Kitchen Hack: Keeping Sponges Fresh and Clean

Last Update: May 24, 2024

Sure, wiping down your kitchen counters makes them look squeaky clean, but do you ever stop to think about what that sponge is picking up with every swipe?

If you’re using that ratty old kitchen sponge that’s been sitting on the edge of your sink for months, your cleaning efforts might actually be making your kitchen…dirtier.

The trick to keeping your sponges clean? Smart maintenance. Once your sponge starts to smell, it’s too late—throw it away immediately and get a new one. That mildewy stench means it’s likely infested with bacteria, (as many as 10 million per square inch!) and it’s better to just chuck it and start over. (Sure, you can TRY the microwave trick below with a stinky sponge, but there’s no guarantee there won’t still be lurking in those crevices, even after a blast of heat.)

To keep things from getting to that point, here are some simple tips.

First of all, keep your brand new sponge clean by rinsing it and wringing out the water after each use. Bacteria thrive in moist environments, so by removing the water, you’re removing the chance for contamination.

You should also avoid using the sponge on surfaces where you cut raw meat—no one likes salmonella.

One way you can disinfect a sponge is by soaking it overnight in a mixture of water, vinegar, and salt. Combine 1 cup of hot water, 1/2 cup of white vinegar, and 3 tablespoons of salt in a cup or bowl. Submerge the sponge, and let it set overnight. Rinse out the sponge the next day to get rid of the vinegar solution.

Another method that works? The microwave, which researchers have found kills more than 99 percent of all germs and bacteria. Thoroughly wet your sponge, and microwave it on high for two minutes. Do not try this at home if your sponge contains any metal, and be careful not to microwave a dry sponge—that’s how fires start.

So what are you waiting for? Get all of those gnarly germs out of your kitchen, and clean your sponge, stat!

Photo credit: Paul Delmont

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Annalise Mantz

Annalise is a foodie, Brussels sprouts lover, grammar nerd, and political pet aficionado.

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