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Microwave by M.E. WilliamsDo you use a sponge to wash your dishes? Right now, I can promise you one thing: that sponge is, unfortunately, one of the dirtiest things in your house... unless you already perform the following regimen.

For one thing, it lives near the kitchen sink, which is the germiest area of most homes. For another, all those little chambers that make a sponge so good at soaking up water also make it good at holding onto germs that can make you and your family ill. Some people run their sponges through the dishwasher, but that does little to kill bacteria.

There's a fast and easy way to disinfect your dish sponge, which you should do as often as every other day. Keep reading to find out what to do!


Simply wash the sponge with hot water and soap, rinse it, and put it in your microwave. Microwave at 100% power (High setting) for 1 to 2 minutes. This will kill most of the germs living in the sponge: most die in the first 30 seconds, but E. coli can hang on a little longer. You can put the sponge in a small, microwave-safe dish of water, if you prefer, before putting it in the microwave.

Be careful: keep an eye on the sponge while it's "cooking," to make sure it doesn't burn. It will be HOT when it's finished. Let it cool in the microwave for a while, or wear a heat-resistant glove, like a silicone oven mitt, to take it out.

Don't make the mistake that many people made when this tip was featured on a morning talk show a while ago. There was big drama because the guest neglected to mention that the sponge needed to be wet. Plenty of people cooked their dry sponges in the microwave and wound up with a stinky, burned mess.

Another potential pitfall: this is for sponges only. You can't put anything metallic, including dish scrubbers or steel wool, in a microwave. But any sponge or scrubber can be soaked in a diluted bleach solution for similar (albeit messier) microbe-busting results. Whatever you do, it should be done any time your dishes came in contact with raw meat or poultry, or at least a few times a week.

Even disinfecting your sponge won't make it last forever, so be sure to squeeze the water out of your sponge after each use, and start over with a new sponge every few weeks. Also, always keep two sponges or cloths in your kitchen: don't use the same one on your dishes that you use to clean the counter. (In my house, the retired, disinfected dish sponge becomes the counter-cleaning sponge.)

For more on this topic, see this WebMD article and this New York Times article.



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  • Sharon

    I add a little lemon juice to the water when I "cook" my sponge in the microwave.

    Reply
  • jennifer angelo

    lemon to the sponge when you microwave it is a great idea!

    Reply
  • jennifer angelo

    Regarding the cooked dry sponges: the sponges were really germ free!

    Reply
  • Dave

    My wife fried our microwave, a Sharp Carousel, with this trick. She didn't think the sponge was hot enough after one minute, so she gave it a second. Near the end of that time, ZZAAPP!!! Thereafter it would arc about 20 seconds into the coocking of anything.

    Reply
  • Joan

    What happened to good old bleach?

    Reply
  • Ann

    The writer of the sponge article says that they use their "retired" sponge to clean counters. But since you needed to discard that retired sponge, doesn't defeat the purpose of now using it for counters since it will only just spread its old germs on the counters? Duh!!!!

    Reply
  • Ann

    The writer of the sponge article says that they use their "retired"
    sponge to clean counters. But since you needed to discard that
    retired sponge, doesn't defeat the purpose of now using it for
    counters since it will only just spread its old germs on the
    counters? Duh!!!!

    Reply
  • Tony

    Why bother with the microwave at all? In our home we use a medium-sized tupperware container filled with water (one quart/liter), and one teaspoon of chlorine bleach. We squeeze ALL the water out of the sponge, then let it soak up the chlorinated water - which will kill ANYTHING. We thoroughly rinse the sponge and scrubbers several times before using. Additionally we will either bleach our counters, or use 70% Isopropyl alcohol on them, allowing them to dry completely, then wiping them down with a clean, slightly dampened paper towel to remove residue. Hmm... guess it takes a MAN to figure out these other methods. Oh... I forgot - we've been doing this for over twenty years, long before the bacteria scares of today.

    Reply
  • Brandi

    I agree completely with Ann (comments#5). No "retired" sponge should ever be reused. If you wouldn't use them on your dishes you should never use them on your counters. Especially if you have Kids.

    Thank you Tony for the 70% Isopropyl Alcohol trick. Never heard of the alcohol trick before. But, maybe your alternative method actually came from a woman! Hmmm??? Who taught you that? Maybe your mother? Probably!!!!!! Haaaa haaa haa

    Reply
  • Brandi

    I agree completely with Ann (comments#5). No "retired"
    sponge should ever be reused. If you wouldn't use them on your dishes you should never use them on your counters. Especially if you have
    Kids.Thank you Tony for the 70% Isopropyl Alcohol trick. Never heard
    of the alcohol trick before. But, maybe your alternative method
    actually came from a woman! Hmmm??? Who taught you that? Maybe your mother? Probably!!!!!! Haaaa haaa haa

    Reply
  • Sandi E.

    Hey kids....WHY NOT just BUY A NEW SPONGE every two weeks...?????

    Reply
  • JENNY

    ANN AND BRANDI, I AGREE WITH THE WRITER'S COMMENT OF USING THE "RETIRED SPONGE" I DO THAT, EITHER FOR CLEANING MY STOVE OR THE COUNTERS. SPONGES ARE NOT CHEAP. THE "RETIRED ONE" JUST BECAUSE IT'S OLD DOESN'T MEAN THAT IS DIRTY(DESINFECTED) DUH!

    Reply
  • Judi

    Bleach will kill anything. I use clothes (white terry) to wash and clean everything. I soaed them overnight in a bleach/water solution. I change towels every other day. I do not use sponges. I also use LYSOL to clean, and sometimes I use an "ammonia" diluted solution.(Open all windows) Never mix any of these solution, but just switch off. Bleach is the KING, and so is white vingar.

    Reply
  • QUEENIE10716

    BUY A NEW SPONGE

    Reply
  • Louanne

    I just throw it in the dishwasher next to the glasses, making sure I run the extra heat/sanitize option. It looks like a brand new sponge when it comes out and since the water is super heated and the soap has bleach in it, I think it's pretty much germ free. I do this regularly.

    Reply
  • Surlovia Hutto

    The imformation about the sponge is the best. I love the idea but I was thinking would a little bleach help.

    Reply
  • Frank

    What is the trick with the 70% Isopropyl alcohol

    Reply
  • Caitlin

    "Sponges are not cheap"?

    Where on Earth are you buying your sponges? They're VERY cheap!

    Reply
  • Mimi

    how about soaking sponge in Vinegar????

    Reply
  • Becky

    Try Clorox wipes, or something similar. Always clean, always disinfecting, and never sitting around collecting germs. A bit expensive, but I buy sales and feel as though my time and safety are worth it.

    Reply
  • 39 Comments / 2 Pages

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