This is how often you need to replace your kitchen sponge

I might just rely on my kitchen sponge more than I rely on my friends. It’s my go-to for everything! I use sponges to scrub the grit and grime off dishes, remove food that’s caked on your oven door and clean up spills in the microwave. I depend on the small-but-mighty kitchen cleaning tool for almost all kitchen-related cleanup, from messes big to small.

The reason for my kitchen sponge obsession is simple. They’re cheap, convenient, and really easy to use.

That’s why I have to remind myself to constantly get rid of them. When a kitchen sponge is consistently put to use, it collects a scary amount of bacteria and germs—which then contaminates the surfaces and materials that the kitchen sponge is supposed to be sanitizing in the first place. So much so, in fact, that the kitchen sponge is one of the 7 germiest items commonly found in your kitchen.

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9 Tips That Will Help Keep Your Kitchen Germ-Free
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9 Tips That Will Help Keep Your Kitchen Germ-Free

Kitchen Cleaning Tips

To help you keep up with the clean, we enlisted the support of Laurie Brown, a green cleaning expert and chief sales officer of Earthstone International, a purveyor of household cleaning and sanding productrs, to give you some great and useful tips. Learn how to dispel germs by following this advice.

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Change Your Cutting Board

“Use hard plastic cutting sheets instead of wood cutting boards to more easily remove germs after each use. Just wash with dish soap and rinse with water. Super easy and effective.”

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Clean Your Sink

Keep sinks clean! Use Magic Eraser or microfiber products to clean around the sink drain and garbage disposal as a way to more effectively remove food scum and germ-laden residue. Ninety-nine point nine percent of bacteria can be removed by agitation, and super absorbent fibers and materials do a superior job — without the chemicals.”

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Don’t Do Unnecessary ‘Cleaning’

Do not rinse chicken or other meat before cooking. It just spreads germs, and it doesn't make it more delicious.”

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Get Behind Your Fridge

“Regularly clean refrigerator coils and make sure to set your refrigerator between 37 degrees F (3 C) and 40 degrees F (5 degrees C) to ensure healthy food.”

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Keep Compost Outside

“Place old vegetables in compost pail designed with a lid and set outside to store between uses. Better to compost than throw rotting fruits and vegetables in the garbage or disposal, where they create indoor compost in your kitchen. And it’s good food for your garden, too.”

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Line Your Drawers

“Keep parchment paper at bottom of produce drawers, making occasional clean-up quick and easy and avoiding lettuce and carrots that are so ‘alive with bacteria’ they are ready to march out of the fridge.”

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Swap Out Your Scrubbies

“Toss scrubbers that are clogged with food residue and grease. Steel wool and nylon scrubbies are a major source of bacteria, which can clog the scrubber's surface, making it difficult, if not impossible, to really get clean.”

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Use Your Dishwasher for More Than Dishes

“Put drain and garbage disposal covers in the dishwasher occasionally to clean and remove germs.”

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Wash Your Washcloths

“Wash dish rags and sponges at least once or twice weekly. A little bleach in your dishrags will keep them looking good AND help disinfect, and you can wash your sponges in the dishwasher or place in the microwave (wet) for two minutes on high. Make sure there is no metal in the product.”

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If you’re guilty of holding onto sponges way longer than you’re supposed to, don’t worry—we have some cleaning and replacing techniques that will nix your kitchen sponge hoarding habit.

When should you replace a kitchen sponge?

A good rule of thumb is to replace a kitchen sponge at least once a week. “I wouldn’t go longer than a week without replacing a sponge,” says Melissa Maker, host of a cleaning YouTube channel and founder of the house cleaning service, Clean My Space. While she stands by this rule, she suggests using your own kitchen sponge habits as a guide when replacing them.

“The best way to identify when your sponge is ready to be replaced is by making it into a sensory experience…both the look and the smell of the sponge will tell you when it’s time for it to go,” Maker says. “If it smells and looks gross or dirty, and you can’t get rid of the odor or appearance, then it’s time to move on.” Moving on doesn’t necessarily mean you have to throw it out. There are several ways to reuse your old kitchen sponge.

If your kitchen sponge works harder than most, it might need to be replaced even more often and sooner than the one-week mark. “Like with all cleaning products, it all comes down to you,” explains Maker. “If you’re using a cleaning product every single day to clean various things, it has to be replaced sooner.”

How to clean a sponge

Like your iPhone and toilet, a used kitchen sponge can be contaminated with all sorts of bacteria and germs. The good news? Even though you need to replace it eventually, you can clean a kitchen spongeA sponge’s structure is foamy and cellular, and they have so many stacked pockets—all of which cause bacteria to spread quickly throughout it,” says Maker. “It’s going to be really difficult to fully clean your sponge because of its structure.”

