The sponge is one of the most commonly used tools in the kitchen. This is largely because sponges have such a wide variety of uses, ranging from cleaning up spilled milk to wiping away splotches on our stove top. But when not in use our sponge often sits on the sink, retaining water from its last cleaning and unintentionally becoming an incubator for bacteria. Rinsing a sponge under running water can clean off visible debris, but does not disinfect. But never fear, here are a couple of methods to clean your sponges and reduce germs.
The Microwave: A study by the United States Department of Agriculture laboratory tested disinfection methods for kitchen sponges and found that using a microwave is an effective disinfecting technique. Simply place a wet sponge in the microwave for one minute on high. According to the study, after one minute, up to 99 percent of the bacteria on your sponge will be killed and your sponge should be ready for germ-free use once it cools. (NOTE: It’s important that the sponge be wet when you place in the microwave as a dry sponge could run the risk of catching fire. Also, remember that sponges that contain metallic scrubber pads of any kind should not be placed in the microwave!)
The Dishwasher: The same USDA study also showed that a sponge can be disinfected in the dishwasher. Simply put the sponge on the top rack and run a normal dishwashing cycle with heated drying.
How often does a sponge need to be disinfected? To be safe, a good rule of thumb is to disinfect sponges as often as you cook. For daily maintenance, rinse off food particles and squeeze out all retained water before setting down your sponge. Bacteria love wet environments.
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