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Sponges have become the house norm for hand washing dishes and wiping countertops. Their potential for having both a soft and rough side makes them ideal partners in clean kitchen crime.  Their one BIG downside is how quickly they get stinky.  This happens because they tend to stay moist, never completely drying out between uses, encouraging the growth of bacteria. (Which can only grown in moist environments and is the cause of the odor.) 

Instead of just tossing them and opening a new one every time this happens, which adds to the burden on our landfills, extend their lives with this simple method to disinfect them.  

*There are several ways to achieve a 'clean' sponge. This one is great for those who don't have a dishwasher and want a scent free process and result. (Using vinegar and bleach are two other methods, but I don't like either of those smells!)

Step 1: What You'll Need

There are only two things you need to make this magic happen:

- a bowl or deep plate
- hydrogen peroxide

Step 2: The Process

Place the offending sponge in your chosen container and add approximately 2-3 inches of the hydrogen peroxide. 
Watch for the white bubbles to start forming. This is the bacteria (aka stink) dying!!

Leave it on the first side for a few minutes, then flip the sponge over, giving it a good squish all over to ensure that the peroxide has been absorbed all the way through the sponge.  (If you're grossed out by the bacteria bubbles, use a spoon.)

Leave it for a few more minutes. 

Remove it from the peroxide bath and rinse it thoroughly, giving it a couple of good squeezes to make sure that all the peroxide has been removed.

Step 3: The End and Also the Beginning

Et voila!

Your sponge won't look any better, but it will smell WAY better and be a sanitary kitchen tool once more, living to scrub and scour another day. (for many more days in fact!)

Tips on keeping it germ free as long as possible:

- Never leave it in the sink. It will be in constant contact with water and therefore an easy target for bacteria growth.
- Store it in a dish with drainage or on the edge of the sink. Even better, if available, lean it up against a window and the sun will help keep it dry and will also kill bacteria!

