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Fat Guy

Washing Your Sponges

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I'm a little surprised this thread has been around for so long and that nobody has asked The Authority.

He doesn't look healthy.

Um . . . Maybe it is the green spots. Ick!


Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I never use sponges. They seem awfully unsanitary. They don't even seem that useful. What can they do that you can't do with a dishrag or dishtowel?

Towels and rags go in the washing machine often. Although I have to admit I use the regular cycle, not the sanitary cycle that heats the water. I typically reserve that for serious biohazard jobs!

I must admit I wipe down the counters about once a week (in addition to the normal soap and water wash downs) with the Clorox wipes (and handles and switches and knobs and faucet, etc.). Am I bad?!

Cutting boards: Polypropylene boards, go into the dishwasher after every use.

I do use those green scrubbies, but not often. They get stored in a little bowl where they dry out pretty quick and they get thrown away fairly often. Admittedly, I hadn't thought of putting them in the dishwasher. I might do that.

For those asking about the Clorox wipes, I happen to have a container right here, so here are the active ingredients:

n-Alkyl (C14, 60%; C16, 30%; C12, 5%; C15, 5%) Dimethyl Benzyl Ammonium Chloride 0.145%

n-Alkyl (C12, 68%; C14, 32%) Dimethyl Ethylbenzyl Ammonium Chloride 0.145%

-john


Edited by JohnN (log)

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I go to Costco and buy a dozen sponges and throw them out when I think I need a new one. Steven--how often do you get sick? I mean--do you get sick from old sponges? What about bathroom glasses? How often do you wash them?  

Bingo! Thanks to Costco I do the same. No joke, I'm on the way there now to get more sponges.

Now I'm feeling guilty about being part of such a desposable society.

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I swore i wouldn't bite on this thread, but i just had to.  I do not put sponges in the dishwasher, the microwave, or boiling water.  I put them in the trash can.  There are very few things i DO put in the dishwasher given the base of dishwasher soap...lye, NaOH.  It is VERY hard on things.  No metal, no glassware, definately no knives.  Microwaving or boiling sponges seems like it would only create a biological vacuum possibly making your sponge go smelly even quicker.  All it takes is a soak in 140F-160F water and that will do the trick as far as bacteria are concerned.  Boiling and microwaving really seems like overkill to me.  Besides, my sponges never last that long anyway.  They get more tore up than Ted Kennedy on St. Patricks day!!  How long are we keeping these things around anyway.  Dare i ask whats the longest one has ever kept a sponge?

I hate to tell you this, but 140-160F water isn't going to do much. And there is no such thing as a biological vacuum being a problem in the case of a sponge. Once you use the sponge the first time, you are back in the soup. The environment of a sponge is too dependent on what you wiped up last to depend upon a benevolent bacterial population like exists in your gut or on your skin. It is just not the same thing at all.

On the time issue, bacteria multiply at a rate at room temperature that you would have to throw out your sponges daily, at least. The key advantage that the cloths, mes scrubbers and 3M thingies have is that they dry relatively quickly.

I am also not sure I understand your aversion to dishwasher detergent. With the exception of fine glassware, it all goes in the dishwasher in my house. The cheap glasses will get etched in a few years and I just throw them out. Metal won't be affected, with the possible exception of hard anodized aluminum like Calphalon. I have some stainless flatware that I have had for 30 years, in the dishwasher every week, looks fine. I have recently switched to the "Shine Shield" Cascade but I have no idea how that is supposed to work.

Firstly, nothing that can harm you is going to live over 160F. Secondly, your not "sanitizing" sponges in the microwave, your "sterilizing" them. All the residual dirt in the sponge is not gone, its sterilized and ready to be inhabited by whatever comes along. Maybe "biological vacuum" is a bit strong, but you are putting a petri dish(sponge) back on your sink. And don't get me wrong, i use my dishwasher all the time but i find it cheaper for me to throw the sponge away rather than my glassware. Having said all this, my sponge smells funny right now. :biggrin:


...and if you take cranberries and stew them like applesauce it tastes alot more like prunes than rhubarb does. groucho

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Data about bacterial levels, etc. is all well and good, but is there any evidence at all that this keeps you from getting sick? I wash my hands after using the bathroom to prevent the good 'ol fecal-oral route, but is microwaving my sponge really going to save me from something nasty like listeria? Looking forward to any answers.

