I might just rely on my kitchen sponge more than I rely on my friends. It’s my go-to for everything! I use sponges to scrub the grit and grime off dishes, remove food that’s caked on your oven door and clean up spills in the microwave. I depend on the small-but-mighty kitchen cleaning tool for almost all kitchen-related cleanup, from messes big to small.
The reason for my kitchen sponge obsession is simple. They’re cheap, convenient, and really easy to use.
That’s why I have to remind myself to constantly get rid of them. When a kitchen sponge is consistently put to use, it collects a scary amount of bacteria and germs—which then contaminates the surfaces and materials that the kitchen sponge is supposed to be sanitizing in the first place. So much so, in fact, that the kitchen sponge is one of the 7 germiest items commonly found in your kitchen.
If you’re guilty of holding onto sponges way longer than you’re supposed to, don’t worry—we have some cleaning and replacing techniques that will nix your kitchen sponge hoarding habit.
When should you replace a kitchen sponge?
A good rule of thumb is to replace a kitchen sponge at least once a week. “I wouldn’t go longer than a week without replacing a sponge,” says Melissa Maker, host of a cleaning YouTube channel and founder of the house cleaning service, Clean My Space. While she stands by this rule, she suggests using your own kitchen sponge habits as a guide when replacing them.
“The best way to identify when your sponge is ready to be replaced is by making it into a sensory experience…both the look and the smell of the sponge will tell you when it’s time for it to go,” Maker says. “If it smells and looks gross or dirty, and you can’t get rid of the odor or appearance, then it’s time to move on.” Moving on doesn’t necessarily mean you have to throw it out. There are several ways to reuse your old kitchen sponge.
If your kitchen sponge works harder than most, it might need to be replaced even more often and sooner than the one-week mark. “Like with all cleaning products, it all comes down to you,” explains Maker. “If you’re using a cleaning product every single day to clean various things, it has to be replaced sooner.”
How to clean a sponge
Like your iPhone and toilet, a used kitchen sponge can be contaminated with all sorts of bacteria and germs. The good news? Even though you need to replace it eventually, you can clean a kitchen sponge. “A sponge’s structure is foamy and cellular, and they have so many stacked pockets—all of which cause bacteria to spread quickly throughout it,” says Maker. “It’s going to be really difficult to fully clean your sponge because of its structure.”
While cleaning experts have once relied on methods like microwaving a sponge—or submerging it in vinegar—these haven’t always proven to be the effective options. Cleaning a kitchen sponge with bleach is your best bet. Mix 3/4 cup of bleach with a gallon of water in your kitchen sink and submerge your sponge in the mixture for 5 minutes. Doing so will kill 99.9 percent of the three major strains of bacteria.
Try this repurposing trick
Parting with a sponge might seem like a blow to your wallet, but for sanitary purposes, it’s the safest option. And besides—just because a sponge might be deemed unsafe to clean dishes, countertops, and tables (here’s how to do that fast), that doesn’t mean it needs to be trashed completely. Instead, reuse a kitchen sponge by re-purposing it as a utility sponge. You can do so by simply cutting a corner off one side, marking it as cleaning product that can only be used for the dirtiest of work—like cleaning a car or toilet bowl. Use the cleaning method above to keep your utility sponge for a bit longer. Now that you know when to replace your sponge, make sure you’re aware of these other kitchen mistakes you might be making.