Now go forth and clean with scent and bacteria free confidence! 
<p>Nice ! </p><p>Thanks for posting.</p><p>But I'm afraid thathydrogen peroxide mayb more expensive that discarding the sponge and using a new one.</p><p>What do you think ? </p>
<p>Or, you can nuke the sponge in a micro-wave (if you have one) for 45 sec</p>
<p>Right ! I didn't think of this.</p><p>And as far as nukes are concerned maybe someone should make and instructable about how to build a small domestic nuclear bomb for fast cleaning the whole house. After all many women work outside as much as men and they still are in charge of most of the chores in the house. A small device could be of great help of freeing women from domestic doom&hellip; </p>
<p>Ozone generator, is a great disinfectant and odor removal, no need for chemicals, just plug it in power outlet and leave the home or the room for a couple of hours. that is all you need. Ozone treatment is a great job</p>
<p>Then you will need this</p><p><a href="http://www.tiger-vac.com/index.php/product-line/specialty-applications/nuclear-biohazard.html" rel="nofollow">http://www.tiger-vac.com/index.php/product-line/specialty-applications/nuclear-biohazard.html</a></p>
<p>Ah ! What a great idea. As soon as resume my 1st grade in Elementary Physics (of which I dropped out around 1965) I'll get to the job !</p><p>Thank you, you've been of great help !!!&hellip;</p><p>;)))</p>
<p>Did you know that if you spray peroxide then spray vinegar that this will kill more germs than Clorox bleach?Yes, this is true studied by a collage in the US.This will clan counter tops,chopping blocks or a sponge without all the toxins and more germs.Pleas fee free to Google this.</p>
I like all your posts, but can't you just microwave a sponge to kill the bacteria?
Hydrogen peroxide??? isn't thet the key ingredient in bleach (even if its the hair stuff). Also point out its a chemical agent so be careful and use your marigolds if sensitive to bleach. Other than that very good idea.
Key ingredient of bleach is chlorine, consumer grade peroxide is fairly harmless and works quite well for disinfection of both items and wounds.
Actually, although Chlorine is what people typically refer to as bleach, psycophonic is correct that H2O2 is one of the main ingredients in hair bleach (you can actually do DIY hair bleaching with just H2O2), as well as non-chlorine laundry bleach (OxyClean, etc). The type you get at the drugstore or grocery store is diluted to 3%, which is not too dangerous but you do need to be aware that it has bleaching qualities. It will leave white spots on your skin if you handle it without gloves (thankfully they heal back quickly) and could bleach your clothes if you splash it on them. The vapors are not as dangerous to breathe as Chlorine, however.
Sorry. I stand corrected. My effup. As said though great idea.
I just did this and wow! The poor sponge, which had been in use for a week, produced foam for over 3 hours of sitting in the H202. Previously, I had soaked the sponge in water and steam sanitized it in the microwave (3 minutes). I might alternate methods to make sure everything is killed.
Also you could designate a ziplock bag for sponge cleaning by writing the word &quot;SPONGE&quot; on the bag with a sharpie. Of course the big bowl method is great; I only submit this suggestion because I suspect there are many folks scratchin their heads at the notion of using 50 cents worth of peroxide to clean a 50 cent sponge... <br>Anyway the right sized ziplock bag could greatly reduce the amount of peroxide needed to do the job...
Salmonella is one of the major concerns in most kitchens; I am reasonably confident that freezing will do very little to keep salmonella at bay. Even if freezing did kill 75% of a certain type of bacteria (&amp; I am NOT sayin it would actually kill this much); we need to remember that under the right conditions bacteria can double in 20 minutes... <br>H2O2 can be purchases quite cheaply at the dollar store, etc.. I would recommend using a square shaped soap dish (also available @ the dollar store; look for the big blue, plastic, travel soap dishes) to minimize the H2O2 needed to immerse the sponge. Also I would let that sponge soak for 15-20 minutes and it will likely clear up the discoloration. Also another method that comes to mind which would be really cheap is to steam the sponges the same way you would steam veggies in an elevated strainer/steamer tray...
Please take precautions when handling hydrogen peroxide! It can bleach the skin on your hands (temporarily) and any natural fibers it comes into contact with PERMANENTLY (such as splashes on your clothing). I recommend wearing latex or neoprene gloves, and make sure you're not wearing clothing you don't mind getting bleached spots on.
I just toss mine in the dishwasher, but I like this idea
Well rinsed, wet sponge in the microwave for under a minute. Do this once or twice a week. I imagine putting the sponge into a zip-lock bag and then into the freezer over night would kill a lot of bacteria.
As per comments above, I don't think a freezer will kill bacteria; they'll just lie dormant until the sponge defrosts.
When water freezes it forms crystals. The crystals punch holes through the bacterium's body. The holes kill the bacteria. This is why you cant yet freeze and thaw out a human. There is a frog that can be frozen, then thawed but that is to only example that I can think of. All very interesting stuff.
Unfortunately freezing will kill very few bacteria. Their cells are generally much smaller than most human cells, and aren't vulnerable to the cell damage you describe (which is indeed the main reason you can't defrost a human). There are lots of sites that confirm that bacteria will survive, eg: <br>http://www.npr.org/blogs/thesalt/2013/04/04/176242166/freezing-food-doesnt-kill-e-coli-and-other-germs
Yes there is no one method that will kill all bacteria. Each of the methods kill some bacteria though, even freezing. An example of a tough bacteria is Deinococcus Radiodurans&mdash;that can withstand blasts of radiation 1,000 times greater than would kill a human being. I love a bit of science in the morning.
Ooh, I want to try the freezer technique!
Suspect that freezing them puts the bugs into hibernation so when defrosted they come back to life? Microwaving a piece of plastic? Heats up the sponge but probably encourages the germs to replicate, too hot sponge melts! Sorry for the environment but cheap and cheerful chuck away sponges (about 10 cents each) are safer for you and your children's health.
My family has used the microwave sponge disinfection technique for years. Just toss them in the microwave for 30 seconds when you can smell the sponges. I used to toss the sponges in the dishwasher, but the sponges would disintegrate. Same problems when using bleach. I have not tried the H2O2 technique. It sounds interesting but I can imagine it would become expensive to use routinely. Thank you. -- Justin
