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How to clean sponge?

How to Microwave a Kitchen Sponge to Kill Germs

Reducing the incidence of foodborne illness by just 10% would mean 5 million fewer Americans would get sick each year! After seeing this recent U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimate, we started thinking about kitchen safety tips to help keep our families safe from these all-too-common illnesses. Where to start? Try cleaning sponges.

Worst Places for Germs in the Kitchen

Washing hands before cooking and eating are a good, commonsense way to start. Earlier this year, a Chicago Tribune article added that kitchen sponges are a major source of microbes, saying that when NSF International (an independent public health organization) swabbed various items in homes, the kitchen sponge was by far the germiest, harboring 150 times more bacteria, mold, and yeast than a toothbrush holder!

The University of Arizona’s ‘Dr. Germ’ – aka microbiologist Prof. Charles P. Gerba – agrees. He writes that sponges are the worst place for germs in the kitchen, providing a damp, nurturing environment for fecal bacteria from raw meat to fester. Yuck! In a New York Times interview, Gerba said that the cleanest-looking kitchens are often the dirtiest because “clean” people wipe up so frequently, they spread bacteria all over the kitchen. Amusingly, some of the cleanest kitchens, Gerba claims, are in the homes of bachelors who rarely wipe up countertops.

Another recent study found that preparing one simple meal can contaminate up to 90 percent of kitchen surfaces touched, which may spread foodborne illness. Volunteers were asked to prepare a chicken stir-fry, fresh green salad, and packed kids’ lunch. Results showed significant cross-contamination in the kitchen, which spread to other hand-contact surfaces, kitchen towels, cloths, and sponges.

Microwave Kitchen Sponges to Kill Germs

Moms Against Cooties would like to be able to use and reuse sponges without fearing that we were spreading germs. So, we set out to find the best method for cleaning sponges that have been in contact with foods such as raw egg, uncooked meat or raw vegetables. Turns out that the microwave oven may offer the simplest effective option, according to University of Florida researchers.

The scientists reported that simply microwaving sponges (completely wet, never dry) for two minutes at high power killed or inactivated over 99 percent of pathogens in sponges that had been soaked in a “witch’s brew” of fecal bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites, and bacterial spores.

But note: High power may vary among microwave ovens, but this point is not addressed by the researchers. The researchers used a Sharp, Model R-630D microwave oven with a rotating glass plate, a frequency of 2,459 MHz, and power of 1,100 watts.

Zap Sponges… But Watch Out

The researchers recommend “zapping” kitchen sponges every other day or so. Watch out though – the zapped sponges will be really hot and steamy, so should be left in the microwave for a few minutes to cool. And obviously, this method won’t work if the sponges contain any metal. Another option is to put the sponge into a dishwasher for a full wash and dry cycle.

How do you keep your family safe from foodborne illness? We’d love to hear your tips.

Yevhenia Haidamaka / Rd.com

Sponges. Are. Disgusting. On this we can agree. And if you’ve heard microwaving a sponge kills the bacteria that makes the sponge smell—the sad and even more disgusting truth is that it only kills the weaker germs, according to new research. The stronger bacteria and bugs survive and thrive in your sponge.

The new findings come from a recent study published in Scientific Reports. As the New York Times reported, Markus Egert, a microbiologist at the University of Furtwangen in Germany, and his team looked at the DNA and RNA from 14 used sponges that would be similar to ones you use in your house currently. They found 362 different species of bacteria living in them. It gets worse… the researchers found 82 billion bacteria can live in just one cubic inch of space. That’s same density of bacteria found in human stool samples.

Dr. Egert said, “There are probably no other places on earth with such high bacterial densities.” One strain of bacteria stood out: Moraxella osloensis. This bug is responsible for infections in people with weak immune systems. It’s also the one that makes sponges smell.

In other words, if you have a dirty smelly sponge, toss it. While you might want to save money by boiling it, running it through the dishwasher, or soaking it in vinegar, Dr. Egert feels that’s just a waste of time and potentially dangerous. One technique that does produce slightly less than satisfactory results is running it through the laundry set on hot with bleach. And even then, you shouldn’t take it back to the kitchen, but reserve it for use in a less sanitary place like the bathroom (although, these spots in your home are dirtier than your toilet seat). But honestly? Dr. Egert recommends simply replacing sponges once a week. Who knew?

