This happens to me more often than I’d like to admit, because I’m so conscious of my environment and mold, but I’ll be cleaning my kitchen and come over to where I keep my dish sponge and counter sponges and I’ll smell it—that funky moldy, mildew smell. The minute it hits me, I know I have let my sponges sit too long. They are full of mold, and they smell really bad. Now what? How can I clean my sponges for mold and bacteria?
You can definitely just toss the sponges in the trash and get new ones. That is always a solution, and there is nothing wrong with it. But, if you are living on a budget and want to hang onto a sponge longer than a week, you can clean the sponge, so that you are able to reuse it without making your family sick or your hands and kitchen stink.
Now, for the more scientific part: Mold and yeast in your sponges can make you sick. Before you smell it, it is there. Once you smell it, it is REALLY there and thriving. You need to get rid of it, before you and your family suffer the consequences. There are also bacteria, like salmonella, E-coli, staphylococcus, that can form on a wet sponge. Any of those bacteria can cause food poisoning, which can lead to serious and possibly life-threatening illness. So, whether you like it or not, cleaning your sponge is an extremely important procedure.
My favorite way to clean my sponges is to toss them into my dishwasher to run on a high-heat cycle with my dishwashing detergent. I put them in a separate section of the utensil tray. The heated washing has been proven to kill 99.9% of mold and yeast, and 99.998% of harmful bacteria. This will also eliminate any foul odors in the sponges. You can also microwave your damp sponges for at least 1 minute to produce the same results. For some reason, the microwave method sort of gives me the willies, though, because I put food in my microwave, and I worry about cross contamination, even though I know that that the microwave has been scientifically proven to kill the bacteria. It’s just a personal hang-up, so please disregard my crazy. I recommend that you complete one of these sponge-cleaning procedures at least once a week. Using just soap, bleach, or vinegar to clean your sponges has not been scientifically shown to remove bacteria or mold even close to as well.
To help prevent mold from growing as quickly on your sponge, make sure to wring it out after every use. You should also have a designated dish or tray to keep all of your sponges in, so that they are away from everything else in your kitchen. It’s a necessary step to prevent cross-contamination. When I take my clean, disinfected and de-molded sponges out of the dishwasher, I like to mist them thoroughly with the EC3 Mold Solution Spray. Then, I place them in their dish and allow them to air dry. I also keep my sponge dish on my window ledge in direct sunlight in my kitchen. Any kind of sunlight, even reflected light, has been shown to kill some bacteria in dust. Plus, the warmth can help prevent mold from flourishing. I like to do what I can, you know?
Hopefully, the next time you wring out your sponge and smell something a little musty on your hands, you will recall one of these easy and effective techniques. Or, better yet, you will go ahead and make cleaning your sponges part of your weekly routine of keeping your family safe.