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Get Your Kitchen Sponges 99.9999% Bacteria Free!

I like to keep my kitchen sparkling and often reach for a sponge and some sort of surface cleaner. And although I don't get grossed out easily, the kitchen sponge is something that freaks me out if I think about it too long. All those gross germs hanging around, spreading themselves from surface to surface *shudder* I really can't handle it. However, I know that a sponge is a great kitchen tool - it's a reusable, quick way to wipe down dishes, clean countertops, etc. So what's a gal to do? Do I rinse it under warm soapy water or do I clean it with bleach? What's the best way to keep a sponge in rotation, while keeping the spread of bacteria to a minimum? Well, lucky for us, scientists at the Agricultural Research Service tested several methods for reducing risks in reused sponges. They did this by soaking sponges at room temperature for 48 hours in a ground beef/lab growth mixture, then they went about "cleaning" them. To learn what they discovered,

The ARS scientists treated the sponges in five commonly used ways.

  1. Soaked for 3 minutes in a 10% chlorine bleach solution.
  2. Soaked in lemon juice or deionized water for 1 minute.
  3. Heated in a microwave for 1 minute.
  4. Placed in a dishwasher operating with a drying cycle.
  5. Left untreated.

Strangely, the sponges soaked in the bleach solution, the lemon/deionized water and the sponges left untreated each only killed 37-87% of the bacteria. While microwaving killed 99.9999% and the dishwasher killed 99.9998%. Microwaving and dishwashing also killed most (over 99%) of the mold and yeasts, while the other treatments left them behind.

Long story short, if you really want to clean out those sponges, you might want to take them for a spin in the dishwasher or microwave between uses.

Source: Agricultural Research Service

Join The Conversation
Diana172 Diana172 9 years
My dad tried microwaving a sponge and it was a disaster. It caught on fire and made the house smell like smoky mold. Even if you put something else in with it, I still think it will make your house smell weird (the sponge didn't even smell initially). Just throw your sponges away. They're clearly cheap enough, haha.
LuciLu LuciLu 9 years
good to know! thanks
Mel475 Mel475 9 years
Glad to know the two methods I use work the best! I almost always throw my sponge in the dishwasher when I do a load of dishes and then if it gets too icky or if I've cleaned up a big mess, I throw it in the microwave. Just make sure if you use the microwave that you moisten the sponge first. I know people who have put it in dry and it will burn it. Thanks!
Penny4545 Penny4545 9 years
really awesome. at the office we have to use the same sponge in the kitchen. it's so gross. i usually take my dishes home or use disposable plastic ware because i'm so scared of what's on the sponge. i'll be throwing it in the microwave monday morning!
Green Green 9 years
I will be microwaving!
CamillaCat CamillaCat 9 years
I have heard of the microwave method, but forgot about it. Thanks, I should do this today!
fashionhore fashionhore 9 years
I have been microwaving my sponges for years. My bf thought I was nuts, but who's laughing now?
Schaianne Schaianne 9 years
I always pop mine through the dishwasher and up until I read that ... didn't think that was good enough. Glad to know that it's just (about) as good as nuking it!! Yay ... so much easier to do, too!!
bookgirl bookgirl 10 years
Wow, never thought to microwave or run through the dishwasher, I always just threw them away. Is the microwave good for the ones with the scrubby stuff on the side? I always thought that had like steel wool or some other metal in it.
SU3 SU3 10 years
We usually just throw it out and get a new one. But I think we'll try the microwave trick now... Interesting! Thanks for posting!
MrsJigglesworth MrsJigglesworth 10 years
hmm... interesting. I didn't know the microwave trick.
bellarose bellarose 10 years
bellasugar - seventh generation makes great non-toxic and environmentally safe cleaning products! you can get them at whole foods. they make other great products too. i use their recycled paper towels and toilet paper. and i mircowave my sponges all the time!
Kostika Kostika 10 years
Microwaving sponges in the future. I hate sponges that are all gross and then have to use them to clean. Blech! Thanks for this suggestion.
saraj saraj 10 years
A couple days after I first heard about the microwave tip, I heard about smoking sponges... DEFINITELY make sure it's damp! Also, the first time I tried it there was some soap left in the sponge, which started bubbling out not too soon after starting its minute.
mellie_608 mellie_608 10 years
I knew about the dishwasher, but the microwave is so much faster! There are just some things that are easier to clean with a sponge!
colormesticky colormesticky 10 years
Great idea, thanks. My husband uses sponges, but I'm a germ freak. I either use paper towels with 409 antibacterial or Clorox wipes.
Beauty Beauty 10 years
great tips. thanks! Something else I'd love to see: a post about surface cleaners that are safe and non-toxis. I'm worried about wiping down cutting boards and countertops with sprays that contain ammonia and other chemicals.
lulis lulis 10 years
Great to know thanks.
partysugar partysugar 10 years
I use paper towels and when my kitchen sponge gets old simply replace it with a new one.
Amity-A Amity-A 10 years
Wow, great tips! Thanks!
ktjones ktjones 10 years
I cannot do sponges...just like I cannot do wood handeled knives or wooden cutting boards. I am such a germ freak!
mdbzmom mdbzmom 10 years
I didn't know the dishwasher worked so well. I put mine in there and also microwave them. I've heard different times so it's good to have one minute confirmed. Thanks for the info!
pinupsweetheart pinupsweetheart 10 years
Wow. I would think good old bleach would have done the trick.
sheena sheena 10 years
If you put it in the microwave, make sure it's wet or the sponge will melt. I learned this from my microbiology prof in school :)
ALSW ALSW 10 years
Microwave is a great idea!
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