So Your Kitchen Sponge Is A Bacteria Hotbed. Here’s What To Do

For the first time, scientists have carefully analyzed all the critters in a kitchen sponge. There turns out to be a huge number. Despite recent news reports, there is something you can do about it. Joy Ho for NPR hide caption

toggle caption Joy Ho for NPR

For the first time, scientists have carefully analyzed all the critters in a kitchen sponge. There turns out to be a huge number. Despite recent news reports, there is something you can do about it.

Joy Ho for NPR

Back in August, a study came out about bacteria in kitchen sponges that sent home chefs into a frenzy.

But when we looked carefully at the study, we realized much of the news coverage about it was incorrect.

The study, published in Scientific Reports, undertook a thorough investigation into how many critters are living in used kitchen sponges. And the results were jawdropping.

“We found 362 different species of bacteria, and locally, the density of bacteria reached up to 45 billion per square centimeter,” says Markus Egert, a microbiologist at Furtwangen University in Germany, who led the study.

Forty-five billion microbes per square centimeter? Are you kidding? If you scale that up, that’s like stuffing all the people who live in Manhattan into the Rockefeller ice rink.

“That’s a very huge number of bacteria, indeed,” Egert tells NPR. “There’s hardly any habitat on Earth where you’ll find similar densities of bacteria, except for the human intestinal tract.”

In other words, there can be spots on your kitchen sponge with just as high concentrations of bacteria as in a toilet.

That result in itself is pretty remarkable. And it makes you think twice about using the sponge to wipe up your dining room table.

But that finding isn’t what got people riled up. Instead, it was a line in the study’s abstract: Two species of bacteria “showed significantly greater proportions in regularly sanitized sponges , thereby questioning such sanitation methods in a long term perspective,” the study says.

Then the media took this idea and ran with it.

“Your Kitchen Sponge Is Gross, and Cleaning It Isn’t Helping,” New York magazine’s headline read.

“Cleaning a Dirty Sponge Only Helps Its Worst Bacteria, Study Says,” The New York Times put it.

“Some people may think that microwaving a sponge kills its tiny residents, but they are only partly right,” the Times story continued. “It may nuke the weak ones, but the strongest, smelliest and potentially pathogenic bacteria will survive.”

After reading these stories, including one posted on NPR’s Facebook page, I started becoming a bit skeptical. Something smelled fishy here. This conclusion just didn’t fit with my firsthand experience as a scientist.

Back in 2007, I was a biochemistry postdoc slaving away in the lab. I spent many of those days growing huge flasks of bacteria closely related to food-borne pathogens. I fed them, harvested them, fished out their genes, studied their guts — and killed them — day after day after day.

Anyone who has worked with food-borne pathogens — or their close relatives — knows that these little critters aren’t “the strongest.” They are weaklings. You heat them up just a little bit and they literally pop!

“That’s why we cook food. We know that heating will kill the pathogens,” says Jennifer Quinlan, a food microbiologist at Drexel University.

So what in the heck is going on with this new sponge study? Are the findings upturning decades of public health recommendations?

Not at all, Quinlan says. The media reports were simply not accurate.

“After you contacted me for an interview, I read the study in great detail,” she says. “I feel now that the comments they make about not recommending washing in the abstract are really, really misleading.”

In fact, she says, you can’t draw any conclusions about the effect of washing sponges from this study.

For starters, there was no clear explanation of what “regular cleaning” meant, she says.

“What really irked me is that you had to go all the way into the supplemental material to find how people reported washing the sponges,” Quinlan says. “Even then the methods were very vague.”

The study stated that the sponges were either microwaved or put in hot, soapy water. The latter can actually make the sponge stinkier, Quinlan says.

“Nobody would recommend hot, soapy water as a way to disinfect a sponge,” Quinlan says. “That could actually encourage the bacteria.”

The study also looked at only five sponges that people said they “cleaned” regularly — and study participants did not say whether this cleaning took place in the microwave or in soapy water. “We do not want to make public health recommendations based on five sponges from Germany,” Quinlan says.

Instead, families should stick with the same recommendations Quinlan has given for years:

1. Keep the sponge away from raw meat. “If you’re dealing with raw juices from meat or poultry, you should be using paper that can be disposed of,” Quinlan says.

2. Don’t keep sponges around for too long. “I replace mine every one to two weeks,” she says. “That’s reasonable to me.”

3. Clean the sponge every few days. The USDA recommends putting it in the dishwasher with a heated dry cycle, or wetting the sponge and popping it in the microwave for a minute.

