Germapalooza: How to Keep Kitchen Sponges Clean

How to Prevent Bacteria on Kitchen Sponges

Now that we've stoked your germophobia, let's talk about some solutions. Food poisoning often results from improperly handling raw foods and inadvertent cross-contamination, which can involve the kitchen sponge. The main thing to remember is that because bacteria thrive in moist environments, keeping the sponge and the area surrounding the sink dry will create a less hospitable environment for them. So every time you clean a countertop or do the dishes, remember to thoroughly wring out the sponge so it can dry faster.

The next line of defense is, of course, soap. Antibacterial soap has become clouded with controversy in recent years, because many scientists argue that antibacterial soap kills beneficial bacteria while aiding the rise of superbugs, against which we have little defense.

Antibacterial dishwashing soaps are specifically designed to kill bacteria that make their home in sponges, but the jury is still out on their actual effectiveness. For example, a study conducted in 2002 at a Dutch university tested antibacterial soap's ability to kill various microorganisms in kitchen sponges. It found that the soap ended up killing many of the innocuous bacteria, but that more dangerous bacteria -- like E. coli and salmonella -- survived. The results of that study are exactly what antibacterial skeptics are afraid of: a soap that kills beneficial bacteria while leaving dangerous germs stronger than ever.

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