Your Kitchen Sponge Is Gross. Here’s How to Change That

Humans have been using sponges in one way or another for millennia. Of course, the sponge wasn’t designated for kitchen use until the mid-1900s. Priorly, dishes were cleaned with sand and water, hands and rags—essentially, the same way you clean dishes when you’re camping. It’s easy to feel like our modern ways are way more hygienic. But, are they really? No, your kitchen sponge is super gross.

Sponges act like cozy little bacteria nests, with plenty of moist nooks and crannies in which bacteria can thrive. And by cleaning your food-caked dishes with a sponge, you are essentially providing food to these little critters. In fact, your kitchen sponge is actually one of the most bacteria-dense items on the entire planet. At forty-five billion microbes per square centimeter, studies have shown that your kitchen sponge is as dirty or dirtier than your toilet bowl. Ew.

But remember, not all bacteria are bad. In fact, bacterial diversity can be good for your body to experience. But it is smart to practice good hygiene with your sponge so as to avoid bacterial overgrowth and the cultivation of potential food-borne pathogens, because no one likes diarrhea. Here are a few tips to keep your kitchen sponge as hygienic as possible:

Keep it dry

Consider how you store your sponge. Do you just toss it in the sink, all soapy and disheveled? Do you have a sponge plate, or better yet, a holder that encourages excess liquid to drain out? Whatever you do, the most important practice is to wring it out when you are done using your sponge. Not only will it be more pleasant for the next person to use when they don’t get old, germy sponge water all over their hands, but it will also encourage less bacterial overgrowth and less stinkiness, meaning your sponge will last longer.

Superheat it

Every few days, pop your sponge into the top rack of your dishwasher to burn off any pathogens. Although food-borne pathogens are very rare in sponges, cleaning your sponge once or twice a week can cleanse it of any unwanted critters.

Avoid antibacterial

While it may be tempting to use antibacterial-infused sponges or antibacterial dish soap, don’t. Not only are they hugely health/environmentally damaging (most antibacterials contain triclosan, for instance), but antibacterials essentially create a bacteria void, which means the first bacteria that plants its grimy little flag on your sponge will have full run of the place. If that happens to be a food-borne pathogen, you’re in big trouble. Having a diverse culture of bacteria actually prevents any one strain from growing out of control, so just say no to antibacterials.

Keep it vegetarian

If you aren’t already vegan or vegetarian, be aware that it is smart to have a separate sponge for raw animals products, as these tend to accumulate bacteria more quickly and easily. Be especially sure to avoid cleaning up raw meat with your primary sponge, as this presents the greatest likelihood of pathogen growth. This will keep your main sponge clean and hygienic for a lot longer.

Throw your sponge away

In reality, a sponge is only good for a few weeks if you take excellent care of it. After one to three weeks, either bleach it and repurpose it for other dirty jobs in the house, or toss it (hopefully you choose a sponge, like Twist, that is entirely plant-based and compostable).

It’s unlikely that you’ll actually get sick from your sponge, but keeping a hygienic kitchen is a good practice. Bacteria are flourishing all around us—even inside us! The best thing we can do is ensure that they remain diverse and balanced so that they improve our health, rather than hinder it.

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196 comments

Marie W
Marie W24 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Monica C
Monica Chongtham6 months ago

thanks for sharing

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Sue H
Sue H6 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R6 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Jeanne R
Jeanne R6 months ago

Thank you for sharing.

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Sophie A
Sarah A7 months ago

thanks very much

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Ruth S
Ruth S7 months ago

Thanks.

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Alexandra Richards
Alexandra Richards7 months ago

Thank you.

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Greta L
Alice L7 months ago

Thanks for this

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Olivia M
Past Member 7 months ago

Good advice.

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