Microwaving the sponge will knock down the bacteria living in it by about a million-fold, scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported back in 2009. Of course, this method will leave many still alive since there are billions in the sponge. But the heat targets the dangerous ones, Quinlan says.

“It doesn’t sterilize the sponge,” she says. “But remember, the bacteria we want to kill are the ones that will make you sick.”

In the new study, cleaning apparently boosted the levels of two species. Egert has no idea exactly what these species are, but one is related to bacteria that give your dirty laundry that stinky, musty smell. The other is related to bacteria that, on rare occasions, cause infections in people with suppressed immune systems. Neither of these relatives are known to cause food poisoning.

Just five species of bacteria are responsible for more than 90 percent of hospitalizations due to food-borne illnesses. And these bacteria are actually quite rare in sponges, Quinlan says.

Egert and his team didn’t find any of these food-borne-illness-causing bugs in their 14 sponges. And in a study published earlier this year, Quinlan and her colleagues detected pathogens in only about 1 to 2 percent of sponges collected from kitchens in Philadelphia. Even then, the amount of the pathogens present was very small, her team reported in the Journal of Food Protection.

“So when you microwave the sponge,” she says, “it will likely get rid of them all” — if they are even there in the first place.

And then you can rest easy that washing the dishes will not make you sick.

7 Foods That Fight Bacteria and Kill Germs Naturally

Photo Credit: Istock
Our body works really hard to constantly fight bacteria, germs and viruses that we may ingest through the air we breathe or the food we eat. Whether it’s a common flu attack, a dreadful skin infection or an upset stomach, bad bacteria may compromise your health and therefore, your internal defense mechanism needs to be always active to get rid of them. Our immune system is quite powerful but it needs little help which can be provided in the form of these anti-bacterial and anti-microbial foods that fight off the harmful bacteria naturally.
1. Honey
Honey is one of the first natural anti-microbial medicines to be used. It contains live enzymes that release hydrogen peroxide, which is known to kill germs and unwanted foreign elements that enter our body. Start your day with a teaspoon of honey and warm water.
(Also read: Why Raw Honey and Not Just Regular Honey?)
Start your day with honey and warm water. Photo Credit: Istock
2. Garlic
Garlic is a powerful anti-bacterial that can fight yeast infections, fungus and candida overgrowth. It may taste repulsive but a traditional remedy to maintain health and protect yourself from diseases is to have raw garlic on an empty stomach. Garlic contains a natural protective compound called allicin and other volatile oils, which are released on chewing and crushing it.
Chewing raw garlic is considered to be good for your health. Photo Credit: Istock 3. Turmeric
This super spice from granny’s treasure trove has become the talk of the town owing to its medicinal properties. Turmeric has always been known as a great antiseptic used to heal wounds and cuts, but it is also a wonderful anti-bacterial that keeps your internal systems clean. Drinking a glass of turmeric milk (haldi doodh) every day is one of the best ways to bolster your immunity.
(Also read: 5 Amazing Benefits of Drinking Turmeric Milk)
Drinking a glass of turmeric milk daily is the best way to build your immunity.
4. Coconut Oil
The anti-bacterial properties of coconut oil come from the presence of medium chain fatty acids or triglycerides (MCTs) found in it. The two most potent medium chain triglycerides found in coconut oil are lauric acid and caprylic acid. Research has shown that it can inactivate several types of bacteria, fungi, yeast and viruses. It is a great remedy to fight skin infections.
Coconut oil is a great remedy for fighting skin infections. Photo Credit: Istock
5. Lemon
The anti-bacterial and ant-fungal properties of lemon enable it to fight bacteria that cause acne. It is full of Vitamin C, which also acts as an antioxidant that fights disease-causing free radicals in the body. You must drink a glass of nimbu paani made with the juice of two lemons to get your daily dose of Vitamin C.
Lime water is a great way to get your daily dose of Vitamin C. Photo Credit: Istock.
6. Pineapple
You may have not known about the health benefits of this sweet and juicy tropical fruit, but it acts as an amazing anti-bacterial that specially helps to fight invading cells in the mouth and throat. Fresh pineapple juice is known to cool the blood and reduce inflammation of the nose and the sinuses.
Fresh pineapple juice is known to cool the blood. Photo Credit: Istock
7. Ginger
Ginger is an effective home remedy for throat infections. Sucking a piece of raw ginger and taking in all its juices is known to cure cough and kill the bacteria that has caused the infection. Ginger also contains a group of chemical compounds called sesquiterpene that are known to kill rhinoviruses, agents that cause cold.
Ginger is known to kill rhinoviruses, agents that cause cold.
CommentsTurn to nature’s bounty to protect and make yourself stronger from within.

