After a long day, some things we look forward to is a nice hot meal at home and to rest. Unfortunately, after eating that nice meal, there is typically one more task you still need to do: washing the dishes! Growing up in an Asian family, even if there was a dishwasher, we would rarely use it. As a result, that habit has been engrained in me and I will still hand wash all my dishes. Dishwashers are still a place to store dishes and other kitchen tools for me.
So when doing dishes, what is our weapon of choice? Most likely a sponge (and perhaps a pair of dish washing gloves to go with it). After some time, you start to get used to the process of cleaning dishes. You even surprisingly become more efficient at it by using fewer dishes when cooking/eating and perhaps scrubbing all of them BEFORE doing a final rinse (I used to wash, clean, and dry each item before moving on to the next one and that took forever).
After washing all the dishes one day, you might be scratching your nose due to an itch or something and notice this foul odor emitting from your hand. Where can it be coming from? You start to backtrack to the things you touch throughout the day. You don’t recall touching anything dirty other than the dishes. You then start to sniff the dishes and they smell clean. Then you get to the sponge and WOW, that is ONE powerful odor!
What is that Smell Emitting from Your Kitchen Sponge?
The foul scent of a sponge is something that is not easily forgotten. You would think the sponge is the best smelling thing after all that detergent you’ve been using and all the scrubbing you’ve been doing. So how is it so smelly?
Well, what happened was the sponge that you were using was still wet when you were finished your previous dish washing sessions. This wet environment essentially becomes a home for all sorts of bacteria and other microscopic critters!
The food and different sauces you scrubbed down may be caught in the pores of the sponge and this in turn becomes food for the microscopic bugs. Like people, they need to eat and in the process, they pass gas too which accumulates in the sponge. This is why our kitchen sponge can get so smelly.
Are the Bacteria in the Kitchen Sponge Harmful to Health?
Yes and no. There have been more than 300 species of bacteria found on sponges. When not kept in check, bacteria can multiply in just 4 to 20 minutes. 1 becomes 2, 2 becomes 4, 4 becomes 8, 8 becomes 16 and so forth.
You also never find just ONE bacteria within your sponge but MANY of them. Each square inch on your sponge can easily harbor 100 million bacteria. And if each one is multiplying, they can reach an insane number! The good news is that a majority of them are NOT harmful. There are a few that one should pay attention to:
- Staphylococcus aureus – known for skin infections
- Escherichia coli (E. coli) – known for food poisoning
- Citrobacter freundii – known for urinary tract infections
- Salmonella – known for causing stomach issues like diarrhea
Although our bodies have great mechanisms in protecting us from these critters, we still need be careful especially those who are immunocompromised. All it takes is just one (infectious) bacteria to enter the human body if it has the opportunity. It will multiply and can produce toxins which harms the body.
In the unfortunate event that our bodies are not capable of fighting off the toxins, that is when we may start to experiences various ailments like food poisoning. Fortunately, that is when we usually visit the doctor who will most likely prescribe some type of antibiotic. Thank goodness for them!
How Do You Get Rid of the Sponge Odor?
To get rid of the sponge odor and the bacteria, first wet the sponge and throw it in the microwave for about 2 minutes. You can also place it in a bowl so the water doesn’t leak all over your microwave (along with the dead bacteria).
This should be sufficient in killing more or less 99.9% of the bacteria in your sponge. After that, take it to your sink, rinse, and wring it. You can repeat the process again by heating it up for an additional 2 minutes to kill the potential surviving bacteria.
Here are a few methods you can try to reduce the amount of (potentially harmful) bacteria living in your kitchen sponge:
- Avoid the sponge from contacting raw meats and juices
- Use that particular sponge ONLY for washing dishes, DO NOT use it for other purposes like cleaning countertops and other areas (this spreads the germs)
- Rinse dishes with water as thoroughly as possible first BEFORE cleaning/scrubbing with sponge
- Keep sponge as dry as possible (when not in use) by wringing it
- Make sure no food particles are on sponge (in case you attract pests like roaches or ants)
- Avoid washing if you have small cuts on hands/fingers (how bacteria can potentially enter)
- Microwave the sponge every 2 days
- Replace sponge (perhaps every 2 weeks, probably the best way to avoid the most bacteria contact, but can be costly over time)
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When removing the sponge from the microwave, it will be extremely hot so always proceed with caution. It will still be smelly just out of the microwave, but once you wash and wring it, the smell will be gone!
In the microscopic world, there are many species of bacteria and they like to live in moist places like your kitchen sponge. Because they are microscopic, you will not be able to see them with the naked eye. Thus, you can never be sure what species may be present in the sponge.
To prevent potential diseases from infecting you or loved ones, it is recommended to take the necesary precautions mentioned above to care for your kitchen sponge. In doing so, you can rest easier knowing that the dishes you washed will not make anyone sick.
Did you enjoy this life hack on how to get rid of that foul odor in your kitchen sponge? Please leave a comment below!