While cleaning experts have once relied on methods like microwaving a sponge—or submerging it in vinegar—these haven’t always proven to be the effective options. Cleaning a kitchen sponge with bleach is your best bet. Mix 3/4 cup of bleach with a gallon of water in your kitchen sink and submerge your sponge in the mixture for 5 minutes. Doing so will kill 99.9 percent of the three major strains of bacteria.

Try this repurposing trick

Parting with a sponge might seem like a blow to your wallet, but for sanitary purposes, it’s the safest option. And besides—just because a sponge might be deemed unsafe to clean dishes, countertops, and tables (here’s how to do that fast), that doesn’t mean it needs to be trashed completely. Instead, reuse a kitchen sponge by re-purposing it as a utility sponge. You can do so by simply cutting a corner off one side, marking it as cleaning product that can only be used for the dirtiest of work—like cleaning a car or toilet bowl. Use the cleaning method above to keep your utility sponge for a bit longer. Now that you know when to replace your sponge, make sure you’re aware of these other kitchen mistakes you might be making.

Originally Published on Taste of Home

11 kitchen hacks that'll make you stop dreading doing the dishes

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11 kitchen hacks that'll make you stop dreading doing the dishes
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11 kitchen hacks that'll make you stop dreading doing the dishes

RUSTY KNIVES

Rust on a knife is a little bit like a bad hair day: It'll make you want to throw the whole thing out and start over (AKA give yourself a 2007 Britney shave), but all the cutlery needs is a little tender love and care. Load each knife up with an at-home paste of baking soda and water, and scrub it with steel wool.

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DIRTY BAKING SHEETS

This hack is similar to cleaning a rusty knife. Sprinkle baking soda on the sheet, add a layer of hydrogen peroxide, add more baking soda, and let the whole thing sit for up to two hours. When you wipe it away with a coarse sponge or rag, the sheet will look good as new.

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CAST IRON PAN

Turns out, potatoes are good for a lot more than eating. When you add halved taters to a salted cast iron pan and scrub in a circular motion with the flat side down, the potatoes will clean the pan. To then season it, rinse the pan with water, pat it dry, and pour a small amount of oil into the skillet. Spread it evenly, and place the pan into a 400-degree oven for one hour.

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GLASSWARE

If that strip of aluminum foil you're about to throw out doesn't have a lick of food on it, repurpose it as a sponge. Crumple the stuff up, add a drop of dish soap too it, and scrub Pyrex dishes with baked-on food.

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STAINED CUTTING BOARDS

Everything white yellows without the proper care: teeth, sheets, cutting boards. Luckily, the latter is super easy (and cheap!) to fix. Run your faucet until your sink fills with about an inch of water, then pour in a cup of bleach. Lay cutting boards in the sink, and let them soak for an hour. When the time's up, carefully drain the sink and rinse your good-as-new boards.

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CLOGGED CHEESE GRATER

Here's yet another use for a potato that doesn't have anything to do with French fries. When you've got dried cheese clogging the holes of your grater, try rubbing a potato down the blade. It'll push the cheese out, making the whole device easier to clean.

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WATER STAINED SILVER

If you have hard water, you know the headache of water-stained cutlery. Let your utensils soak in a cup of white vinegar for 10 seconds. The stains will come off with a quick wipe down.

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FOOD-COVERED BAKING DISH

It's impossible not to feel like you're in a dishwasher commercial when you get ready to clean a dish with baked-on food. You can skip the witty banter with your housemate, and just reach for a dryer sheet. With warm water, it'll release all those crumbs in a few hours.

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DIRTY BLENDER

So you made a smoothie and Instagrammed it. Bravo. Now comes the part where you risk life and limb to clean the blender by sticking your hand dangerously close to that spinning blade. Take the safe route and just fill the dirty vessel with soap and water, then blend it. It'll remove all the leftover smoothie and rinse clean.

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IRREGULARLY SHAPED BOTTLES

If you don't have a bottlebrush lying around, fill that weird jar with a little water, uncooked rice, and a small amount of dish soap. Cover it, and as you shake, the rice will scrub residue from all sides.

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STAINED COFFEE MUGS

You can't expect your favorite mug to stay looking pristine when you fill it with brown liquid every day. The easiest way to clean it is by sprinkling baking soda in the whole thing, filling it with warm water, and letting it sit for 15 minutes. When you wipe it clean, the stains will be gone.

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