us buy red because there seems to be a lot of it out there. When buying on a tight budget, you might not have any color choices. You can get re nail polish or model car paint or electrical tape ( Walmart in the hardware isle or car section) or duct tape and put a store on the gluten-free stuff. I have found that the duct tape stays on well even though hand washing. You might need to re- apply after a while.

I really think that with careful shopping, you could get beyond the basics for $100 or less.

Edited by kareng

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Re: the counters


I agree with kareng that you shouldn't put anything on the counter.  However, that includes not just food, but your dishes too.  If there are crumbs on the counter, and your dishes pick them up, then you wash your dish in the sink along with all your other nice, clean dishes... small crumbs will end up on the eating-side of your dishes.  I know I react to tiny amounts of gluten stuck in cookware, so I'm really careful that no part of my dish comes into contact with a crumby surface.


How to do this in a shared kitchen?  Well, I'm still figuring that out.  So far, it involves placemats put on the counter before I place any of my dishes down.  You should be able to get them cheaply at a dollar-store.  They wash easily, and can be kept in a separate location to everyone else's dishes and placemats.


The presence of gluten in my dishwater is enough to make me react, so I need to take this precaution.  It might be a good idea for you, since you're not sure if you can fully clean your counters.

FYI, you might want to clean your laptop keys too, if you eat at your computer.  :rolleyes:

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It is possible that you will be sensitive enough so that gluten in the dishwasher will bother you as mentioned above.  In that case you will probably need to ask your husband to go gluten free too and that would be a big step.


It is also possible that you aren't that sensitive and you will be able to live with a gluten eater without too many problems.  Be sure to ask him to clean up after himself as much as possible.  Be as careful as you can and wash things as well as you can.  Then, if you continue to experience symptoms, realize that you may have to take further steps to avoid contamination.  Sensitivity levels vary.


In general it is a good idea to keep gluten free things in higher shelves in the pantry and fridge so that they are less likely to get spilled on.  It is better to avoid wood and more scratched things that may have gluten in cracks.  If you can't afford new, wash very well and keep some separate starting now.


If you haven't been tested, go quick.  You can't get accurate testing after you have stopped eating gluten.


Enjoy the new diet.  It can be a little hard to learn the ropes, but the improved health is worth every bit of effort.

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The only thing helping me along (I've been gluten-free for two weeks and have exposed myself three times, once by baking with a bandana on my face, cleaning up and THEN LICKING THE SPOON, once by trying to eat out somewhere because I forgot my lunch at home, and once for checking the temp of my sons oatmeal with my finger and then popping cheese into my mouth) is the fact that I went to culinary school so I have the whole "eat safely, don't cc" thing down pat.  


1.  as soon as you can, get to the dollar store.  they have cutting MATS in different colors, including clear, so with a big sharpie write on the back of one "husbands bread mat".  Make him use it to make his sandwiches, and keep it in a spare cabinet, or tell him that he can use the dishwasher from now on (there's really no way to de-gluten a dishwasher) and you can hand-wash your stuff.  Even if  you just scrape up change and find 1.07 to get his bread mat with, get it asap.


2.  throw out the plastic and non-stick stuff.  ask neighbors, facebook friends, anybody that you know if they have any metal slotted spoons, stirring spoons, pots and pans that are stainless steel that they don't need.  Everyone has spare cookery lying around.  Metal is the only thing that can truly ever be sterilized.  


3.  THROW THE TOASTER OUT.  Tell husband to get over it, your health beats his toast any day.


4.  get a spare spray bottle, make a 1:10 mixter of clorox and purified bottled water.  This is now chlorine spray.  label it for hubs to use after he makes a sandwich.  he can spray it on the counters surrounding his brand-spankin-new bread mat so that the gluten protein gets broken down.    (alkali above 11ph breaks down gluten protein)


5.  try to get your husband to switch to wraps instead of sandwiches.  tortillas and lavash are not as crumby, and therefore more easy to manage contamination.


6.  Seperate his condiments!!!!!!!


7.  last thought - I know my husband is a mensch, but spouses that adapt with their partner are showing true dedication.  show him this thread  http://www.celiac.com/gluten-free/topic/61864-living-with-a-celiac-spouse-how-we-cope/


good luck to you, and if you have any questions on cross-contamination, feel free to PM me.

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Clorox or bleach will not get rid go gluten!

You need for your husband to realize how damaging gluten is for you! You really can't share anything that has been cross contaminated. It is a very serious intolerance.

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Yeah, I would beg, borrow, or steal some kitchen items until you can buy, especially the pots and pans that you can easily return in their original state, or even cleaner. Just one all-metal pot and pan could tide you over.

Most of the other things you can work around temporarily though perhaps not conveniently. Some of the other ideas listed above are things I wish I had thought of.

And perhaps you can color code dish cloths/towels and place yours in a new, inconvenient place so that others don't use them.

I suppose I'd also throw the oven mitts in the wash and set aside some that were exclusive to you, those corners accidentally hitting food more often than we'd like to admit.

If you control the grocery shopping, you'll probably be able to start substituting some gluten-free items without your family minding too much. For instance, once you find your favorite gluten-free bread, you could "accidentally" run out of the regular kind and see if your family isn't satisfied with what you can eat too. Or if you make a pie, it would be doubtful that they would turn down a piece simply because the crust was gluten free. And who can say no to a gluten-free brownie?

But not all products are made equal. Some are great, others - not so much. Better to try them yourself first than to have the others in your family shun everything just because one was gross. 

I do know a woman who gave up on gluten free because she just found it too tough to tackle all on her own when the kids and hubby didn't have to. A couple years later she is still eating gluten, overeating, and spending way to much time in bed as poor coping mechanisms for her severe depression. Cautionary tale.

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I use the same pans, use the same pans for hubbs.. I let them soak, I rinse them , I wash them , I rinse them.. I use the same colander , I wash it, rinse it. Let it soak scrub it with a scrub brush. I scrub scrub scrub.. Then I use it! Yes I do!! I don't eat Gluten free noodles, if it is veggis I want to take the hot water off of, I put it in a bowl and pour the water off of it ... Don't make it so hard on your self!! think on an easier note... it can be done! Just find a way and do it.. Heck you can use a towel to drain something .. just think a lil out of the box .. you can do it! It isn't as hard as everyone thinks it is ...

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