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Washing Your Sponges


Fat Guy
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I  must agree with bux.. in general using antibacterial stuff must be pretty bad.. especially when you consider all the good things bacteria do...  like food digestion; as long as theres no raw meat to food to be eaten raw everything should be fine. But as for sponges, I just rinse them out with hot water after each use; and after about two to three weeks just put them in the bin. And I doubt that putting them in the dishwasher does them any harm..

'You can't be a real country unless you have a beer and an airline - it helps if you have some kind of a football team, or some nuclear weapons, but at the very least you need a beer.'

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I have babbled about anti-bacteria things in the General Forum earlier on, but I thought it might do some good if I said something about this in this one as well:

Quote: In general, one should be really wary when using anti-bacterial cleaners because while they do destroy the less resistant of bacteria, they at the same time give that bacteria a chance to develop immunity against the antibacteria element in the cleaner. This is the same reason why health care officials (at least in Europe) are so worried over the too extensive use of penicillin treatments in medical care.

About sponges: In Finland we use dish brushes to wash our dishes, not sponges, and they are easy to keep clean. And since we have those nifty drying cabinets over the sink, we do not need to dry off the dishes with anything after washing them either. However, for wiping the sink and tabletops etc. a kind of a spongelike rag (some five millimeters thick and spongelike thing) is often used (if not rags). I usually just rinse it thoroughly with hot water right after wiping the tabletops (the dirt does not have time to attach to the thingy if you rinse it that soon after using it) and throw it out when necessary.

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I always put my sponge in the dishwasher every time I run it, along with those little green scour pads.   I've done this for years.  My husband recently gave me some flack over this, claiming it doesn't kill the germs, but I disagree.  I also recently read an article in the Seattle Times on germs that if you drop a carrot (or similar) into your sink, and one also into your toilet, the one in the toilet would be safer to eat (germ wise).. I find that hard to believe, but then I'm not a germ expert.  I don't suggest you try this at home :-)

ps...for some shocking germ info ....

(Edited'>http://archives.seattletimes.nwsource.com/cgi-bin....(Edited by Blue Heron at 9:30 am on Jan. 18, 2002)

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You're right. I think I'll start a thread on paper towels. Maybe one on dish soap too.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Oh well.

"I've caught you Richardson, stuffing spit-backs in your vile maw. 'Let tomorrow's omelets go empty,' is that your fucking attitude?" -E. B. Farnum

"Behold, I teach you the ubermunch. The ubermunch is the meaning of the earth. Let your will say: the ubermunch shall be the meaning of the earth!" -Fritzy N.

"It's okay to like celery more than yogurt, but it's not okay to think that batter is yogurt."

Serving fine and fresh gratuitous comments since Oct 5 2001, 09:53 PM

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I think you guys are all bacteria-phobes! I never sterilize sponges, just use 'em and rinse 'em with hot tap water. The same with dish clothes, which I also machine-wash. I don't get sick, either. Science is showing that too much bacteria-killing can have a negative effect in two ways: (1) by causing a survival of the fittest effect, it will kill off relatively weak bacteria and the more powerful will proliferate, (2) it's been shown that babies who aren't exposed to enough bacteria in their first months have immune systems that are permanently stunted.

This is not to say that I'm against cleanliness.

Speaking of which -- I've heard of a "Three Second Rule" from a friend who learned it working in a restaurant. Any fallen food that can be retrieved from the floor within 3 seconds is edible. It's clearly not based in science, but has anyone else heard and/or followed this?

And another question. How come used dish clothes smell and sponges don't? Does cotton have an odor-retaining property? Or does it harbor more germs?

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Quote: from B Edulis on 6:51 am on Jan. 21, 2002

And another question. How come used dish clothes smell and sponges don't? Does cotton have an odor-retaining property? Or does it harbor more germs?

I was reading an article about socks yesterday, that might pertain to your question.  The podiatrist was saying that her least favorite sock fabric was cotton, because among other things, cotton holds onto moisture (causing athlete's foot, etc).  Using that same principal for dish cloths...perhaps once wet, it takes longer to dry out than a sponge, thus allowing bacteria to grow faster and thus causing smell?  I don't know, just a lame theory.

Also, I agree with you, growing up with a few germs is probably good for us (look at what Mexican's can eat without getting sick (not to pick on Mexico...ditto for food & water in many other countries that can upset our delicate digestive system).  And you're right about the overuse of anti-bacterial soaps.  We're creating super-drug resistant bacteria....a real problem for the scientists to come up with new and improved super anti-biotics. ...yechh, the hard to treat flesh eating bacteria come to mind.

(Edited by Blue Heron at 9:45 am on Jan. 21, 2002)

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Here is your friendly neighborhood biology student's take on flesh-eating bacteria, antibacterial soaps, and the like.

The evidence that too much hygiene leads to an underdeveloped immune system seems pretty good.  On the other hand, we're talking about a serious tradeoff here, akin to the question of whether or not to immunize.  Say we reduced the average hygiene level just a bit for every child.  The result would be that the vast majority would grow up more resistant to germs, and a small minority wouldn't grow up at all, because they'd be dead.  In the case of vaccinations, the chance of being killed or injured by the vaccine is so low, and the benefit to you and others so high, that there's really no reasonable choice other than to vaccinate.

However, that's not so clear in the case of scattershot pathogen exposure, for a couple of reasons.  First of all, how could you set a standard for how much hygiene is too much?

