The Kitchen Sponge

Surprise: The kitchen sponge may be the most unsanitary object in your home, including anything found in a bathroom. Because it remains wet, the sponge becomes a bacterial incubator. Sponges can harbor E. coli, Salmonella, Pseudomonas, and Staphylococci, which can cause food poisoning. The cellulose sponges typically used in kitchens provide a stable food supply and moisture for bacteria. You’re also more likely to find bacteria on the kitchen sink than on toilets. Scientists have conducted tests showing the kitchen sponge as the most germ-laden object in your house.

What to do? Ellen Sandbeck, author of Green Housekeeping, states that the most green thing you can do is throw out your sponge and use dish towels. After each dish towel use, throw it into your laundry bag to wash during your next load. If you can’t part with your sponge, I suggest alternating use with two or three sponges to allow the sponge to dry out completely after each use. Only use a dry sponge for each cleaning session. If you use a saturated or wet sponge to wipe up surfaces, you may just be spreading the bacteria.

Some have suggested throwing it into the dishwasher or microwaving the sponge. However, most dishwashers do not get hot enough to kill the bacteria. The microwave is better, but the sponge needs to get to boiling point. This may require 60-90 seconds. I still recommend alternating sponges and using the microwave once a week. No scientific proof behind this approach, but it is a start. Don’t forget to purchase organic or green dishwashing soap. More on that later.