Your innocuous-looking kitchen sponge might be hiding a less than savoury secret.
Unbeknownst to many, the average kitchen sponge is an absolute haven for bacteria, with studies revealing that an astounding 54 billion bacterial cells reside within just one cubic centimeter of its surface.
What a whopping microbial party!
You’re probably wondering, how can one manage such an unwelcome congregation? Is deploying your sponge to a round in the dishwasher a suitable solution?
Well, let’s delve into some methods that can help maintain the hygiene of your kitchen sponge and keep those unwanted bacteria in check.
Can You Clean A Sponge In The Dishwasher?
It’s surprising how many folks question the suitability of putting a sponge in the dishwasher.
Can it be done?
In fact, the USDA recommends this very process for cleansing sponges effectively—it can eliminate roughly 99.998% of bacteria when you use the longest and hottest cycle with a dry run.
But, before you toss that dirty sponge into your dishwasher willy-nilly, there are several things you should be aware of.
Guidelines You Should Follow
- Pre-rinse your sponge under water, squeezing out any residual grime or food particles that could potentially block the dishwasher or contaminate your dishes.
- Place your sponge on the top rack of the dishwasher to keep it safe from sharp objects and heating elements which could potentially damage it. Don’t place it in the bottom rack, it’s where the hot water primarily circulates. The top rack provides balanced temperatures that won’t ruin your sponge’s fibers.
- Choose your longest and hottest cycle setting coupled with a heat-dry option when washing your sponge. This ensures that most of the bacteria and mold spores lurking within are effectively killed off.
- Let your sponge cool post-washing before removing it from the dishwasher—it will be piping-hot immediately after washing and can scald your skin.
- Once cleaned, place your sponge on a tray or dish rack so any lingering moisture can evaporate—this helps keep your sponge dry and uninviting for bacterial growth.
A Sponge Cleaning Routine:
- Sponges should be washed as frequently as possible—preferably every time you run a dishwasher load (which could mean daily). This keeps them fresh between usage sessions, reducing potential food poisoning risk. Additionally, make sure not to keep sponges damp or use them to scrub surfaces dealing with raw meat—disposable paper towels serve best for these tasks.
- Lastly, remember to replace even regularly cleaned sponges often—they wear out over time and lose effectiveness against germs. An easy rule is to switch out sponges every fortnight or if they start emitting unpleasant odors.
What Other Methods Can You Use To Clean Sponges?
If you’ve been pondering on how to keep your sponges clean without a dishwasher, we have some tips for you.
Say Hello to Vinegar: A Natural Disinfectant
Vinegar isn’t just for salads; it’s also potent in battling the microscopic foes lurking on your sponge! Rinse your sponge under water, squeeze out extra wetness, then plunge it into a vinegar-filled bowl for around five minutes. After squeezing out the vinegar, leave your sponge to air-dry.
Baking Soda: Nature’s Deodorizer
Alongside its culinary uses, baking soda is an excellent odor neutralizer and stain remover. Scatter baking soda over your sponge, introduce some warm water into the mix and let your sponge soak up this cleansing solution for about 15 minutes. Rinse with warm water afterwards and allow it to dry naturally.
Harnessing Microwave Magic
Microwaves do more than reheat leftovers – they can renew sponges! After rinsing the food debris off your sponge and soaking it with water again, place it in a microwave-safe dish. Zap away on high heat between 1-2 minutes until steamy. Caution: don’t let it get too hot or burn, let it cool first before handling.
Bye Bye Bacteria with Bleach
Deemed as one of the most effective ways of sanitizing sponges by numerous professionals, bleach really earns its reputation here. Submerge your sponge in diluted bleach (3/4 cup of bleach per gallon of water) for at least five minutes before giving it a thorough rinse – unless you’re not opposed to inadvertently bleaching more than just your sponge!
Keep on Top of Sponge Hygiene
These methods will surely help keep your kitchen accomplice pristine between dishwasher runs.
However, remember that nothing lasts forever – replace sponges every two weeks or when they start giving off unpleasant odors.
Keeping sponges clean doesn’t only provide a better cleaning result but also keeps you safe from harmful germs.
Can You Microwave Sponges With Scrubbers?
Microwaving sponges with scrubbers – provided they’re made from microwave-safe materials like nylon, polyester, or silicone – can actually be an effective way to kill lurking bacteria and germs.
Microwaving sponges serve as a formidable germ-fighting technique.
A 2007 study found that subjecting a sponge to two-full minutes of microwaving effectively eradicated an astounding 99.9% of germs!
Reinforcing this idea, research conducted in 2020 found consistent microwaving of sponges for at least one minute several times a week significantly reduced bacterial presence.
However, there’s always an exception to the rule: metal scrubbers.
These should never take a spin in your microwave due to the risk of sparking or causing potential damage.
To help you navigate this process safely, we’ve got some pointers for you:
- Start by thoroughly rinsing your sponge under water and squeezing out any excess moisture before introducing it into the microwave.
- Ensuring it’s placed in a microwave-friendly dish or container is crucial.
- Choose the highest power setting but avoid overheating your sponge; not only could this bring about harmful chemical emissions but it could trigger a fire too.
- After microwaving, allow sufficient cooling time for your sponge before removing it – touching it immediately could result in burns.
- Remember that even regularly-microwaved sponges have their expiry date. They wear out over time and become less effective at their job, thus should ideally be replaced every few weeks or whenever they start emitting unpleasant odors.