How to Get Rid of Bad Skin Bacteria Without Wiping Out the Good

Photo: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

The idea of bugs hanging out on your face is the stuff of nightmares. But that’s what’s happening, at least on a microscopic level-and it’s actually the dream scenario.

Your gut has its microbiome-the 100 or so trillion bacteria lining your GI tract that are involved in everything from brain function to your weight-and now researchers have found that skin houses its own special bacterial blend vital to its health. About a trillion strong, the microbes on skin differ from those in the gut as well as from person to person. (Here’s everything you need to know about your skin microbiome.) “Just as cacti grow naturally in Arizona but not the Midwest, every bacteria has an environment where it thrives,” says dermatologist Whitney Bowe, M.D., the author of The Beauty of Dirty Skin.

Getting to Know Your Skin’s Bacteria

In the past, experts thought of these organisms mostly as foes or benign friends. Now they’re discovering all the good that bacteria do, like signal cells to perform key tasks or turn genes on or off. For example, specific strains tell cells to produce the fats and ceramides needed to maintain the skin barrier. That’s crucial for keeping moisture in and irritants out, says dermatologist Jeffrey Dover, M.D. And recent research from the University of California San Diego found one strain that produces a compound to help suppress cancer cells.

But there are bad apples too. Certain bacteria trigger inflammation and play roles in acne, rosacea, eczema, and psoriasis. Obliterating them isn’t the answer-even if you could do so without also wiping out all the beneficial microbes. “No bacteria is good in abundance; balance is key,” says Dr. Dover. So is diversity; the more and varied the strains, the healthier the skin. When one pathogenic bug dominates, trouble ensues. In those with eczema, it arises when a common strain of Staphylococcus aureus gains a foothold over others, Dr. Bowe says. An off-kilter microbiome also compromises the skin barrier, contributing to dryness, sensitivity, inflammation, and possibly aging.

Healthy Gut, Healthy Skin

Studies show that microbes in your gut affect skin too. Bacteria there make up 70 percent of your immune system, says Dr. Bowe. When the bacterial balance is off, “some patients may experience gas or bloating, but for others, the sole manifestation is in the skin,” she says. A healthy gut microbiome also maintains a tight intestinal barrier, which keeps toxins quarantined. An imbalance, however, makes the gut leaky, releasing them into the body and triggering inflammation all over, Dr. Bowe says. (Related: Everything You Need to Know About Leaky Gut Syndrome) The gut-skin link may go beyond immunity. “The literature is showing effects on hydration too,” says Gregor Reid, Ph.D., the chief scientist at Seed, which has developed a probiotic supplement.

How to Bug Out

Support your microbiome through your lifestyle, diet, and skin care.

Be kind to skin’s inhabitants. Avoid harsh antibacterial soap and hand sanitizer, and never scrub skin aggressively. “It disrupts the terrain where bacteria thrive,” says Dr. Bowe. Instead, use cleansers and moisturizers with niacinamide or ceramides to bolster your barrier.

Get a little dirty. Our world is way too clean, Dr. Bowe says. Because we indiscriminately kill bacteria with cleaning products, we’re not exposed to many of nature’s microbial goods. Researchers in China found that those who live in megacities have less diverse skin microbiomes, which may explain why urban areas see more skin inflammation. “You don’t need to never shower,” says Dr. Dover. Just limit cleansing to once a day.

Try microbiome-targeting skin care. If the skin is generally healthy and you use gentle products, you probably don’t need to overhaul your routine, says Dr. Bowe. But if you have sensitive skin, dryness, or acne, biome-centric products could help. Consider prebiotics that feed skin bacteria, found in Naturopathica Manuka Honey Cleansing Balm ($62; dermstore.com) and Joyome Illuminating Day Serum and Intensive Overnight Repair ($153 for both; joyomeskincare.com), as well as probiotics, meaning actual bacteria, found in Mother Dirt AO+ Mist ($50; amazon.com). (Check out these other probiotic skin care products.)

