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How Often Should You Change The Kitchen Sponge?

We’re all filthy animals, basically.

11/08/2017 10:59 AM AEST | Updated 11/08/2017 11:00 AM AEST

We're not in the business of making assumptions about your life here at HuffPost Australia, but in this instance we are willing to bet your kitchen sponge is pretty gross.

A study published last month found that if you keep your sponge longer than a week it's just sitting there breeding bacteria (the kinds that can cause food poisoning and make you sick) and the germs are having a party on what essentially touches the plates you eat off.

Think about it. You use your sponge every day (probably more often if you don't have a dishwasher) and what touches dirty plates, cups and possibly kitchen benches picks up food scraps and liquids (yum, raw chicken juices). Even though you rinse the sponge after the bacteria is not washed away or sterilised.

"Our study stresses and visualizes the role of kitchen sponges as microbiological hot spots in the BE (built environment), with the capability to collect and spread bacteria with a probable pathogenic potential," the study stated.

"Within a domestic environment, kitchens and bathrooms have a high potential to function as 'microbial incubators' due to the continuous inoculation of new microbial cells, e.g. by food handling and direct body contact to the domestic surfaces...Despite common misconception, it was demonstrated that kitchen environments host more microbes than toilets. This was mainly due to the contribution of kitchen sponges, which were proven to represent the biggest reservoirs of active bacteria in the whole house."

HuffPost Australia
Shout out to the revolting HuffPost Australia sponge which essentially inspired this story. It has since been replaced.

"Kitchen sponges not only act as reservoir of microorganisms, but also as disseminators over domestic surfaces, which can lead to cross–contamination of hands and food, which is considered a main cause of food–borne disease."

Gross, huh? The study also revealed that the germiest part of your whole house is the actual drain in the kitchen sink (which you probably 'clean' with the same sponge).

'But I wash my sponge in boiling water or do the old microwave trick', I hear you say. Well that works, but only to a degree.

"Microwave and boiling treatments were shown to significantly reduce the bacterial load...however no method alone seemed to be able to achieve a general bacterial reduction of more than about 60 percent."

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This only works to a degree.

We don't know about you but 40 percent of germs left after employing those cleaning methods doesn't really cut it for us. So what to do?

Well, you can replace your sponge once a week. While sponges are fairly cheap (so that shouldn't make too much of a dent in your grocery budget) it's not all that ideal from an environmental perspective.

You could use paper towels instead. On one hand these are recyclable, but on the other they are mostly made out of bleached paper, and that process is no good for the environment, so we're kind back to square one.

You could vow to never use plates again and only eat takeaway, but then we all know how bad disposable containers are for the environment, too.

Quite the conundrum, no?

The consensus from both an environmental and sanitation perspective seems to be that efficient modern dish washer machines are your best bet.

But back to the point we're trying to make. Sponges are gross.

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