Forget the toilet, the dog or the diaper pail — your kitchen sponge is the germiest object in your house. Considering that these germs could be the infectious kind, it’s time to shed light on this dark (and porous) problem.
Sponges have an estimated 10 million bacteria per square inch. Yes, they’re often doused in cleaning solution, but soap is powerless against the fast-breeding microbes that thrive in a sponge’s warm, cavernous environment.
Some household items, like bedsheets and bath towels, harbor germs too. But unlike sponges, they’re rarely harmful. Bath towels may hide allergens, but sponges are in constant contact with used silverware, contaminated countertops and its harshest opponent — food.
The worst part isn’t what they pick up — it’s what they spread around. Sponges don’t hold the bacteria they breed, so the things you clean could end up contaminated, too. Colds, flus, food-borne illnesses — all can be spread from a single sponge.
Keep your kitchen clean and your family safe by considering these easy tips:
- Clean it. Some people microwave sponges to bust bacteria, but your best bet is bleach. Using one part bleach and nine parts water, soak the sponge for about 30 seconds. Store the extra, unused solution for future use.
- Replace it. Even after a cleaning, your sponge can still carry contaminates. Toss it regularly. If it starts to smell, it’s definitely past its prime.
- Separate it. Designate sponges for specific jobs. For example, clean the sink and countertops with one, and dishes with the other. This will help prevent cross-contamination.
- Skip it. Save the tough jobs, like cleaning up after raw meat, for paper towels or disposable wipes. Foodborne illness is common, and most often comes from the home.
- Help it. Disinfect your kitchen regularly to keep bacteria at bay. The less your sponge can pick up, the better.
- Upgrade it. Silicone scrubbers are non-porous and dry faster — making them a slightly safer option. Plus, you can toss them in your dishwasher to keep them clean.