There’s no doubt that kitchen sponges are convenient kitchen must-haves that make our lives easier, but did you know they can absorb harmful foodborne pathogens? Because of this, there are some things to keep in mind in order to minimize cross-contamination via sponges.
- Discard and replace often. In no time at all—sometimes after just 2 or 3 uses—a sponge can become chock-full of bacteria. Sanitizing sponges may help reduce the risk of food poisoning. But if your sponge starts to smell, throw it out.
- Never use a sponge to clean countertops or to wipe up meat juices. Use paper towels instead.
- Sanitize sponges daily. Researchers at the USDA found that over 99 percent of bacteria, yeasts, and molds were killed by microwaving damp sponges for 1 minute or dishwashing with a drying cycle. You can also disinfect sponges with a solution of ¼ to ½ of a teaspoon of concentrated bleach per quart of warm water. Soak the sponge for 1 minute, rinse, and wring out.
- Store sponges in a dry location. After using a sponge, you should always rinse it in case there is any food stuck to it and then squeeze out excess water. If you do not wring it out, you risk harmful bacteria multiplying on the sponge.
Because of the risk of foodborne pathogens collecting on kitchen sponges, it’s a good idea that you educate your family members on the proper use of kitchen sponges so that everyone follows safe kitchen practices.