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How to Clean a Sponge

person wearing yellow gloves using a soapy sponge on a blue wall

When you wash your dishes by hand, the obvious assumption is that you are cleaning and sanitising them with your kitchen sponge and dish soap of choice. Well, we are here to tell you that just because the dishes look visibly clean, that does not necessarily mean that they are. In fact, they just might be crawling with bacteria that is making you sick and you don’t even know it!

If you’re wondering what it is that’s making your efforts to clean dishes go in vain, you’re holding the culprit in your hand – the sponge! By now, everyone knows that kitchen sponges come and go but there is no reason to discard your dish scrubber before its time. While visible wear and tear calls for a replacement, kitchen sponges and scrubbers must be cleaned and sterilised regularly to ensure that they are not only serving their true purpose (which is to clean your dishes) but also last longer (and reduce household waste). 

Before we begin, there are a few things that the experts at Maid For You feel the need to clarify.

How Do Sponges Get Contaminated?

old dirty used yellow sponge in front of a white background

Many homeowners believe that kitchen scrubbers and sponges are self-cleaned when in use since they come in direct contact with soap that is intended to fight bacteria and grease. This is a major misconception because your kitchen sponge picks up and harbours bacteria that cannot be killed or removed by merely covering it in dish soap. It might help overpower an unpleasant smell from your scrubber (which is also caused by a combination of grease and bacteria) but even this isn’t advised. 

To restore these germy items to clean, sanitary, and fresh smelling kitchen sponges, we’ve compiled three of the best and most effective sponge cleaning methods for your convenience. Read on!

1. Zap it in the Microwave

a yellow sponge on the dishtray of a dirty white microwave

High heat is a fantastic way to kill bacteria in sponges. In fact, many cleaning experts advise keeping your kitchen scrubbers and sponges out in the sun every other day for a few hours to dry them properly, and kill bacteria in the process. Of course, a routine deep clean is essential for keeping sponges sanitary and safe to use on your dishes. One of the quickest and most effective ways to do this is by zapping your kitchen sponge in a microwave!

Here are the steps you need to follow to do that:

  1. Rinse the sponge thoroughly under running water. Pick out food bits and debris so that it is as clean as possible when you put it into the microwave
  2. While the sponge should be soaked, it should not be dripping wet. Therefore, you will need to gently squeeze out some of the excess water after rinsing the sponge.
  3. Place the sponge on a microwavable plate, and put it in the oven for 1 minute on high heat. 

WARNING: If you find that the interior is becoming smokey, turn the microwave off immediately and remove the sponge with a pair of tongs.

After zapping the kitchen sponge in your microwave, allow it to cool completely before using it again. 

2. Soak in Vinegar

person wearing yellow gloves holding a bottle of vinegar next to a sponge and assorted hand soaps

For an all-natural solution to cleaning your kitchen sponges, all you need is full-strength vinegar. This must-have ingredient for household cleaning is commonly used for sterilising and cleaning purposes, and in this case, you can use it to get rid of disease-causing bacteria from your kitchen sponge. 

Follow the steps below to clean your kitchen sponge with vinegar:

  1. Wash off as much grease and food bits as you can; pick out debris that is stuck in the sponge (that was not rinsed off). Give it a good squeeze to remove excess water.
  2. Fill up a container with full-strength vinegar (enough to soak and submerge the sponge completely). Leave the sponge to soak for 5 minutes.
  3. Finish off by rinsing the sponge thoroughly under running water. You may have to squeeze and rinse the sponge repeatedly before the vinegar is removed.

WARNING: Raw vinegar can cause skin irritation; therefore, it is advisable to wear rubber gloves when using this cleaning method.

Use sunlight to dry your freshly cleaned sponge, or simply leave it on a rack overnight to air-dry. 

3. Self-Clean in the Dishwasher

open chrome finished dishwasher on a white background

By far the easiest and most convenient way to clean and disinfect kitchen sponges and scrubbers is with a self-clean in the dishwasher! Although dish sponges are generally not overused in households with dishwashers, they still require cleaning from time to time. In fact, when sponges are used and left idle for long periods of time, they can accumulate and harbour as many germs as dish scrubbers that are used frequently.

Take a look at these simple steps to clean your sponge in the dishwasher:

  1. Rinse the sponge clean and remove food bits manually, if needed.
  2. Put your kitchen sponges on the top rack, and run a regular dishwasher cycle.
  3. After the cycle is complete, allow the sponges and scrubbers to dry completely before using them again.

How Often Should You Clean & Disinfect Your Dish Sponge?

hand holding a yellow sponge

If you are taking measures to rinse and dry your kitchen sponges properly after every use, you are already doing your bit to keep bacteria to a minimum. In this case, deep cleaning and sterilising your sponges once in two weeks will suffice. On the other hand, sponges that tend to remain damp overnight or are overused should be cleaned using one of the methods above at least weekly.

Adriana Aziz is the operations manager at MaidForYou. With over 6 years of experience managing cleaning operations, she knows all the best hacks when it comes to cleaning residential and commercial buildings. With expert experience in managing house cleaning operations, interior design and logistics. She spends her free time with her family and as a freelance food critic.

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