Consider how disgusting your kitchen sponge really is. Consider how many times you’ve used it, how many pieces of rib meat or cereal crumbles you’ve scrubbed off of plates with it before you tossed it out and replaced it. Should you sanitize them? Will that keep them cleaner longer? Here is everything you need to know about the germs in your sponges and if sanitizing them really works:

Markus Egert of Furtwangen University in Germany claims, “From a long-term perspective, sponge sanitation methods appear not sufficient to effectively reduce the bacterial load in kitchen sponges and might even increase the shares of disease-linked bacteria.” Instead of sanitizing, which most people do by either microwaving the sponge briefly or throwing it in the next dishwasher cycle, Egert suggests just tossing the sponge and replacing it. How often? On a weekly basis.

In a study done on 14 household sponges, results revealed over 220,000 raw DNA sequences, which represented 9 phyla, 17 classes, 35 orders, 73 families, and 118 genera of microbes. These germs are found typically on human skin, kitchen surfaces, and dirty laundry. Three of the primary phyla discovered in the data were closely related to bacteria that causes moderate disease.

Previous studies have shown a number of 107 to 109 bacterial colony forming units per sponge. Giving your sponge a hot, soapy bath or microwaving it will not do anything. In fact, after Egert experimented with sanitation methods usually attempted by homeowners, the sponges that were sanitized were concluded to have more bacteria and the same amount of microbes than the ones not.

So, head to Walmart or Costco and buy a large stock of cheap sponges. Better be safe than sorry! You’ll feel better knowing your dishes, pots, and pans are safer from a more frequently disposed cleaning tool.

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