Poor kitchen hygiene can cause disease, especially when preparing uncooked food such as raw chicken or salad leaves. And all that microbial activity could be sitting right next to the kitchen sink: on the sponge.
Kitchen sponges are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria, given the amount of food residue that can stick on and inside the porous surfaces. The average kitchen sponge is about 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat.
In a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports, German researchers did a germ-analysis of kitchen sponges with some shocking results. There are 362 different kinds of bacteria and are up to 54 billion bacteria in one cubic centimetre of sponge material.
Luckily, the bacteria partying in your sponge are mostly the type that don’t cause disease. The study found that one of the most dominant types of bacteria came from the Moraxella family. These bacteria are often found on human skin, so it’s likely they got onto the sponges from people’s hands.
How do I keep my sponges clean?
Improper cleaning may make the situation even worse because some bacteria survive, and become more resistant.
We’ve got three tips for you that can sanitize this common kitchen item in the most effective way.
The idea here is that the boiling water will help kill bacteria.
Rinse the kitchen sponge in the boiling water and let it for 5 minutes. Then squeeze as much liquid out as you can before placing it in a well ventilated area to dry out.
It’s also important to thoroughly dry the sponge before using it to wash dishes again, since the dampness could attract more bacteria.
The next most effective method was microwaving. It’s important to wet the sponge thoroughly before placing it in the microwave, to prevent it from catching fire in the microwave.
One to two minutes should do the trick, but make sure you let it sit for a while after it’s done because It’ll be hot. This method eliminated 99.9% of bacteria.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive, non-harmful and a natural option, turn to full-strength vinegar (which has a higher concentration of acid than regular white vinegar).
Place sponge into a container filled with full-strength vinegar. Allow it to soak for 5 minutes before rinsing and squeezing.
When should I throw my sponge away?
You should really be replacing your kitchen sponge anywhere from once a month to once a week depending on how often you use your sponge. So if you cook a lot and scrub pots and pans often, you’ll probably have to replace your sponge sooner.
Here are a few signs that it’s time to get rid of your sponge.
- If your sponge starts to smell, that’s an indication that bacteria has started to form.
- If your sponge is visibly discolored or stained.
- If your sponge might start falling apart before it shows any other signs of aging.