Knowing how to clean a kitchen sponge effectively can prevent spreading dangerous bacteria to kitchen surfaces, control odors, and get your dishes sparkling clean.
Clean and Disinfect Sponges Daily
Kitchen Sponges Breed Bacteria
Like a smelly kitchen rag, dirty sponges are ideal breeding grounds for certain organisms including yeast, mold, and bacteria. Surprisingly, they also collect fecal contaminants, including e. Coli, probably from peoples’ hands.
If not properly cleaned, your kitchen sponge can transfer these germs to your countertops, appliances, and food preparation surfaces. From there, they make their way to your food.
Dirty sponges also smell bad. That odor will wind up on your dishes, countertops, and hands if you don’t do something about it.
Sponge-Cleaning Methods That Don’t Work
There are a number of “household hacks” suggesting ways to clean a kitchen sponge. Some examples recommend that you spray it with hydrogen peroxide, soak it in water with essential oils, or douse it with lemon juice.
Unfortunately, those methods to clean kitchen sponges don’t work, according to the Agricultural Research Service’s Food Technology and Safety Laboratory (ARS). Their tests revealed between 30 and 87 percent of bacteria alive and well in the sponge.
That’s enough to cause serious food-borne illness.
How To Clean A Kitchen Sponge Effectively
So, what does work?
Either of the methods below will get your kitchen sponge clean and disinfected within safe limits. Using them one after the other, or on alternate days, is an excellent idea.
Disinfecting Sponges in the Microwave
Microwaving a sponge kills 99.99999 percent of bacteria present when done correctly. If you don’t have a microwave, boiling your sponge in water also works. Both of these methods cause the food-borne pathogens to “literally pop,” thus killing them.
- Rinse your sponge thoroughly, then put the soaking wet sponge in the microwave for 1 to 2 minutes on HIGH.
- Allow the sponge to remain in the microwave until it’s cool enough to handle. Squeeze any remaining water out and let it air-dry.
Disinfecting Sponges in the Dishwasher
The ARS says that cleaning your sponge in the dishesher removes 99.9998 percent of bacteria.
- Rinse and squeeze your sponge under a running faucet to remove food particles.
- Wring out the sponge and then place it in the top rack of your machine, or in its own compartment in the silverware caddy.
- Run the dishwasher through a full wash AND dry cycle. Air-drying will not kill enough bacteria for the sponge to be considered safe.
Here are 53 more things you can clean in the dishwasher.
Replace Kitchen Sponges Regularly
Even with daily cleaning, you should replace your sponge with a new one every few weeks. But don’t just throw the old one into the trash.
Give your old sponge a good cleaning, let it thoroughly dry and then try one of the creative reuses below.
What To Do With Old Kitchen Sponges
1. Make an ice pack: Soak the sponge in a 50-50 mixture of rubbing alcohol and water slip it into a resealable plastic bag. Pop the whole thing into the freezer to use as an ice pack for bumps and bruises. Since the alcohol solution won’t completely freeze, the sponge will feel comfortable and cool against your owie.
2. Keep outdoor container plants watered: Put old kitchen sponges in the bottom of flower pots before adding soil and planting. The sponge will retain moisture when you water your plants and release it to their roots as needed.
3. Polish your shoes: Dip a corner of the sponge in shoe polish and buff away.
4. Keep your umbrella stand dry: Place an old sponge or two in the bottom of your umbrella stand to absorb raindrops from brollies on rainy days.
6. Repel mosquitoes: Soak a sponge in some homemade mosquito spray until it’s wet. Wipe your patio furniture and then leave the sponge nearby to continue discouraging mosquitoes.