Do you keep getting sick and feel like you’re getting glutened, but you can’t figure out where the problem is? Even if you eat at home, it’s very likely to come in contact with gluten even if your ingredients are 100% gluten free. Aside from developing other new food sensitivities, there are many ways that you could be getting glutened in your home.
It’s no secret that being 100% gluten-free is critical if you are gluten sensitive or have Celiac disease. Many gluten hotspots in your home exist because gluten is added to so many different common products that are used daily. Anything that goes in or on your mouth should be viewed as suspect including items used bathroom and your beauty products. Unfortunately things tend to get really complicated in the kitchen, especially if you live in a household with both gluten-eating and gluten free family members or roommates.
To be clear, this article isn’t about blaming you or anyone else in your home for glutening you. No matter if you live in a strict gluten free home or you’re sharing kitchen space with those who do eat gluten, the risk exists that either some key spots have been missed or that ongoing contamination is something that needs to be addressed. Either way, the 10 most frequent spots to get glutened in your kitchen is intended to help you locate and root out the problem so that you can stay healthy.
10 Hidden Spots You’re Getting Glutened By Your Kitchen
Did you know that it doesn’t take that much gluten to make you sick? And frankly, the amount of gluten that could make you sick might be laced all throughout something in your kitchen such that tiny amounts not incredibly visible to the eye could add up to a gluten problem. So your food have been safe except for the container it ended up in and the cutting board that was used to prepare it. So while we put so much effort into finding restaurants that comply with safe preparation spaces, being too lax at home can be a recipe for disaster.
Then there is the question of cross contamination. If you’ve not heard the term before, it means that your food came into contact with gluten and has thus been contaminated. The easiest way to explain this would be to order a salad that then arrives with wheat croutons on top. Even if you remove the croutons and don’t see any crumbs, the food… the entire meal in that bowl is contaminated and therefore unsafe for you to eat. While you hopefully don’t make this mistake at home, there are more instances than many realize wherein their food has been contaminated.
The danger escalates in shared households, but thankfully there are ways to minimize the risks of someone getting seriously sick. To help you identify the most common ways you’re getting glutened by your kitchen, we’ve created the following list and what you can do about it.
Just as with any classic food allergies, gluten sensitivity and Celiac disease require using separate dishwashing rags or sponges. The reason? Soap does not denature proteins like gluten! Only intense and prolonged heat between 500 to 600 degrees F can start breaking apart the biochemical structure of gluten.
While these common kitchen items help scrub away food messes on dishes, silverware and glasses, soap can leave behind gluten and allergen protein residues that are fully intact and invisible to the eye. In a home that’s mixed (gluten and gluten-free), it’s best to have two separate sponges to wash your dishes. By separating items before washing that have come into direct contact with gluten from those that are for gluten-free food is a great way to make sure no cross contamination can make you sick.
All products or condiments that are spreadable or “dip-able” are potential gluten hotspots. It’s not safe to share anything that someone else’s buttery knife double dipped into after spreading that particular condiment on their wheat toast. Once a knife (or any other utensil) that’s touched gluten enters that container, the entire product is contaminated. Even squeeze bottles (often used for ketchup, mustard and mayo) can be a problem because anyone using these products can end up touching the nozzle to bread or something else that’s made with gluten.
The fastest way to thwart this problem is to buy your own condiments and then write a big, visible “GF” in permanent marker on designated items in the fridge, freezer (and even in the pantry). Then alert your family to the fact that there now exist two sets of certain condiments of which those marked “GF” are off limits to them and guests.
Not wiping down surfaces regularly can cause some pretty gross build up of the gluten (or allergen) kind. It might not be obvious at first look, but tiny crumbs can take up residence in every nook and cranny in your kitchen. From the edges of counter tops to crevices in the silverware drawer, gluten crumbs can and WILL travel.
If you live in a mixed household with gluten-eaters, take the time to carefully wipe down counter surfaces, refrigerator shelving and cabinet shelves well with cleanser. Then throw away the rags you’ve used to eliminate the crumbs.
Before putting food items back in your pantry or fridge, know that as crumbs travel, so does flour. This means that all gluten-free products should sit above those containing gluten. Flour and crumbs can spill or leak out of packaging and settle on or in your gluten-free products at the least waiting to contaminate your hands the next time you handle one of your favorite gluten-free food items.
And don’t forget to wipe down countertops for potential traveling crumbs (especially if there’s gluten in someone’s meal) daily. And make a point to clean out and wipe down the fridge as well once a month.
If you’re in a shared household where baking with gluten-filled ingredients takes place, listen up! Wheat flour (or any other allergen found in various flours) can stay airborne for several hours after use in a bakery or home kitchen. A good analogy in this case is to act like you’re avoiding a serious contagious disease. Treat the airborne gluten like a harmful pathogen. If it is inhaled, you will get sick as the protein enters your system through the mouth or nose.
While some reactions may vary from mild to severe depending on the person, it’s best to avoid inhaling flour at all costs. The only sure way to avoid airborne gluten is to stop making baked goods that contain gluten in the home (and avoid going to conventional bakeries, pizzerias, etc.) If that’s not an option, consider wearing a face mask to be safe. Or just hold your breath until you’re blue in the face (kidding, please don’t do this).
