Before you get all wrapped up in the horrors of what might be living in that kitchen sponge of yours, take a deep breath. Despite all the clever hacks that people swear by to revive a dirty sponge, you may just be better off with a fresh, new one.
Depending on your definition of what constitutes a “clean person,” I may or may not be included in this category of humans. I consider personal hygiene a strong suit, I keep most of my areas fairly organized (*subtly tidies up desk to avoid judgment from the coworkers that will read this*), and I especially take pride in a clear, sanitized kitchen at the end of any cooking bout. It probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if I was a little bit more meticulous about cleanliness, but alas, this is me. Honestly, it is very much in my personality to be generally unbothered by the harrowing truths about dirtiness that seriously irk the average person. All this to say, I am truly a lovely young woman.
You will never find me freaking out about raw chicken, unwashed produce, or absolutely filthy kitchen towels.* So when I caught wind of this study, which found that microwaving a dirty sponge only makes the existing bacteria in the sponge stronger, my initial reaction was, well, nothing. See, I’m awful, I know. As a cook who hand washes most of my dishes with a sponge, you’d think this news would set me off, but it didn’t. Bacteria and general atrocities in nature are everywhere—if I choose to be the person that harps on them and is constantly fearing them, I’ll never leave my house. And to be quite frank, I’d like to encourage you to ditch your cleanliness paranoia (at least to a certain degree).
Let me be clear—there are still day-to-day habits that you should adopt to keep your sponge as clean as possible. I am not advocating for unabashed, filthy behavior. For starters, don’t leave your sponge sitting in a pool of water by the sink. If you’ve got a seriously crusted-on situation with one of your pans, don’t even bother with your kitchen sponge—leave that gruesome work to a wire sponge or scrub brush. Also, this should be obvious, but the sponge that you use on your floors, counters, appliances, pets, cars (I can go on…), should not be the same one you’re using on your dishes. Even me, Queen of Blissful Filth, finds that extremely nasty.
I’d like to make a strong case for biting that extremely tiny bullet, and keeping a healthy rotation of new, clean sponges in your kitchen life. I am as frugal as they come, and if I don’t need to spend my money on it, I won’t (even if I do need to spend my money on something, sometimes I still don’t, which can be problematic). All that to say, sponges are so cheap, and breaking a new one out of the plastic wrap and soaking it up is one of the purest, cleanest feelings. Yes, there’s no doubt that cutting back on waste is ideal for the environment, but at some point, we have to acknowledge that we are doing ourselves a huge disservice by keeping this kind of filth in such intimate aspects of our lives.
There is strong evidence showing that most measures that people take to revive their kitchen sponge, whether it be the microwave, throwing it in the washing machine, or dousing it in vinegar, only makes it germier. I find this news extremely pleasing, because this is the one aspect of my life where I don’t need to feel guilty about not participating in diligent maintenance. Stick to daily best practices, and when its short but healthy life has reached its end, move on to a new one and don’t look back.
*I am not saying this is okay! It is definitely a shortcoming that I recognize in myself, and I find my lack of concern to be frankly, concerning.