Second, and more important, there is much more effective way to increase the virulence of a pathogen than by dosing it with an antibacterial solution, and that is to make it easier to transmit.  Stick with me here for a minute.  Diseases that leap most easily from host to host evolve to be more deadly.  That's why waterborne diseases are among the world's nastiest:  they don't need to keep their host alive, because they can get a new host almost immediately.  Remember that bacteria and viruses do almost all of their reproduction inside a host;  I doubt that zapping a few with antibacterial soap is going to make much of a difference in their evolutionary trajectory.

As for overuse of antibiotics (this is coming next, right?), I see a similar tradeoff there.  Overuse of antibiotics is almost certain to produce drug-resistant bacteria.  However, if the antibiotic use drastically reduces the horizontal transmission of the bugs (which it does), then the resistant germs may end up being the least virulent ones--not killer bugs at all.  Drug resistance and virulence are very different properties.

So, I leave you with no good recommendations here, just the message that biology is complicated, loaded with annoying tradeoffs, and it's going to take serious research to sort these things out.  Meanwhile, I will continue to be inconsistent by using the antibacterial soap at home, then going to Thailand and eating everything in sight.

Matthew Amster-Burton, aka "mamster"

Author, Hungry Monkey, coming in May

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Quote: from smithi on 9:00 pm on Jan. 3, 2002

.  

We all grew up very healthy (must have been the raw egg yolk w/ sugar concoction she fed us - no joke).  

omg - other people ate this too?  it was "eggs batuto"? (phonetic)

on the sponge front - i have always microwaved mine.

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  • 4 weeks later...

From my Cooks Illustrated email:

SANITIZING SPONGES

The reality is that most of us use and re-use kitchen sponges despite warnings about lurking bacteria. We found a simple way to ease our worries about this kitchen safety conundrum. First, squeeze sponges in hot soapy water to clean, then microwave on high power for one minute to kill any remaining harmful bacteria.

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  • 1 year later...

We don't really use sponges too often. Better to use rags that are used for one kitchen session and then washed. Of course, if I had a dishwashing machine like FG, I would absolutely put my sponges in there every time I did a load of dishes.

The fact of the matter is -- and I have read this from too many reliable sources to doubt it -- that kitchen sinks are incredibly dirty, and most sponges are little more than effective bateria distribution mechanisms. In fact, there is ample evidence that, from a bateriological standpoint, the kitchens of people who frequently wipe down counters and other surfaces with a sponge are significantly less clean than the kitchens of people who are less active in that regard.

One of the most striking things I ever read in re to kitchen cleanliness was a scientist who said something along the lines of, "if an alien were to come down to your home and base his behavior on the presence and concentration of ecoli and other "fecal" bacteria, he would go to the bathroom in your kitchen sink and wash lettuce in your toilet." This is why I always scrub out the kitchen sink with Bar Keeper's Friend, spray it with Clorox Clean Up (or a homemade bleach solution) and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before washing/soaking any food in the sink I plan to eat raw.

--

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Spunjiz? We don't need no steenkin' spunjiz!<p>

Right on! Sponges are useless are disgusting. I say go with dishcloths and get a ton of them so you don't have to worry about making them last until the next laundry. Supplement with ChoreBoys.

"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."

-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson

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Anyone try those new Palmolive dish wipes that are disposable? (Face it there's a wipe for just about every task now).

I toss the sponge into the dishwasher each day too. I've been tempted to try the microwave route, as well, but fear the little thing will be so darned steamy hot.

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Maybe this question was addressed indirectly in some of the earlier posts in this thread, but I don't think my washing machine gets any hotter than my dishwasher (actually, it's probably less hot because the dishwasher has a "heat" setting). So why would a washing machine kill bacteria in a dishrag better than a dishwasher would kill bacteria in a sponge? Is it that the inside of the sponge doesn't get hot enough in dishwasher? We could probably check that. The next time you put your sponge in the dishwasher, take it out just as the final cycle is over and stick it with a meat thermometer. (I haven't done this yet because I just thought of it.)

Or is it that the washing machine somehow rinses out the bacteria? If so, one would think just rinsing the sponge would be enough.

Just curious.

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People may be confusing the terms "washing machine" (normally the term used for clothes washer) with the machine that washes your dishes. There is no way a washing machine gets as hot as the dishwasher.

--

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Sooo - anyone on this thread developing any new allergies?

For that matter, anyone on this thread not American? :raz:

Edited by MobyP (log)

"Gimme a pig's foot, and a bottle of beer..." Bessie Smith

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People may be confusing the terms "washing machine" (normally the term used for clothes washer) with the machine that washes your dishes.  There is no way a washing machine gets as hot as the dishwasher.

Thus my question. Why does a clothes washer remove bacteria from a dish rag when a dishwasher doesn't seem to remove bacteria from a sponge?

Check out our Fooddoings and more at A View from Eastmoreland
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People may be confusing the terms "washing machine" (normally the term used for clothes washer) with the machine that washes your dishes.  There is no way a washing machine gets as hot as the dishwasher.

Thus my question. Why does a clothes washer remove bacteria from a dish rag when a dishwasher doesn't seem to remove bacteria from a sponge?

Hmmm. I don't use sponges (I use those plastic scrubby things), but I do wash my dishrags in the laundry. I always use the hot cycle and bleach. I may be kidding myself, but I assume that combo will take care of me.

Squeat

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