Do 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.