What You Never Knew About Doing the Dishes With a Sponge

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Introduction: What You Never Knew About Doing the Dishes With a Sponge

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After living with college roommates that couldn't seem to do the dishes properly, I realized I had to get the word out there about proper dishwashing duty.

Step 1: Dishsoap and Sponges

The first thing to realize is that dishwashing is not about sanitizing (killing the bacteria and viruses on) your dishes. If you look on your dishsoap (any brand will do), you will notice that it does not claim to "disinfect" your dishes!

What is the point of dishwashing?
To remove food, scum, scents, flavors, grease, oil, etc. from your dishes.

What is the best tool to use?
Use a sponge that has a scrubby side on it. This way you can soak up soapy water to scrub away at your dishes with. Using a plain sponge with no scrub is pointless - it won't scrub the food or grease off of your dishes!

How do I get rid of the "germs?"
Washing your dishes will help get rid of most of them, and the rest tend to die once the dishes dry off (bacteria can't live without water!). However, if you're concerned, you could always rinse your dishes with a 1/20 bleach dilution, or add a tiny bit of bleach to your dishsoap.

Step 2: Soak Your Dishes and Silverware

To make it easier to wash your dirty dishes, soak them in hot water for a while! If you have food dried onto your dishes (mashed potatoes, pancake mix, baking residue) or sticky, gunky stuff (peanut butter, grease), soaking them for a while will make it MUCH easier to scrub the stuff of. You will be spending way less time on it.

Step 3: Two Methods for Soaping

If you have a lot of dishes, the best thing to do is fill a bowl up with very hot, very soapy water. You can dunk your sponge into this bowl whenever it needs more soap.

If you don't have as many dishes, or if you're feeling lazy, squirt a little soap onto one side of your sponge (the scrubby side) and run a little of hot water onto it.

Step 4: Scrub Those Dishes!

While doing your dishes, keep your sponge separated into two sides: the YUCKY side, and the SOAPY side. Use the yucky side to wipe off particularly grimy dishes. After getting the heavy grime/food off, then use the cleaner, soapier side to get it really clean.

Make sure you wash the outside and bottoms of your dishes, especially the ones you stack. Nobody wants a cup with grimy fingerprints / lip prints on the outside, and if you leave food on the bottom of your bowls or plates, it will transfer onto the top of the bowl or plate underneath it!

When washing silverware, don't just wash the end of it - wash the entire length of it. This way, no matter how you leave them to dry, the entire thing will stay clean and germ-free-ish.

Step 5: Rinse and Stack

Rinse your dishes off! Hot water is recommended because it carries the soap (and grease, oil, etc.) off of the dish more easily than cold water.

When stacking your dishes to dry, make sure you stack them upside-down, so that water can run off of them and not collect inside.


Step 6: Care for Your Sponge: Important!

You know that stinky smell your sponge gets after a couple of weeks? BACTERIA!!

Sponges are a haven for all sorts of bacteria. They LOVE growing in there! It's important to make sure your sponge is bacteria-free if you are cleaning things like cutting boards and countertops (not to mention anything else).

How to keep your sponge clean:

1. After doing the dishes, rinse your sponge thoroughly in hot, and then cold, water, squeeze out as much water as possible, and set it outside of the sink (near your soap bottle, perhaps).

2. Never leave your sponge in the sink or in water.

How to clean your sponge once it's filthy:

1. Saturate it with cold water and then microwave it for 1 minute. DO NOT TOUCH! It will be EXTREMELY hot!
or:
2. Soak in a bowl of 1/10 bleach to water solution for 10-20 minutes.
or:
3. Soak in a bowl of 1/5 vinegar to water solution for 10-20 minutes.

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29 Comments

ummmm. adding bleach to detergent I believe creates a chemical reaction which is not healthy, I believe by a gas that occurs. You might like to use a gas mask. I use a dishbrush, which means the dishwater can be very hot.. Using a sponge would mean that the water would be somewhat cooler. Also with very hot water everything dries very quickly, and can be stored away and not sitting on the counter with people contaminating it.

how dies using a dish brush vs a sponge mean the water will be hotter vs cooler?

You can use very hot water and not burn your hands.. High temperature kills off the bacteria together with the dish detergent.

Rinsing with bleach, I dont know. There are health department guidelines for commercial kitchens which are about temperature of water. Many are phobic about using bleach, including for cleaning. I use it often.

Most, including commercial kitchens, involve dishwashers. However, I dont know what the those temperatures are...Hotter than hand dishwashing temps.

Katie wrote: "ummmm. adding bleach to detergent I believe creates a chemical reaction which is not healthy"

Definately true with amonia, and my take on mixing cleansers and such is: Isn't worth the risk.

mixing your soap w/ bleach will kill the active agents in your soap. i used to work in a kennel and the way we washed the dishes there works best. first , use hot water and soap to remove stuck on stuff (this is first rinse where u scrub) then put the dishes in a basin of warm water with 1/20 bleach to sanitize. Then soak in basin of cool water, this will rinse(be sure to rinse off all the bleach) and keep dishes like glass and silverware from spotting. My biology professor told us a great rule- if u can survive it, germs can survive it.

Hi Katie, thank you for your reply, I have never heard of bleach and dish soap creating a toxic gas, if you have a reference for that please let me know! Most bacteria do die at 100C, which is the boiling point of water, but some bacteria have been shown to live up to 132C! The temperature at which hot water comes out of your tap is not hot enough to kill bacteria.

I know this was written a long time ago, but I, too, mixed bleach with dish soap (probably 1/2 cup of dish soap with 1/2 cup of bleach and the rest water) in a dish soap bottle. I shook it up and sprayed it all over my shower. The fumes were so very toxic, I couldn't breathe... yet I had to get rid of the resulting bubbles in my bathroom. I did manage to rinse them down the drain, where they kept coming up (and I lived on the second floor), but not before burning my throat and giving myself bronchitis. I also suffered tinnitus for 8 months. I was so very ill. I don't know the brand of dish soap I used, but I know I'll never do that again.

The detergent with bleach danger is a myth.
Bleach and ammonia, or bleach and toilet cleaner (lye types) does make toxic gasses similar to those used in World War One. The chlorine in bleach needs a strong reagent to form chlorine gas, not detergent.

Detergent is fairly innocus stuff. A little bleach is a good idea for sterilization, but don't over do it.

Happy dishwashing to you!

I know this is old but I just came across this.
I 'm sorry but it isn't a myth about the danger of bleach with SOME dish-soap. I myself had the misfortune of using bleach with Dawn Dish-soap. It took my breath away. I nearly passed out before I pulled the plug to empty the sink and then I ran out of the house. You can use bleach with Laundry Detergent, but not with all Dish-soaps. There is even a case in California back in the 70s of a woman who died from the toxic fumes. We have to be very careful and read the caution on each brand to know when it is safe to use.
We can avoid the whole thing and have a tub of rinse water handy and put a teaspoon of bleach in that just to be safe.