What gets dirtier the more it cleans? You might be surprised to know that the answer is in fact the kitchen sponge. That’s right, the ‘harmless’ cleaning device that you keep next to your sink is actually 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat, according to research conducted at the University of Arizona.
When we’re using our kitchen sponges every day to scrub, wipe and clean dirty dishes and cooking equipment, we probably don’t think about how filthy they actually are. However, when they aren’t cleaned regularly and are instead left soaked through, they become a breeding ground for bacteria.
This article will guide you through the reality of kitchen sponges and their hygiene, and will inform you on how regularly you should clean and replace your sponges, what you should and shouldn’t use kitchen sponges for, as well as offering alternative methods of cleaning dishes.
How dirty are our kitchen sponges?
So, how unclean are our sponges, really? Researchers at the University of Arizona claimed that the average kitchen sponge is not only dirtier than a toilet seat, but they also found that every square inch of the sponge contains around 10 million bacteria, including food-borne illnesses and cold and flu germs.
People can become ill from the germs on the kitchen sponge because they easily collect bacteria from food and any other dirt that is wiped clean, and these can then be transported from the sponge onto the hands and the body. 1 single bacteria cell can multiply and become over 8 million bacteria cells over just 24 hours, and it only takes as little as 10 bacteria cells to make somebody ill.
Sponges generally become dirtier the more they’re used, and when they’re used to wipe down kitchen counters, chopping boards and sinks, as well as when they’re stored in certain conditions, which will be discussed later. However, there are ways to effectively clean your kitchen sponges to try and prevent the spread of germs and bacteria.
How should we clean our kitchen sponges?
It’s advised that we clean our kitchen sponges after each use to try and stop the bacteria from multiplying and growing. For a quick wash, you should wring the soapy water out of it and let it soak in hot water. Then, you should wring out all of the water and let it dry on a drying rack to prevent odours from building.
How can we thoroughly disinfect our kitchen sponges with a deep cleanse?
While soaking the sponge in hot water is a quick and easy way to clean it, it’s only really effective for the short-term. It’s important to give the sponge a much more thorough cleanse to completely disinfect it, and there are several different ways to do so.
One way involves soaking the sponge in a mixture of warm water and bleach, measuring ¼ – ½ of a teaspoon per quart of water (2 pints). The sponge should be soaked for a minute or so before wringing it and allowing it to dry. This method may remove some stored bacteria, but another method seems to be more popular: microwaving.
Research found that microwaving a kitchen sponge on a high setting for a couple of minutes can kill 99% of bacteria living in it. This is more effective than soaking it in bleach, but there are some precautions and hazards that should be addressed first.
You should only microwave wet sponges that have been soaked in water, as microwaving a dry sponge creates a fire hazard. It’s also important that you don’t microwave sponges that contain any metal fibres, – which could also cause a fire – or chemicals and detergents, as they can release toxic fumes. Of course, you should also let the sponge cool down before touching it, as it will be very hot.
You can also disinfect sponges by putting them in the dishwasher on a high-heat with the rest of your dishwasher load, ensuring that they’re placed securely.
Where should we store our kitchen sponges?
Many of us make the mistake of leaving a wet, soaking sponge on the countertop, where it will not only develop an unpleasant odour, but will also allow bacteria to multiply at a much faster rate.
Therefore, as well as cleaning your sponge after every use, you should completely wring out any water and store it in a dry location. However, you should try not to store the sponge in an enclosed space as this will increase the pace of bacteria growing, especially if it’s damp.
How often should we replace our kitchen sponges?
We know that cleaning our sponges regularly is very important, but there comes a point where you need to say goodbye and throw it away, and replace it with a new one.
Bacteria and germs develop after just 1 use of the sponge, which means that more will appear every time you use it, even if you do clean it regularly. In order to ensure that you don’t get ill from the bacteria, you should replace your sponges regularly.
A good sign that you need to replace your sponge is when it starts to smell, and this will happen sooner for some people depending on how regularly you use it.
What shouldn’t we use our kitchen sponge for?
Kitchen sponges are great for quickly wiping up messes and scrubbing things clean, but they’re always going to develop bacteria. However, there’s some bacteria that is especially bad for you, and therefore you should avoid using the sponge in these cases.
You should never use the kitchen sponge to wipe up drippings or juices from meat and fish, and you should never use it to mop up raw egg. This type of mess is full of unhealthy bacteria which is most likely to cause food-borne illnesses such as salmonella. Instead, use a paper towel and spray or a disinfectant wipe to clean these messes up.