Eat well, stress less. Load up on fiber-rich produce and foods with probiotics and prebiotics-yogurt, bananas, onions, and raw asparagus. Also, know that stress changes the diversity and number of bugs in your gut, according to a study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. Counteract with exercise and sleep, which studies show directly help balance microbes. (Try these 7 ways to bolster good gut bacteria.)

Pop probiotics daily. Preliminary studies show various strains of probiotic bacteria may improve skin by boosting hydration, calming inflammation, helping prevent UV-induced barrier disruptions and oxidative stress (which triggers aging), and more. They do this not by worming their way from the GI tract to the skin but by changing how your gut microbiome functions in ways that influence skin or even by releasing bene cial metabolites that make it to skin via the bloodstream, says Reid. Try the strains in Seed Female Daily Synbiotic ($50; seed.com), which are Bifidobacterium longum SD-CECT 7347-SP, Lactobacillus casei SD-CECT 9104-SP, and B. lactis SD-CECT 8145-SP. Also, be wary of supplements that make outrageous claims. “No one on the planet is always totally healthy,” says Reid. Probiotics offer a way to tip the scales in favor of better health.

  • By By Beth Janes

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Yes. Acetic acid (a.k.a. white vinegar) is a great disinfectant. It also acts as a deodorizer and cuts grease.

You can tackle salmonella, E. coli and other “gram-negative” bacteria with vinegar. Gram-negative bacteria can cause pneumonia, meningitis and bloodstream, wound or surgical site infections.

How does it work?

The acid in vinegar crosses the bacteria’s cell membrane, prompting a release of protons, which causes the cell to die.

White vinegar found on most store shelves is a five per cent concentration of acetic acid. It kills about 80 per cent of germs. Look for stronger concentrations at eco-friendly stores that have refill stations.

Mixing an acid (e.g., vinegar) with a base (e.g., castile soap) creates a (not dangerous) acid-base neutralization reaction. So adding vinegar to castile soap takes back its original oils. Looks like white curdling! It’s a common mistake. After using the all-purpose spray or scour that contain castile soap, spray surfaces — counters, tubs, tile and sinks — with vinegar. Use full strength for tough cleaning jobs or dilute 50:50 with water.

Five ways to clean with vinegar

  1. Fill your dishwasher rinse agent dispenser with white vinegar.
  2. Soak sweat-stained white clothing in about 60 millilitres of white vinegar and enough water to cover the stain. Leave overnight. Wash with eco-friendly laundry soap.
  3. Soak rusty tools in a pail of white vinegar and brush to clean.
  4. To deodorize your toilet, pour 125 millilitres of white vinegar into the bowl. Let sit 15 minutes. Flush.
  5. To remove hard water deposits on your tub/glass shower doors, heat 250 millilitres of white vinegar in a pot. Spray onto surface. Let sit 15 minutes and wipe clean.

Try these green cleaning recipes

No one likes the idea of cleaning dishes with a germy sponge, which is why we all know we should be cleaning ours on the regular. But which method is best? The Good Housekeeping Institute worked with EMSL Analytical testing lab in Westmont, New Jersey to find out if using the dishwasher, microwave, washing machine, bleach, or vinegar removed the most bacteria — and bleach won.

The Best Way to Clean a Sponge

Mix 3/4 cup of bleach in one gallon of water and soak the sponge for five minutes, then rinse – and that’s it. In testing, the bleach solution killed 99.9% of the three bacteria strains from the test sponges (scrub and regular cellulose), which is the benchmark based on the EPA’s requirement for sanitization of non-food-contact surfaces.

But no matter how diligent you are about cleaning, your kitchen sponges won’t last forever. Clean them weekly, and toss shabby ones every two to three weeks, depending on use.

Getty

3 Other Ways to Clean a Sponge

Even though bleach is the most effective bacteria killer, in a bind, these methods are your next best option. They’re listed in order from most to least effective, so choose wisely.

1. Microwave

The microwave was one of the next most effective, zapping 99.9% of germs. Do this by putting the sponge in the microwave, saturating it in water (we used 1/4 cup for scrub sponges and 1/2 cup for cellulose), then heating it on high for one minute (scrub) or two minutes (cellulose).

2. Dishwasher

The dishwasher also killed 99.9% of germs. To use, add your sponge to a regular dishwasher load, using the “heated dry” setting.

3. Vinegar

This method eliminated 99.6% of bacteria. All you have to do is soak your sponge in full-strength vinegar for five minutes, then rinse.

