Take a quick glance in your kitchen. Do you see a sponge perched nicely there by the sink? When you clean with that sponge, do you believe that your dishes and counters are sanitized? Well, depending on when you last replaced that sponge, that may or may not be the case.
Recently, researchers from Faculty of Medical and Life Sciences at Furtwangen University in Germany did an examination of 14 different sponges. Their findings? They discovered 362 different kinds of bacteria growing in those sponges. This represents more bacteria than the average toilet! Although many of the bacteria were shown not to be harmful, they found a few that were considered very dangerous. The more commonly known illness-causing pathogens included E. coli, salmonella, and staphylococcus.
Although sponges are useful for cleaning, their structure provides the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. Sponges have nooks and crannies that are designed to absorb liquid and dirt. Most bacteria love to breed in warm, moist areas with an abundance of nutrients. These germs can then be spread during cleaning, including contaminating new areas of the kitchen that were previously bacteria free. This leads to the possibility of contaminating your hands or food items, resulting in the consumption of harmful pathogens.
There are several recommended cleaning techniques for your kitchen sponge. These include soaking it in water, followed by microwaving it for more than one minute. Or you can soak it in bleach, hydrogen peroxide, isopropyl alcohol or vinegar for five minutes. These techniques can kill 99.9 percent of harmful bacteria. The risk? Some bacteria have been shown to be resistant to these modes of cleaning, and they quickly recolonize your sponge.
In the end, researchers found that sponges that had been regularly “sanitized” contained as many bacteria as their uncleaned counterparts. The final recommendation? Instead of changing your sponge monthly, replace it once a week.