Ever smell something is “off” in your kitchen and have to do the sniff test? Chances are you’ve discovered the nasty smell is emanating from your most commonly used cleaning item, the kitchen sponge.
When it comes to washing your dishes, or cleaning your countertops after meal preparation, most chefs always make sure to have two essentials: dish soap and a kitchen sponge. And, while it’s important to clean your dishes, cutlery, kitchen gadgets, and cooking tools, as well as countertops, it’s easy to overlook the built up filth on that kitchen sponge. Think about it, when was the last time you replaced this tool? Last week? Three months ago?
Chances are you probably don’t replace your kitchen sponge as often as you should. And, as a result, it most likely contains bacteria, and you could be spreading illness-causing germs including E. coli, Salmonella, and maybe even SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID. The truth is that sponges not only can retain all types of bacteria, leading to infection & illness, they are as it can get and need to be replaced every week or two. In fact, a study in the July 2017 issue of Scientific Reports suggests that kitchen sponges actually have more germs than toilets! Truth be told, scientific research has revealed that there were 362 different types of bacteria found lurking in the crevices of sponges from short term rentals.
Let's face it, sponges are the perfect repository for germs, and with the pandemic, we must be especially careful with regard to cleaning practices. Sponges are usually wet, stored in a warm place, and contain many nutrients for microbes such as food residue and even dishwashing detergent.
Bacteria don’t just survive; they also thrive in this environment and can spread to your countertop and dishes you think you’re cleaning.
How to effectively clean it
If you want to clean your sponge, putting it into the washing machine at 60° C (140° F), and using a bleach-containing, heavy-duty detergent is probably the best method, this combines high temperature, strong chemistry, mechanics, and a sufficient amount of time.
Another way of prolonging the life expectancy of your sponge would be to lather it up with dish soap and rinse it with running water to flush the bacteria and viruses of the surface of the sponge, and then put it in the microwave on high for a full two minutes to kill any bacteria. (Never put DRY cloth or sponges in the microwave.)
How to properly store your sponges after each use
Where and how you store your sponge in between cleanings also matters. To let it dry out, I recommend you keep it in a holster away from the faucet or drain to let that puppy dry out in between uses. The more it dries out the less likely it is to harbor bacteria and other germs.
It’s also smart to use separate sponges for separate areas or items. The sponge that you use to clean your dishes shouldn’t be the same one you use to clean the bathroom nor should you use any sponge to clean up after poultry or any other meats or fish. It’s always a good practice to have a small kitchen cloth available for that specific purpose and recycle its use by sending it off to your laundry machine after using it or, better yet, use a good kitchen disinfectant and a few paper towels.