Sanitizing kitchen sponges

Sponges can spread harmful bacterial all over your kitchen. To prevent your sponges from spreading germs you need to sanitize them.

The problem with sponges is that they don’t dry out between uses and the moisture helps harmful bacteria multiply. A sponge can be cleaned and sanitized safely if you follow some guidelines. To clean and sanitize a sponge you can do one of three ways. You can use your microwave, dishwasher or a sanitizing solution.

To sanitize sponges in your microwave follow these simple rules:

1) First, sponges that have metallic scrub pads should not be disinfected/sanitized in the microwave, but can be placed in a dishwasher for cleaning and sanitizing.

2) Make sure the sponge is completely wet. Being wet is essential because otherwise the sponge could catch fire in the microwave.

3) Put the wet sponge in the microwave for one minute on high. One minute of microwaving is sufficient to kill bacteria.

4) Be careful when removing the sponge from the microwave, because it will be hot. You may want to set a timer for 10-15 minutes and then take the sponge out of the microwave when it has cooled.

Another way to clean and sanitize your sponges is to use your dishwasher, but once again there are some rules to follow:

1) Use the hottest and longest cycle on your dishwasher

2) Use the dry cycle

According to the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA) microwaving sponges kills 99.99999 percent of bacteria present on them, while dishwashing kills 99.9998 percent of bacteria.

A third way to sanitize your sponges:

1) Use a solution of one-quarter to one-half of a teaspoon of concentrated bleach (8.25 percent sodium hypochlorite) per quart of warm, not hot water.

2) Soak the sponge for one minute.

When you need to wipe up raw juices from meats, which can be particularly high in bacteria, instead of using your sponge or dishcloth, use clean paper towels and throw them away. Then sanitize your counters with the one-quarter to one-half teaspoon of concentrated chlorine bleach in one quart of water. Spray this solution on the counters and let dry or wipe it on with a clean cloth and let the counters air dry.

If you use dishcloths Michigan State University Extension recommends that you use a clean dishcloth each day. When dishcloths or sponges smell bad it is because of all the bacteria in them.

Keeping your dishcloth or sponge as clean as possible helps to keep your kitchen clean and in the long run, also helps to keep you and your family healthy.

For years we all thought microwaving our kitchen sponges or throwing them in the dishwasher were effective ways to kill bacteria, make ’em smell better, and help them last just a bit longer, but it turns out, not so much.

Sponges that were “sanitized” in the microwave or dishwasher were just as bacteria-loaded as sponges that were never cleaned at all, according to a new study conducted by German researchers from the Faculty of Medical and Life Sciences and Furtwangen University. And if that doesn’t make you cringe, this will: The sponges they examined were dirtier than a toilet.

“Despite common misconception, it was demonstrated that kitchen environments host more microbes than toilets. This was mainly due to the contribution of kitchen sponges, which were proven to represent the biggest reservoirs of active bacteria in the whole house,” the researchers wrote in the report.

The researchers found that microwaving the cleaning tool only killed around 60 percent of bacteria. In fact, sponges that were cleaned in the microwave or dishwasher actually contained higher amounts of bacteria, according to their reseach. The experts found that several germs survived microwaving and even boiling, and then grew and spread quickly on the sponge.

Sponges are a hot spot for bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, staphylococcus, and much more. There’s been evidence that using a bleach solution is the best way to clean a sponge, but truly, the only way to ensure you’re working with a clean sponge is to replace it once a week. “From a long term perspective, sponge sanitation methods appear not sufficient to effectively reduce the bacterial load in kitchen sponges and might even increase the shares of -related bacteria,” the scientists wrote in their report. “We therefore rather suggest a regular (and easily affordable) replacement of kitchen sponges, for example, on a weekly basis.”

So, if you want to avoid spreading disease-causing bacteria, it’s best to throw your sponges out after a week of use (two, if you’re pushing it). But for less than $1 apiece on Amazon.com, at least you can save while you stock up.

BUY NOW: $15, 20-pack of scrub sponges, amazon.com

(h/t New York Magazine)

This Is Really How Often You Should Replace Your Kitchen Sponge

Bill Oxford/Getty Images

When was the last time you swapped your kitchen sponge for a new one? For many of us, the answer to that question is: Too long ago that I can’t even remember. Unfortunately, that’s not the best strategy for keeping things clean in the kitchen. Kitchen sponges collect bacteria like few other items, and that bacteria can have harmful effects on your health—it also makes it difficult to get your dishes truly clean when it’s time to wash up.