Thanks for sharing Justin! I don't have a microwave, nor do I like the smell of bleach, which is why I use the ol' H2O2. It costs me about .40 to .50 cents per cleaning, which ends up being cheaper than new sponges and helps out the landfill a bit. Have you ever tried putting a sponge in the freezer to kill the bacteria? Someone suggested it and I'm going to try it this weekend. - Paige
A good friend had suggested the microwave solution while helping taking care of our five children, while my wife and I took a vacation. She was the chair department of Biology at UMass Dartmouth.<br><br>I never tried the freezer method, but wonder just how well that could work. The odor is from microorganisms growing on the sponge. If freezing would kill the microorganisms, then freezing would be a possible solution. I suspect, the microorganisms would stop while in the freezer, but would still be viable after the sponges thawed. <br><br>Thank you. -- Justin
I agree with Justin - I don't think a freezer kills bacteria (their cells are too small to rupture), so all that would do is cause them to be dormant until the sponge defrosted...
When I make tea I boil a little extra water. I put the sponge in a pot and cover it with the extra boiling water. Put the pot on the stove and bring it back to a rolling boil. Take out the sponge and let it dry. It will be disinfected.
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Just put in in the Microwave. Much better without chemicals
Throw away the sponges, get dish cloths instead (inexpensive dollar store terry wash cloths are fine to use), wash with a bit of dishwashing liquid, rinse in hot water and hang them up to dry. They dry quickly and don't smell. Even better if you can hang them where the sun will shine on them. Cloths are far more sanitary than any sponge, no matter how you clean them.
Throw away the sponges, get dish cloths instead (inexpensive dollar store terry wash cloths are fine to use), wash with a bit of dishwashing liquid, rinse in hot water and hang them up to dry. They dry quickly and don't smell. Even better if you can hang them where the sun will shine on them. Cloths are far more sanitary than any sponge, no matter how you clean them.
We keep a re-purposed shaker of OxyClean jar under the sink. When sponge gets a little funky, shake some on wet and work it in for a bit. It's also peroxide but much cheaper and more stable the hydrogen peroxide. It also goes into the disposer/drain too, followed by hot water.
I have to say I'm not 100% sold on the freezer method of killing the bacteria. Scientists have found bacteria thousands of years old in deep ice.... Bacteria can be tough.
I start my day with a fresh dish which will contain my sponge adding 1 Tbsp of scented dish detergent and ! Tbsp of chlorine bleach stirred into an estimated 1 cup water. <br>I flush the sponge with my hottest water at the end of the day and rinse out the dish to drain dry the dish &amp; sponge - the next morning return to step 1. This provides an excellent degreasing &amp; sanitizing solution with the odor of the detergent scent as well as a safe cleaning aid.
I start my day with a fresh dish which will contain my sponge adding 1 Tbsp of scented dish detergent and ! Tbsp of chlorine bleach stirred into an estimated 1 cup water. <br>I flush the sponge with my hottest water at the end of the day and rinse out the dish to drain dry the dish &amp; sponge - the next morning return to step 1. This provides an excellent degreasing &amp; sanitizing solution with the odor of the detergent scent as well as a safe cleaning aid.
Good info, but my solution is different. <br>When my sponge gets too dirty and / or smells I just drop it in a container in my backyard, and use a new one for the kitchen &hellip; <br>The used ones I take to my boat and that's where they end up cleaning the engine compartment (lot of dust from the water pump belt, sea water and engine oil), the usual mess under the floors, the &quot;really messy mess&quot; in the toilet compartment, etc&hellip;&nbsp; Cheaper than buying new sponges for these jobs !!!&hellip; <br>But then you have to have a boat&hellip; Maybe a cabin in the woods ?&hellip; <br> <br>However I do keep in mind the idea of H202 (along with bleach, as long as you don't mind the smell). <br> <br>May you all have a good week end.
I sprinkle a water-logged sponge with baking soda. I think that has similar release of oxygen. Anyway, they smell sweet for a while. Oxygenation of any sort or boiling hot water water seem to kill the germs.
I microwave my sponge every morning for a minute and a half and despite it being a couple months old and looking really bad it smells good.
I've burned a sponge in the microwave once. It was probably too dry and left in the oven for too long. The sponge went in the trash and the oven was thoroughly cleaned, but the burnt smell still took a couple of days to clear. Needless to say I stopped running my sponges through the microwave. Now, if I feel like disinfecting the sponge, I pour boiling water over it. It's cleaner than any chemical, the high temperature kills pretty much all microorganisms, and since I drink tea every day, there's nearly always a warm kettle around.
I don't have a microwave, but could definitely try this at my office. Thanks Rodney7799!
how about just putting it in the dishwasher when you run a cycle.
That assumes that one has an automatic dishwasher. I don't have one, and thus I have to wash the dishes by hand.
Those are actually Oxygen bubbles, nucleated out of the H2O2 by the enzimes and proteins in the bacteria. the oxygen bleaches them out/kills them. yeast makes it bubble big time!
Thanks for the clarification killbox. Science is awesome!
You could simply place it in the microwave.
This is definitely the most common way of dealing with the issue of sponge stink/bacteria. I don't have a microwave, but am excited to try it today at work!
That is actually very useful information. Hydrogen peroxide is pretty inexpensive, but so are sponges. Is it worth it?
Definitely a legitimate question. The amount of peroxide that you need to use works out to about 50 cents worth, so depending on the kind of sponges you use (I buy the walnut husk ones from Whole Foods that are about $2 each), it may or may not be worth it for you. For me it means not only saving a bit of money, but making an effort to save valuable material resources and keep as much junk as possible out of the landfill.

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Bio: Made in Canada, I grew up crafting, making, and baking. Out of this love for designing and creating, I pursued a BFA in product design ... More »
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