A dirty sponge is just … foul. You know what I'm talking about — those flat, gray, flakey cleaning pads you find in office kitchens and bachelor apartments. And that smell! There is nothing grosser than washing a dish with a stinky sponge — aside from then having your hands smell like stinky sponge afterwards. Yuck.
Here's the deal, though: That filthy-looking sponge was dirty long before it started showing its age. It takes a while to wear down those fibers and for bacteria and grime to build up inside of a sponge so much that it would be visible. If that's what you have sitting next to your kitchen sink right now, please toss it! Then follow these guidelines so you don't ever get to that point again.
3 Questions to Ask Yourself to Determine the Life Span of Your Sponge
"How long your sponge will last depends a lot on what it's made of, what you use it for, and how you take care of it," says Melissa Maker, author of Clean My Space.
1. What's your sponge made of?
Some sponges are made of cellulose, a paper-like fiber, while others are made from man-made materials. The cellulose sponges tend to hold more grime, because the fibers are more porous, which means they don't last as long.
2. How do you use your sponge?
"Some people have a different sponge for every application — like one for the dishes, another for the counters, and one for the rest of the kitchen cleaning — while many people use the the same sponge for all of these tasks," says Maker. Obviously, the former method will lead to a longer-lasting sponge.
3. How often do you clean your sponge?
When it comes to caring for sponges, most of us probably don't handle things the way Maker suggests: She says we should clean our sponges as much as possible. "Some people think that, because they're using their sponge with soap and water, the sponge is getting clean as they use it — but that's just not true!" she says. Bits of food can get into the fibers, and if your sponge doesn't dry all the way, mildew and bacteria can grow in there, too. Maker cleans her sponges at least every other day in the dishwasher and lets them air-dry completely.
The Bottom Line: Change out your sponges at least every few weeks!
Even if you clean and care for your sponges properly, you have to be ready and willing to let them go — and fairly often, Maker says. For her that's about every four to six weeks, as she has an excellent sponge maintenance routine; for the rest of us, it'll be more often.
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If you're ever not sure, just toss it. Better to do it prematurely than to "clean" dishes with a bacteria-laden piece of foam, no?
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How often do you change out your sponges?