We’re always looking for new ways to keep our spaces spic and span, and we’ve often wondered if our methods of sponge cleaning truly do the job. That’s when we heard this news: According to a study out of Germany published in Scientific Reports andas reported by Today, widely used methods of sanitizing sponges—like microwaving them and cleaning them with boiling water—don’t always get rid of all the harmful bacteria and pathogens that accumulate on sponges with use. In fact, strains of bacteria with high resistance levels can live on and on in the wet sponge environment.

That’s bad news for the sponges we have been using for weeks and weeks. So, what’s the solution? The study suggests swapping out your used sponge for a new one at least every week. Also, be sure to clean your sponges after each and every use. These strategies should keep your kitchen sink fresher, your kitchen accouterments cleaner, and your family healthier.

Check out our more of our cleaning tips and tricks for strategies to keep your space sparkling.

WATCH: 5 Things to Throw Out of Your House Right Now

How often do you swap out your sponges? Let us know your tips for keeping your kitchen as clean as can be.

Here’s how often you should really be changing your kitchen sponge

I know how often to change my sheets (once a week!) and how often to clean my coffee maker (every two weeks!)—and I’m really good at doing both. But one thing I’m not really good at doing is swapping out my kitchen sponge frequently enough.

And according to a study published in Scientific Reports, my lax sponge habits could be making me sick—or at the very least, making my dishes dirty—because my trusty old scrubber is probably covered in harmful bacteria. Here’s exactly what the study found and how frequently you should actually be tossing your disgusting sponge in the trash.

Why you need to change your kitchen sponge more often

Credit: DeepBlue4You/Getty Images

There’s a lot lurking on that green scrub pad.

In case you didn’t know, your kitchen sponge is one of the dirtiest things in your house—potentially even more germ-ridden than your toilet. “Your sponge is the perfect breeding ground for bacteria,” our senior lab testing technician, Jonathan Chan, explains. “Think about it: It gets regular exposure to water, food particles, and is porous.”

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The study found that there were 362 different types of bacteria on the average kitchen sponge. Not only that but half of the most commonly found germs on the sponges were disease-causing. Not exactly what you want to be washing your dishes with…

When should you replace your kitchen sponge?

Every week, according to the study’s scientists. However, it depends on how frequently you use your sponge and what you use it for. A.k.a if you use your sponge every day, you’ll want to change it more often than if you’re only using it twice a week. The same rule applies if you use your sponge to clean surfaces with raw meat (which Jonathan recommends avoiding because “the bacteria is just too dangerous to mess with”).

How to clean your kitchen sponge

Credit: Happycity21/Getty Images

So fresh, so clean.

No matter how often you do (or don’t) replace your kitchen sponge, there are ways to keep it cleaner for longer or at least give it a quick refresh. One of the most popular hacks is to microwave your slightly-wet sponge for one to two minutes. However, this method isn’t as effective as you might think—the same study reported that microwaving a sponge only killed off about 60 percent of the germs.

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Instead, we recommend placing your sponge on the top rack of your dishwasher and turning it to the “heated dry” setting. You can also soak your sponge in a vinegar bath or a diluted bleach solution (use 1/2 cup of bleach for every gallon of water) for about five minutes to help sanitize it.

caption Yes, kitchen sponges are dirtier than toilets. source /correct pictures

  • Sponges are the most bacteria-covered objects in most homes (more so than toilets), according to microbiologists.
  • One recent study found even more microbial diversity on sponges than researchers expected.
  • Sponge-cleaning methods like boiling and microwaving are less effective than most people think.

If the dishes are stacking up in the sink, you’re probably reaching for that sponge and soap.

But when was the last time you changed that sponge out? Remember, kitchen sponges are dirtier than toilets.

In fact, it’s common knowledge among microbiologists that the things you use to clean your dishes are the dirtiest objects in your home.

A study published in August in the journal Scientific Reports suggests those spongy bacterial colonies may be even more of a health hazard than we thought. Because of that, the researchers behind the report recommend replacing your sponge every week.

The researchers conducted a genetic analysis of bacteria on 28 samples from 14 used sponges. They wrote that this was the most comprehensive analysis yet of the microbiome – the community of bacteria – living on kitchen sponges.