Even if you’re not around for several hours following a baking extravaganza loaded with gluten, be aware that flour that has gone airborne can settle onto various surfaces in your kitchen such as clean dishes in the dish rack, pots and pans, and any other thing that you will later touch or use for eating.
There are so many great kitchen tools that unfortunately are made from porous materials, meaning that they can “absorb” and hold onto food proteins and residues more easily. Not only is this a big problem for those who are gluten sensitive, but it’s kind of gross when you think about it…that spicy curry from last week could still be lingering in that wooden spoon you used to make it. Yuck.
Avoid kitchen utensils made from wood (such as cutting boards, rolling pins, stirring/cooking utensils, spoons, forks), Teflon pans and bakeware, and rubber spatulas (not as porous as wood, but still porous).
Instead use glass, porcelain, or silicone kitchen items to replace the materials listed above, however, if you don’t wish to make the switch entirely, be sure to buy two of each porous item and label them “Gluten-free” and “Not Gluten-free”. You do not want to get glutened by a lowly wooden spoon.
We’ve all seen it and/or failed to clean it at some point – the notorious remnants of a microwave food “explosion”. It happens when food is accidentally heated too long or isn’t covered and partially “explodes” all over the insides of the microwave. If these residues that contain gluten are left in the microwave stuck to the walls and especially the roof, heating uncovered gluten-free food can be problematic. Steam coming off of your food can soften the food particles stuck to the microwave and then drip down onto your meal as it cooks potentially contaminating your meal!
Before using the microwave where remnants of a gluten-filled meal have splattered the walls, clean the inside out with a damp sponge and allow the microwave to air out. If particles are hardened, put a 1/2 to 3/4 cup of water in a microwave-safe bowl or mug and run the microwave for about 2 to 3 minutes. Do not open the door, but instead allow the microwave to sit for another 5 minutes. This allows the steam to soften whatever has been dried on the walls. Then wipe down your microwave.
And as always, be sure to cover your food with wax paper to ensure that nothing will drip down into your food the next time it cooks.
Have you ever opened the door to a hot oven and gotten a waft of hot air along with the aroma of whatever’s baking inside? That’s because air moves even inside of an oven making shared ovens a problem.
While you may already know that a shared toaster is totally off limits, shared toaster ovens and regular ovens simultaneously cooking gluten-filled and gluten-free dishes can easily make you sick. Airborne particles and crumbs left behind at the bottom of the oven can cause cross contamination even if you’re careful (such as covering the gluten-free dish with foil). Because of this, some who are highly sensitive to gluten will even go so far to have their own designated gluten-free oven in the home or refuse to bake anything containing gluten from here on out. (Note: Never use shared breadmakers either to make both gluten-filled and gluten-free breads, if you eat it.)
While it’s not reasonable to have two different conventional ovens in every house, spacing out the time between cooking gluten-free and gluten filled dishes will help reduce the likelihood of steam/airborne cross contamination. Regular cleanings (with separate cleaning sponges or rags) will make sure no build up of gluten particles occurs either. The jury may still be out as far as portable toaster ovens go, but depending on your level of sensitivity it may be best to invest in two separate, designated toaster ovens.
Tupperware and plastic containers
Have you ever seen a nasty discolored food residue on old Tupperware or plastic containers? That gross “stuff” is nearly impossible to clean off and if the plastic-ware is scratched, it’s easy for gluten particles to lodge in the scratches and cause trouble.
Switch to easy to clean glass or ceramic containers for leftovers and on-the-go meals is a better option. If you’d rather stay with plastic, it’s best to purchase a new set that all have a notable colored lid (like red) and alert your family that only gluten-free food is to be placed in those containers. You may also want to mark both the lids and containers with a big “GF” to help remind everyone which set is for gluten-free food only.
While convenient, pizza stones are hard to clean. It’s also easy to forget them in the oven after cooking a pizza (gluten-free or not). This causes two problems. First, if a pizza made with gluten-containing ingredients is cooked on the pizza stone that is then left in the oven, any gluten-free food prepared in the oven at the same time is subject to contamination.
Second, since pizza stones are heavy and hard to scrub completely clean, you risk contaminating gluten free food if you don’t use a designated gluten-free stone. Make sure to label it on the edge with a clear “GF” and keep it separate.
Shared Pasta Colanders
You cannot use a pasta colander that’s been used to drain anything with gluten for gluten-free food. This is just asking for trouble. The tiny holes in colanders are hard to keep clean. The starch from the pasta can stay lodged even after washing and can be hard to see. No matter what material the colander is made of, two different, labeled colanders is the best way to go.
And One More Bonus Spot…
While this might not be a kitchen tool or appliance, it’s certainly to end up in your kitchen and when not cared for properly, can cause you to get glutened even if you take every one of the previous spots into account.
One of the biggest ways that people unknowingly gluten themselves is because their own hands are contaminated. As an example, you decide to make lunch and first make your husband’s sandwich using whole wheat bread. Then you make your own sandwich with gluten free bread. Aside from the fact that you can get glutened if you don’t use a new plate, cutting board or knife to make your lunch, your hands are contaminated and must be washed before handling your own food.
It’s an easy mistake to make and unfortunately happens more often than you’d think.
For more tips like these that cover your entire kitchen, CLICK HERE to download our complimentary Gluten-Free Kitchen Clean Up Guide to help get rid of all the hidden gluten.