It takes time, energy, and knowledge to transition to a gluten-free kitchen. If someone in your home has been diagnosed with a gluten-related disorder their gluten-free food mustn’t come into contact with a surface in your kitchen that has a gluten residue. Therefore, it is essential to clean and organize the kitchen.
You should remove or separate everything that contains gluten for two reasons—cross-contamination and temptation. Packages of cookies or other sweet treats can cause someone to indulge in foods containing gluten. Just looking at the bag releases dopamine and an overwhelming desire to consume that food. Therefore, it is best to remove these items from your home or place them out of sight. If a family member wants to eat foods that tempt you, they should keep these packages hidden in their room or on a shelf high in the pantry. Ask them to honor your goals and help you in this way.
Sorting through food in the kitchen is not the tough part of this process. It’s the cleaning that can be overwhelming. Think of gluten as a glue. If a gluten-containing item touched anything in your kitchen, it leaves a sticky gluten residue. Therefore, all items must be scrubbed or thrown away if the invisible gluten grime cannot be removed. If this initial cleaning does not occur, you may continue to ingest small amounts of gluten. Unfortunately, the dishwasher is not strong enough to remove the sticky gluten. You have to scrub the surface of each item that has had contact with gluten-containing foods. So fill that sink full of sudsy water and start scrubbing. Gluten sticks to plastic kitchen items such as measuring cups, colanders, and plastic storage containers. Therefore, you should throw away plastic dishes and utensils and replace them with metal, glass, ceramic, and other nonporous kitchen gadgets.
The cleaning process can be daunting for one person. Therefore, solicit help from a family member or friend, or hire someone. If you have support, that person can clean while you sort through food, and you’ll complete the job in half the time. As you assess kitchen gadgets, toss stuff you do not use. Your cabinets will shine, and it will seem like you have a new kitchen. As a reward for your hard work—symptoms will subside. Your effort is well worth the relief attained.
Clean Out Cross-Contamination Items and Areas
Your kitchen contains many places and items that contain residue from gluten. This list will help you identify the sources so you can clean, replace, or replicate the items. For example, you may want to own a gluten-free toaster. For the following items, purchase new ones for gluten-free foods only:
Measuring cups, spoons (replace if plastic)
Pots/pans/baking pans/muffin tins (replace if nonstick)
Rolling pin (replace if wooden)
Salad tongs (replace if wooden or plastic)
Skillets (replace if nonstick or cast iron)
Spatula (replace if nylon, plastic, or silicon)
You only need to replace the item if it will be used for preparing gluten-free foods. A scratched nonstick pot or pan could harbor gluten. Purchase new pots that do not have a nonstick surface. Rounded corner baking dishes are easier to clean. Label the new items for gluten-free use only with a permanent marker. It may be helpful to store these objects in a gluten-free cabinet to avoid cross-contamination.
Pretend the gluten grime is all over the kitchen. If you ever baked with flour, it is everywhere since flour can be airborne. All the surfaces in your kitchen need to be sanitized. Take everything out of each kitchen cabinet and scrub or toss it. Wipe the cabinet surfaces—including the bottom, sides, and top of each shelf—with a dishwashing liquid and warm water solution. All the items from inside the cabinet need to be scrubbed or wiped down before putting them back. Your kitchen will be as clean as when you moved in. When washing baking pans, be sure to scrub the corners where dried baked goods can lodge. Carefully clean the seams around pan lids. Clean countertops, utensil drawers, and refrigerator shelves often to remove crumbs. Wash sponges and dishtowels after they come into contact with gluten.
Clean Out the Pantry
Now that you cleaned your kitchen and all the cabinets, it is time to tackle the pantry. First, take everything out of one shelf of the pantry and thoroughly clean it like you did the cabinets. Next, using the list of gluten-containing foods recorded earlier in this chapter, read the label of each pantry item to determine if it contains gluten. If it does, you may choose to throw it out, give it away, or place it on a gluten-designated shelf in the pantry. Before you put it back, be sure to wipe it to remove the gluten grime thoroughly.
You may want to place tempting gluten-containing snacks on a high pantry shelf out of sight. However, place wheat flours on a lower shelf so the wheat residue does not float down onto gluten-free foods when you remove it from the shelf. Keep wheat flour in a ziplock bag to decrease cross-contamination.
Clean Out the Refrigerator and Freezer
Let’s move on to cleaning out the refrigerator. Again, remove all the items from one shelf in your fridge and freezer at a time, going through the same process as the pantry. If you choose to keep any gluten-containing foods, put them on a separate shelf. Wipe each item off before returning it to the fridge.
Old condiments may be contaminated because a utensil used on a gluten-containing food may have been redipped into a condiment. Purchase new gluten-free condiments designated for the gluten-free individual, and label them. You could use a permanent marker or label maker. From this point on, cleanliness is fundamental, so be diligent to wipe off surfaces, pantry shelves, and refrigerator shelves and scrub dishes that come into contact with gluten.
Clean Out the Medicine Cabinet
Since supplements, over-the-counter medications, and prescription drugs can contain gluten, you need to clean out this area too. Again, take everything out of the cabinet, wipe it down, and read every label. Use a permanent marker to write “gluten-free” or “contains gluten.” Clean and organize the area now, versus when you are sick.
Try not to be overwhelmed by the amount of work you need to do to begin and maintain a gluten-free lifestyle. You can get this done little by little. Soon your kitchen will be spotless and seem brand-new again. As you eat a gluten-free diet, your symptoms will be relieved. Walk confidently toward this healthier lifestyle. Make sure you take the following action steps. Schedule a date to clean out your kitchen, pantry, refrigerator, freezer, and medicine cabinet.
Date to clean out: Date accomplished:
Kitchen ________________________ ________________
Pantry ________________________ ________________
Refrigerator ________________________ ________________
Freezer ________________________ ________________
Medicine Cabinet ________________________ ________________