How often do you change your kitchen sponge?
How often do you change the sponge in your kitchen? Well, it might not be as often as you should. Sponges can harbour hundreds of germs which can rapidly multiply in damp conditions.
Just because your sponge looks clean, doesn’t mean it is. Washing dishes and wiping surfaces several times a day can lead to your kitchen sponge picking up all types of debris and bacteria which can spread and cause cross-contamination and illness.
Bacteria held in sponges
A study led by microbiologist Markus Egert of Furtwangen University in Germany, and recently published in Scientific Reports, tested 14 household sponges and their microbial inhabitants. The results were somewhat alarming – several different species of microorganisms were found to be living on and within the kitchen sponges, which were in fact found to be the largest reservoirs of active bacteria in the house.
One of the microbes discovered was Moraxella osloensis which can cause infections, particularly in people with weak immune systems. These bacteria also release a rather pungent odour, which is certainly not pleasant in any kitchen.
Cleaning your sponge
Now, you may be tempted to sterilise your sponge or dishcloth in the microwave or in disinfectant, but this is not always the best solution, as it only frees up additional space for more pathogens to reside. Experts suggest that it would be safer and more hygienic to replace your sponge on a weekly basis, rather than rinsing it in hot water or popping it in the microwave.
Our kitchen sponges (which we now know could be full of bacteria) are handled several times a day and used to wash dishes and wipe down surfaces. Bacteria can be spread around the kitchen, as well as to and from the hands, and make infection more likely.
Cross contamination occurs when harmful germs are spread between food, surfaces and equipment. It would therefore be safer to use paper towels to wipe up raw meat juices and spilt milk – and never use your kitchen sponge or cloth to wipe the floor.
The Food Standards Agency (FSA) suggests that there are more than a million cases of food poisoning in the UK each year. The FSA has therefore published its ‘Kitchen Check’ tips which recommend you change sponges and dish cloths regularly (as well as also washing tea towels and oven gloves often) and let them dry before you use them again.
Dirty, damp cloths and sponges are the perfect places for bacteria to breed, so take heed and replace them regularly to protect you and your family from ill-health.