Thanks,

Walt


Walt Nissen -- Livermore, CA

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. . . but is microwaving my sponge really going to save me from something nasty like listeria? Looking forward to any answers.

Thanks,

Walt

It might. But probably not. If you have Listeria in your sponge, you have bigger problems. Also, the issue is not just the pathogens. I don't even like to think about just the general populations. The common spore bearing bacteria are hard to kill. They certainly don't go bye-bye at 160 F. Maybe that is why bakerboy's sponge smells funny. :biggrin:

I can't find it now, but there was a study some months ago that showed that your toilet seat surface was likely cleaner than many of the surfaces in your kitchen. We discussed it here . . . somewhere.

There was also some good kitchen cleanliness discussion on this thread. Pay particular attention to the discussion of plastic cutting boards. They are evil from a microbiologist's point of view.

But back to sponges. What I can't figure out is why anyone would have one in a kitchen. They aren't nearly as efficient at mopping up as a lightweight dishcloth or a Handiwipe and they are the devil to keep clean.

I keep a spray bottle of Consan disinfectant strength solution handy. I will spray down my counters, sinks and other surfaces with that, using my dishcloth to wipe up so it gets treated at the same time. That might be a good approach for those of you that have to have a sponge. I also make a point of wiping anything else I might have touched such as the refrigerator handles, faucets, etc. I don't do this all of the time because I am not obsessive about it but I always do after handling anything risky. Well, I do have a friend that is a recent transplant recipient and is currently severely immune system compromised. Then, my aseptic technique training and microbiology knowledge kicks in.

edit to add since I didn't really answer Walt's question:

The problem with data is that a huge percentage of it is not reported. I used to deal with the CDC morbidity and mortality reports all the time and know how they are compiled. (That is the US clearing house for this kind of information.) Even local and state health departments probably don't have a clue. Unless you take out a whole bunch of people or send a few to the hospital it isn't even on the radar. Most times, food poisoning out of home kitchens is usually not severe enough to go to a hospital. (Though it certainly can be.) That temporary "discomfort" is usually chalked up to that "stomach flu that is going around," suffered through in solitude, and the victim moves on. So, in answer to your question . . . Who knows?


Edited by fifi (log)

Linda LaRose aka "fifi"

"Having spent most of my life searching for truth in the excitement of science, I am now in search of the perfectly seared foie gras without any sweet glop." Linda LaRose

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I'm with fifi on sponges, and I treat my counters just like she does. The most effective spill-wiper-upper are diapers. Those cloth ones that are "padded" in the center. They are cheap.

Our family has been battling illness after illness for almost a month. We normally never get sick, so I am taking that disinfectant to doorknobs and the telephone, as well.


Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"

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Everybody on this Thread check back in a couple days, okay?

I'm setting up a web site to sell a new product I've invented called:

SOAP WASH!

Why take a chance with your family's health and wash your cloths and sponges with dirty soap?

SB (I'll make a killing!)

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My advice is to ask yourself, "is this sponge worthy"?


peak performance is predicated on proper pan preparation...

-- A.B.

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My advice is to ask yourself, "is this sponge worthy"?

Wouldn't the question be, "Am I spongeworthy?"

SB (talk about a loaded question!)

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I don't have a dishwasher, so I microwave my sponges - wet. Usually, I microwave them for 3 minutes, sometimes up to 5 if I'm particularly worried.


Misa

Sweet Misa

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But back to sponges. What I can't figure out is why anyone would have one in a kitchen.

Comparatively speaking, very few decisions in life are reached via pure logic and a thorough cost/benefit analysis.

Personally, I like the little scrubby scoury pad bits on the sponges I use.

These would be the sponges that I keep for months at a time before throwing away and which I have only recently (as in, within the last week) begun to microwave.

Of course, I dunno why I bother with the microwave, since 99.9% of the time, my sponges are used for either (A) clearing off the large chunks of food from plates and bowls and casserole dishes and what-not prior to running them through the dishwasher (where any bacteria from the sponge will get kilt); or (B) cleaning my pots and pans, which will be exposed to critter-killing heat levels the next time I cook in any case.


