I’m frequently unpleasantly surprised by the standard kitchen sponge practices I observe in many many kitchens. I’ve often observed risky practices at the homes of friends and family. However, more recently, I’ve witnessed these frightful practices in the office kitchen. I’ve seen poorly rinsed sponges left sitting in the bottom of a grime filled sink soaking in waste water on a daily basis. I figured I would solve the world’s sponge problems by posting some kitchen sponge best practices.
Rinse Rinse Rinse
Above all else, rinse your sponge often. Hold the sponge under running water and then squeeze, release, and repeat. Do this when you first pick up the sponge, between dirty tasks, and most of all, when you finish using the sponge. You can’t rinse too often.
Use Lots of Soap
As you’re working through tasks, add soap to your sponge often. When you re-soap your sponge, you should also rinse it thoroughly. Start by rinsing the old soap and waste from the sponge by squeezing it several times under running water. Then apply fresh soap. Squeeze the sponge a couple of times to distribute the soap. Finally, rinse it once or twice – not enough to remove the fresh soap, but enough to evenly distribute the soap through the sponge.
Put The Sponge Away When You’re Done
Before putting your sponge away, rinse it thoroughly. If you just finished a relatively dirty task, re-soap the sponge. This will clean the sponge and prep it for your next use. Never leave your sponge at the bottom of the sink. Your sponge will stay wet with waste water and grow lots of bacteria. Instead, place your sponge on the edge of the sink so it can drain and dry. A dry sponge is a safe sponge! For even better results, get a sponge basket. A basket will allow your sponge to dry quicker and more completely between uses.
Don’t Cross Your Sponges
Don’t use the same sponge for washing dishes and cleaning the toilet. A kitchen sink sponge should only be used on dishes and cleaning counters. I once saw a kitchen sink sponge used to clean cat food bowls. It was not properly rinsed. Maggots appeared in the sponge – no joke. Also, a kitchen sink sponge should also only be used in conjunction with kitchen soaps. Never use the dedicated kitchen sponge with harsh cleaners such as Lysol. You should try to limit your accidental consumption of harsh cleaners (such as Lysol) to none, mostly because it’s poison and could make you sick… or dead.
When In Doubt, Nuke
A soiled sponge will pick up a mildew smell. I have found that not everyone can smell mildew. If you smell mildew, you’ve done something wrong. Regardless of your ability to smell the mildew, sometimes you just know your sponge is risky. In these cases, toss your wet sponge in the microwave for about 2 minutes. This will destroy the bulk of any bacteria living in your sponge. Be careful when removing your sponge from the microwave, it could be pretty warm. Be sure and give it a good rinse before use.
A sponge can last an extremely long time when taken care of. If cleaned regularly, a sponge will begin to deteriorate long before it becomes too soiled to use. While obvious, the best practices listed above seem to go largely ignored by many people. Help save a life, tell other people about kitchen sponge best practices.