Kitchens are where new bacteria are regularly introduced, both because of human traffic and food preparation. Sponges, which are often warm, wet, and contain traces of old food, are ideal breeding grounds for those bacteria.

The goal of the new analysis wasn’t to find pathogens, which make people sick, but just to see what was living on the sponges. The answer? Lots of things.

“Our work demonstrated that kitchen sponges harbor a higher bacterial diversity than previously thought,” the authors wrote.

They found that five of the 10 most common bacterial groups had pathogenic potential, including Acinetobacter johnsonii, Chryseobacterium hominis, and Moraxella osloensis. They also found pathogenic groups that could lead to a staph or strep infection, though those weren’t as abundant.

They compared their tests to newly purchased, unused sponges and found those to be basically bacteria free.

The other surprising result of the study was that cleaning sponges may be less effective than previously thought. Microwaving and boiling sponges can initially reduce about 60% of the bacteria on them, according to the study, but won’t sterilize them.

And even sponges the scientists tested that had been regularly cleaned in that way didn’t have fewer bacteria than the uncleaned sponges. The researchers think that resistant bacteria most likely survive the sanitation process then quickly repopulate the sponge, making it harder to remove them over time.

Philip Tierno, a microbiologist, previously told Business Insider that the best way to clean a sponge was to “put it in a little bleach solution.” However, the new study didn’t evaluate the effects of that method.

Although it’s a good idea to clean a sponge after each use, the researchers “suggest a regular (and easily affordable) replacement of kitchen sponges, for example, on a weekly basis,” according to the study.

How to Sanitize a Bath Sponge

The cleaning information you give is just fine for SYNTHETIC Sponges/Meshes. Due to the nature of synthetics, they are unable to release germs/bacteria like a natural sea sponge. Whatever you pick up with it the first day, stays in it – unless you break out the bleach.

While bleaching is hard on any type of sponge – it will destroy a natural sponge! If it doesn’t outright dissolve it in front of your eyes, it weakens it; the decision to use bleach on a natural sea sponge must recognize that you are sacrificing the sponge – needlessly!

A natural sea sponge is superior to synthetics of any type for several reasons, two that apply here are: 1. It has greater absorbency, and, 2. It releases whatever it has picked up by simply rinsing it until the water is clear. Combine the rinse with squeezing (DO NOT WRING A NATURAL SPONGE – IT WILL RIP) to remove excess water and a good air-drying and you’re good to go.

Sometimes the sponge needs ‘freshening.’ This is achieved by soaking it in baking soda water (1 tbsp. to 1 cup). If you’re fortunate enough to have the sun, soak it for 15-30 minutes; if not, an hour soak is good. Then, simply rinse clear, squeeze well, and use or air dry for the next time.

Hand sanitizer also works well for a quick clean.

No, do not use the dishwasher on a natural sea sponge; the chemicals in the detergent will shorten it’s life.

Washing machines are very hard on natural sponges; using them will definitely shorten the life of the sponge. Friction with clothes causes ‘tags” – loosened segments that, if not trimmed, will eventually tear the sponge up.

Using chemicals (bleach, dishwasher detergents, etc.) also has a negative impact on the environment. Using any machine (clothes/dish washers) wastes energy and water.

Of course, if you’re sold on using synthetics in the first place, you aren’t environmentally friendly.

Today, most of the synthetic sponges are made of either wood pulp (cellulose), sodium sulphate crystals, hemp fibers or chemical softeners. Another common synthetic is made of polyurethane foam. These sponges may be good at cleaning, but are less ideal environmentally, as the manufacturing process relies on ozone-depleting hydrocarbons to blow the foam into shape. Also, polyurethane can omit formaldehyde and other irritants, as well as cancer-causing dioxins when incinerated! Some are treated with pesticides in order to claim ‘anti-bacterial’!

Not to mention the energy required to produce them.

I am dismayed at the cavalier attitude folks have toward ‘disposable’ sponges. Just from an economical stand point, synthetics come in packages of two or three or more – That’s because the makers know their product is headed to the garbage the second you start to use it! They are probably laughing – all the way to the bank!

Myself, I don’t have money to just throw away. I use a Key West wool for washing glassware, utensils, plates and plastic wear. Cost to me is $3.00. On average, my kitchen sponge lasts 2 months. Clean and fresh every day!

And each time I use it, I feel good knowing that I am using the ‘greenest’ product available. The environment doesn’t suffer because of my sponge choice.

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