Think of everything a kitchen sponge can do—sweep food off counters, wash dishes, wipe up spills on the floor, absorb leaking juices from leftovers. Yes, a kitchen sponge is versatile but it can also harbor traces of all those chores in the nooks and crannies and become a breeding ground for bacteria. A quick rinse under the kitchen faucet is not sufficient cleaning.
Studies by the USDA Food Safety Laboratory show that kitchen sponges used to wash dishes transfer bacteria to stainless steel surfaces, where they can survive for up to four days. Similarly, pathogens transferred by sponges to stainless steel surfaces were subsequently transferred to cut vegetables at varying rates. In a study of ten kitchens in the US, 33% and 67% of sponges tested positive for E. coli and fecal coliforms, respectively.
It's time to clean your kitchen sponge, and here's how.
How Often to Clean Your Kitchen Sponge
A kitchen sponge should be rinsed well in hot water after every task and placed in a rack or holder that allows air to circulate freely around all sides so it will dry quickly. The sponge should then be sanitized or disinfected every other day.
Sponges are not meant to last forever. Replace kitchen sponges frequently before they begin to smell or crumble. For most home kitchens, this means every two to three weeks.
Equipment / Tools
- 1 sink or dishpan
- 1 dishwasher
- 1 microwave
- 1 pair kitchen gloves
- 1 container chlorine bleach
- 1 container dishwasher detergent
- 1 bottle distilled white vinegar
How to Clean a Kitchen Sponge With Bleach
Mix a Cleaning Solution
In a sink or dishpan, add three-fourths cup of chlorine bleach to one gallon of hot water.
Soak the Sponges
Add the sponges and soak for five minutes. This method works well for cellulose and nylon scrubbing sponges.
Dry the Sponges
Remove the sponges and squeeze out excess water. Place the sponges in a drying rack to air-dry.
How to Clean a Kitchen Sponge in the Dishwasher
Load the Dishwasher
Place the sponge on the top rack of the dishwasher. Use a small items dishwasher basket if you are concerned the sponge may fall through the rack.
Select a Dishwasher Cycle
Add the dishwasher detergent and select a regular wash cycle with a heated drying cycle.
Air-Dry the Sponge
If the sponge is not completely dry when the cycle is complete, remove it from the dishwasher and place it in a rack to air-dry.
How to Clean a Kitchen Sponge With Distilled White Vinegar
Use Vinegar Full-Strength
Fill a dishpan with enough full-strength distilled white vinegar to completely submerge the sponge(s).
Soak and Wring
Add the sponges to the vinegar and allow them to soak for five minutes. Rinse the sponges and wring well. Pour the vinegar down the kitchen drain to help remove build-up.
Air-Dry the Sponges
Place the sponges in a drying rack to air-dry.
How to Clean a Kitchen Sponge in the Microwave
Wet the Sponge
The sponge should be thoroughly wet (dripping) before placing it in the microwave to prevent an accidental fire.
Do not place any type of sponge that has metallic fibers for scrubbing in the microwave to prevent sparking and a fire.
Microwave the Sponge
Set the microwave on high power. Place the sponges in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave wet cellulose sponges for two minutes and wet nylon scrubbing sponges for one minute.
Allow to Cool
The sponges will be very hot. Allow them to cool before handling.
Wring and Air-Dry
Once cool, wring out any excess water and place the sponge in a drying rack to air-dry.
Tips to Keep Your Kitchen Sponge Clean Longer
- Rinse the sponge after every use in hot water.
- Place wet sponges in a rack to dry more quickly to help prevent bacterial growth.
- Do not use a kitchen sponge to wipe up juices from meat products. Use a disposable paper towel instead.
- Disinfect the sponge every other day.
- Dispose of sponges that smell or begin to crumble.
- Keep kitchen dishwashing sponges, floor sponges, and sponges for cleaning bathrooms and other areas separate to avoid cross-contamination. (Disinfect other sponges on a regular schedule, as well.)
Rossi, Eliandra & Scapin, Diane & Tondo, Eduardo. Survival and transfer of microorganisms from kitchen sponges to surfaces of stainless steel and polyethylene. Journal of infection in developing countries, vol 7, no. 3, pp. 229-234, 2013. doi:10.3855/jidc.2472
Sharma, M. et al.. Effective household disinfection methods of kitchen sponges. Food Control, vol. 20, no. 3, pp. 310-313, 2009. doi:10.1016/j.foodcont.2008.05.020
Working with Household (Chlorine) Bleach. Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety.
Why Can't You Put Metal in a Microwave? Cornell Center for Materials Research.