You use it to clean the dishes you later eat from so it might be uncomfortable to contemplate, but it’s completely true: Your kitchen sponge is grosser than you realize. The porous material that makes up a sponge is a magnet for bacteria and it really isn’t good enough to simply squeeze out your sponge after every round of clean-up and swap it for a new one every few weeks (i.e., when it starts to stink). But don’t worry—you aren’t doomed to eat off a plate that was cleaned by a petri dish nor must you break the bank by buying a billion new sponges just to maintain higher hygiene standards. We spoke to the experts at the American Cleaning Institute (ACI) for the full scoop on how to sanitize a sponge so you can keep your sink-mate fresh and germ-free for weeks.
But first, do I really need to clean my sponge?
Yep, you do. Per the American Cleaning Institute, your kitchen sponge is likely one of the germiest items in your home. “Cleaning a sponge weekly will help prevent you from spreading bacteria from dish to dish as well as to your sink and countertops which can help keep you and your family from getting sick,” the cleaning pros tell us. Of course, sanitizing your sponge every week makes it less gross, but this handy kitchen helper still won’t survive forever. For optimal hygiene, the ACI recommends folks replace a sponge every two to three weeks, or as soon as it starts to look and smell like it has seen better days. In the interim, try one of the following methods for de-germing your kitchen helper.
How to Sanitize a Sponge with Bleach
You might have heard a rumor that you can sanitize a sponge in the microwave and as much as we love nuking stuff, we have to caution against that method. According to the experts at ACI, bleach is the best bet when it comes to sanitizing a sponge since the microwave is likely to result in unpleasant odors. Bust out the chlorine bleach once a week and follow the method below to remove “practically all of the bacteria present” on your yucky sponge.
1. Make your cleaning solution. Fill a bowl or plastic container with one quart of water and add three tablespoons of chlorine bleach.
2. Soak the sponge. Put the kitchen sponge in the solution and let it soak for at least five minutes.
3. Squeeze and dry. After the sponge has finished its brief bleach bath, remove it from the solution and wring it out thoroughly. Move the sponge to a well-ventilated area and let it dry completely before use.
How to Sanitize a Sponge in the Dishwasher
Bleach is hands-down the most effective way to sanitize a sponge but if you don’t like the stuff, you can opt for the second-best method instead: The dishwasher. Just know that unless you have a silicone sponge, which is designed to be sanitized in the dishwasher, this method is less effective than a bleach-based sanitizing solution. Still, the ACI says that even with a traditional sponge, the dishwasher method is better than nothing (it’s also incredibly easy). Here’s how to do it.
1. Put your sponge in the dishwasher and press the “heated dry” button on your appliance. That’s it.
2. When the dishwasher is done doing its thing, your sponge is ready to use. Ah, so fresh and so clean.