Kitchen sponges are cheap and convenient items for cleaning countertop messes and absorbing spilled liquids quickly. Unfortunately, they also harbor foodborne pathogens, yeasts and molds, and could put you and your family at risk if not properly disinfected on a regular basis. Scientists at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), recently published some study results and disinfection tips concerning kitchen sponge disinfection.
According to ARS researchers, most consumers attempt to disinfect kitchen sponges in one of four ways: by soaking in 10% bleach solution, by soaking in lemon juice or deionized water, by heating in a microwave, or by cleaning in a dishwasher with a drying cycle. Some consumers fail to disinfect kitchen sponges at all — a practice that is not advisable.
The scientists initially infected test sponges by soaking them for 48 hours in a solution of ground beef and microbial laboratory growth to simulate a well-used sponge. They then attempted to disinfect the sponges using each of the four most popular methods, and determined that soaking the sponges in bleach solution, lemon juice or deionized water killed between 37% and 87% of the bacteria. Cleaning the sponges in a dishwasher killed approximately 99.998% of all contaminants, whereas microwaving them killed approximately 99.999% of the contaminants.
Experts recommend microwaving your kitchen sponges according to how often you cook, with a frequency of every other day being a good rule of thumb.
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