* AB drinks one of those "Guiness Pub Draught" beers, with the nitrogen cannister in the bottom of the can.

* AB wonders what Budweiser would taste like with one of those...

<AB> . o O (Like shit, still, I should think.)

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For some reason, this eG Tread reminds me of the one about whether you should get up and leave a restaurant that doesn't serve your favorite bottles water.

What World do you people live in?

SB (just uses a sponge for a while then throws it away, and is healthy as an ox)

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From Martha Stewart's "Dishwashing 101":

Cheryl Mendelson, author of “Home Comforts,” .... prefers using washcloths because they’re easy to launder, but if you use a sponge, it will need to be sanitized periodically to prevent germs from collecting inside. Even sponges that claim to be antimicrobial still allow certain bacteria to grow; soak your sponges in a mixture of bleach and hot water to sterilize them. (Some people send their sponges through a cycle in the dishwasher, but this doesn’t sterilize them effectively.) Although antibacterial detergents are now widely available, they can be harsh on the skin. Any dish detergent used with suitably hot water is adequate.

SB (loath to argue with a prison toughened Martha!)


Edited by srhcb (log)

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Maybe this should be under the thread, "Weird Things You Do", but I abhor the practice of putting used, stinky sponges in with my tableware for a hot wash cycle.........this has become a marital bone of contention. Knowing the water in the dishwasher is repeatedly used, even after the bleach solution/dishwashing liquid has been added, unnerves me. Ick! Ick!

I use a bucket with 1:10 bleach water solution, and let the little sponges soak for ten minutes or more. The CDC advises this for getting rid of viruses.


I'm a canning clean freak because there's no sorry large enough to cover the, "Oops! I gave you botulism" regrets.

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The only way I'd use sponges in the kitchen is if I could toss them out after cooking each meal or at least at the end of the day. I'd want to be like P. Diddy or whatever his name is this week who throws away his Nikes in favor of a fresh white pair each morning.

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I don't understand this one...for me the issue is not washing sponges, but using them!

Try a nylon scouring pad - the kind that looks like open steel mesh...no way that can hold on to festering liquids.

Alternative...polyester crochet cloths, which also have enough texture to scrub, but don't stay wet.

For wiping up, I use clean rags, and they go in the wash about as fast as they get wet...

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Do sponges come with "warning" or "care & feeding of" labels?

Are they class action law suit waiting to happen?

SB (knew a guy who knew a guy who heard a story about a guy using a dirty sponge who was killed when he was struck by lightning)

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Germs build your imune system. You want clean, go to a chem lab. :p


"Adkins" is the Hunter-Gatherer diet.

"Low Fat" is the early agrarian diet.

I live civilized: I want it ALL!

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Germs build your imune system.  You want clean, go to a chem lab.  :p

I'm not sure about putting in a dish washer, but I read somewhere that if you microwave them for one minute, that sterilizes them. I thought it was in the NYT several years back. I do it a half a dozen times before throwing out.

Jack

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Yeesh!!! All this talk about how to disinfect sponges.

I don't use sponges at all. I use disinfectant sprays and paper towels (thrown away after each use). When I really need to scrub the sink or range (if food or grease has gotten stuck), I use part of a fresh nylon scrubber pad (cut into halves or thirds with scissors) and throw that away after it's done its duty.

Kitchen hand towels get washed in a hot washing machine with bleach, then run through a hot dryer cycle. If my hands are germy from touching raw meat or chicken, eggs, etc. I'll wash them well with soap & water (using the back of my wrist to press the pump on the dispenser) and dry them with paper towels, too. Paper towels are my friend.


SuzySushi

"She sells shiso by the seashore."

My eGullet Foodblog: A Tropical Christmas in the Suburbs

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Microwave (wet) for 3 minutes after doing the dishes.

Hey, pet mammals are low to the ground and spreaders of dirt willy-nilly. We have none, get sponges at costco, use with dish soap, keep two on the back of the sink, the newer one for dishes and the older one for counters, stove top, etc, and occaisional spills on floor are dealt with by paper towels. Dish towels, (cotton) are always at hand for hand or dish drying. The sponge gets squeezeed under running water and no one on my block ever gets sick.

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