How to Clean Your Kitchen Sponge

How to Clean Your Kitchen Sponge

If you use a sponge, there are some things you need to know!

Even though we use sponges to clean, they actually need to be cleaned too - and simple soap and water won’t cut it. A recent study published by Scientific Reports discovered more than 300 different types of bacteria on one sponge - at a density of as much as 45 billion per square centimeter. That's a LOT of microscopic ick and this is what you’re using to clean the things that go into your mouth every single day - YIKES!? The study found that sponges that were cleaned with just soap and water were more likely to breed bacteria that turned into “super germs''. Super germs are more resistant to detergents since they survived the soapy cleaning and they could potentially cause harm to human health, especially those of us that are immunocompromised. In other words, if you clean your sponge the wrong way, you’re actually encouraging the growth of bacteria.

It's recommended that you nix using sponges all together - they are not eco-friendly and are made of plastics that do not readily biodegrade which harm the people, our planet, and our oceans. However, if you just can't live without one - we'll never judge you. Just be sure to clean your kitchen sponges regularly and change them weekly to avoid bacterial buildup.

3 ways to get rid of the bacteria in your sponge

  1. Clean your sponge in the dishwasher.

    Cleaning a kitchen sponge in a dishwasher may be the easiest solution of them all and per the USDA it kills 99.9% of bacteria if done correctly. Place the sponge in the top rack and run the machine through a heat-dry cycle to disinfect the sponge. The longest, hottest cycle is most effective, but any heat-dry dishwasher setting will kill the germs in your kitchen sponge.
  2. Clean your sponge in the microwave.

    Using the microwave is another great way to kill bacteria in a kitchen sponge and also kills 99.9% of bacteria. However, be aware that microwave temperatures can vary and a synthetic, metallic or dry sponge can catch fire in the microwave. When using this method, always soak the kitchen sponge in water first and place it in a shallow microwave-safe container.  Microwave the damp kitchen sponge for about 5 minutes and allow it to cool for 15 minutes. Finally, remove the kitchen sponge from the microwave, ring out excess water, and it’s ready to go.
  3. Clean your sponge in vinegar.

    If you're looking for an inexpensive, nontoxic, and biodegradable disinfectant, turn to vinegar. It can be used to clean your microwave, drains, showerhead, and, you guessed it, your grimy kitchen sponge. To clean your kitchen sponge naturally, soak it in full-strength vinegar for 5 minutes. (No need to dilute it.) Ring out the vinegar, thoroughly rinse the clean kitchen sponge in warm water and let dry.

How often do I need to clean my sponges?

The best way to guarantee a clean kitchen sponge is to clean it after each use and replace it weekly. If it starts to smell, it’s time to toss it out.

To make your sponge last longer, don’t use it to scrub off chunky food debris or wipe up fresh meat juices, dirt from fruits and veggies, unpasteurized milk products etc. Kitchens are hot spots for cross contamination, so the extra cost to replace your sponge will be worth avoiding the E. coli and salmonella your old sponge may harbor.

However, as we mentioned, sponges are not eco-friendly so it’s worth looking into some other options that are safer for you and the environment that last longer and are more effective. Check out this list of alternative options from Sustainably Lazy