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How To Clean A Sponge That’s Moldy

We’ve all had it happen: you’re using a relatively new kitchen sponge, doing your dishes with soap and hot water and wiping down your counters.  You finish, squeeze the water out of your sponge, put it in its happy drying place, wipe your hands and wham!  You smell funky, moldy, musty stink on your hands!


What is going on here? Shouldn’t something that’s soaked in dishwashing soap and hot water several times a day be clean, for goodness sake? Well, no, not exactly.

Mold and mildew don’t care about soap.  Mold and mildew don’t care about hot water.  Mold and mildew care about musty, airless, damp environments.  That’s where mold thrives and that’s an accurate description of your kitchen sponge.  Because mold in its many forms can make you and your family quite sick, it’s a very good idea to remove the mold from your sponge as quickly as possible.

So, what can you do about removing the mold from your kitchen sponge?  The solutions are easy … and they don’t include buying a new one every few weeks and loading up the landfill with your old sponges!

According to the USDA who conducted an actual study about your kitchen sponge, the two best solutions are:
1. Microwave your sponge while it is still damp for one minute.
2. Place your sponge in the dishwasher and run it with a drying cycle.

These two methods were both found to eliminate more than 99% of the yeasts and molds harbored by a typical dirty kitchen sponge.  And, by the way, if you have bacteria concerns with your sponge (which is a different matter entirely from mold spores), microwaving killed 99.99999% of the bacteria present and dishwashing killed 99.9998%.

For the dozen or so of you who don’t have a microwave or a dishwasher, there are a few other time-tested methods for removing mold from your kitchen sponge including:

1. Squeeze the hot water out well and either pour or spray a small amount of white vinegar on it.  The acid environment will inhibit mold growth.
2. Consider diluted hydrogen peroxide to clear out the mold growth.  Along with white vinegar, it is a great inhibitor of mold.
3. Sunlight is a reliable, all-natural mold-inhibitor.  When you squeeze out your sponge, leave it in a sunny windowsill.

Preventing Mold from Inhabiting Your Kitchen Sponge

While you can never completely prevent mold from growing in your kitchen sponge, here are a few quick pointers to keep it at bay:
1. Before putting it aside, squeeze out all of the soap out of your sponge as the drying process will take longer with a soapy sponge, giving mold extra time to grow.
2. Increase the ventilation in your kitchen.  This can be as simple as cracking open a window when you finish the dishes.
3. Consider purchasing a special sponge holder which will suspend your sponge over the sink, giving every surface of your sponge a chance to get a little air and drying it out quickly and uniformly.
4. Get on board with a different kind of “sponge” like the Tuffy Scrubber-type mesh sponge, Handi-wipes or an inexpensive washcloth from the dollar store.

One note about replacing your sponge:  while anti-microbial sponges sound like a good idea, they are usually made with rather nasty chemicals that can harm as much as the lack of “microbials” can help.  Stick with what works.

If your kitchen sponge is beginning to smell moldy, you need to neutralize the mold quickly to keep the spores from proliferating.  The microwave heating and dishwasher drying cycle methods outlined above have proven to be the most effective ways to inactivate and remove the mold from your kitchen sponge.  Easy and convenient, these methods can keep your kitchen sponge from spreading mold spores throughout your house … and keep you and your family healthy in the process!

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