How to Sanitize Sponges and Scrub Brushes

Overhead view of person rinsing off and sanitizing sponges

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 1 - 12 hrs
  • Total Time: 1 - 12 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $0 to 5

Yes, you are reading this right—even the stuff you clean with needs cleaning. Using a sponge or scrubbing brush on dirty dishes causes wear and tear, and when that happens, you need to give your tools a nice refresh. Luckily it's simple, easy, and can be done with things that are most likely already in your home.

We'll recommend three different methods for cleaning your sponges and brushes, so feel free to choose the one that works best for you.


Keep in mind that if you use your sponge or scrubber to clean dishes with raw meat on them, it'd be best to follow method #3 (run it through the dishwasher) to ensure the sponge is fully disinfected.

Finally, these methods are really best to use for kitchen sponges. We highly recommend keeping your kitchen and bathroom sponges separate to avoid cross-contamination.

How Often Should I Clean My Kitchen Sponges and Scrubbing Brushes?

You should clean your sponges and scrubbing brushes at least once a week. This is the best way to keep them smelling fresh, avoid spreading germs and bacteria, and increase the cleaning tool's lifespan.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • 1 large bucket/kitchen sink


  • 1 bottle of dish soap
  • 1 bottle of white vinegar
  • 1 bottle of dishwashing detergent


Materials for cleaning and sanitizing sponges

The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

How to Sanitize Sponges and Scrub Brushes

  1. Try Using Dish Soap and Hot Water

    This method is easy and likely won't require purchasing anything new. Fill a large bucket or sink with hot water and a few drops of mild dish soap (just enough to get the water soapy and sudsy - you shouldn't need very much!). Soak your sponges and brushes in the soapy water for at least an hour, preferably overnight if you can. Once they're done soaking remove them from the water and set them on a surface to dry.

    Using hot water and dish soap to sanitize sponges

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  2. Or, Use Vinegar and Hot Water

    Vinegar is another great DIY solution for cleaning and deodorizing everything from old sweaty gym socks to scrubbing brushes. Mix equal parts vinegar and water together in a bucket, bowl or your sink. Submerge your sponges and brushes and allow them to soak (for at least 5 minutes or overnight would be preferable). After soaking, remove the sponges and brushes and lay them out to dry. This is an especially great method if your sponges are starting to get that musty smell. Vinegar is a powerful deodorizer.

    Using vinegar and hot water to sanitize sponges

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

  3. Utilize the Dishwasher

    If your sponges were recently used on raw meat or another especially icky mess, using the dishwasher will help kill any residual germs and bacteria. Give the sponges a good squeeze to ring out any extra liquid, then load them on the top rack. The combination of the heat and the dishwasher detergent eliminates bacteria and odors.

    This method is easy enough to do nightly. Just get in the habit of tossing your sponges/scrubbers in the dishwasher whenever you're about to run a load, and you'll always have clean sponges on hand. Be careful before putting any plastic brushes in the dishwasher and make sure they are dishwasher safe first.

    Placing sponges and brushes in the dishwasher

    The Spruce / Meg MacDonald

Replacing Your Sponges and Brushes As Necessary

Depending on how much you use it, a sponge or scrubber brush should be replaced anywhere from every two weeks to two months. Running out to buy new sponges or scrubber brushes every two weeks can start to feel excessive, so it's important to keep your sponges sanitized and clean. If you stay on top of sanitizing your sponges you should be able to keep them for a longer period of time before they wear out.

Another way to eliminate having to change a sponge is to have a different one for each task. Having a separate sponge for your dishes, counters, bathrooms, etc. can help stop the spread of bacteria. It can also lengthen the lifespan of your sponge or scrubber. One great way to keep your sponges separated and organized is to use a different color for each room.

Tips for Keeping Your Sponges and Brushes Clean Longer

  • Getting into the habit of cleaning your sponges and brushes once a week will help keep them in tip-top shape.
  • Make sure to thoroughly rinse your sponges and brushes after every use.
  • Don't scrub your sponges to death. Sometimes, it's best to let a pan soak overnight so it's easier to scrub the next day. This will take less of a toll on your sponges and brushes when tackling tough messes.
Originally written by
Erin Huffstetler

Erin Huffstetler is a frugal living expert who has been writing for over 10 years about easy ways to save money at home.

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  1. Marotta SM, Giarratana F, Calvagna A, Ziino G, Giuffrida A, Panebianco A. Study on microbial communities in domestic kitchen sponges: Evidence of Cronobacter sakazakii and Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase (ESBL) producing bacteria. Ital J Food Saf., vol. 7, no. 4, pp. 7672, 2018. doi:10.4081/ijfs.2018.7672