The Last Thing You Should Do with a Sponge Before You Toss It

updated Feb 2, 2021
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Someone washing dishes with sponge.
Credit: Sarah Crowley

Recently, I’ve made some changes to our dish-washing routine — specifically to the tools we use to wash our dishes. I’d eschewed sponges long ago as bacteria-laden microbe-spreaders, and had been using nubby dishrags that I could toss in the wash often, rarely needed to replace, and got the job done fairly effectively (I thought!).

However, realizing that my rags never really dried out between uses during the day, I became increasingly concerned about the bacteria that might have been thriving in those as well. So I picked up a pack of O-Cedar Scrunge sponges to try. They seemed tougher than the sponges I remembered, and the bumpy (but non-abrasive) scrubber side lured me with the promise of easier dish-scrubbing. 

Yes, I loved them. I loved how much more quickly I could tackle stuck-on food messes on my cookware and dishes, and I loved how wet and sudsy they stayed as I washed. They dried so much more quickly than my rags, and I could fit them neatly in my suctioned-on sponge holder that’s affixed to the interior back side of my sink. 

But knowing that sponges can in fact be the bacteria-laden microbe-spreaders I stayed away from for so long, I get squeamish once the week-or-so mark hits. So now that I’m back to being a sponge user, I make sure to replace them regularly. After 10 days, max.

Credit: Sarah Crowley

Get a Few Extra Uses Out of Your Trash-Bound Kitchen Sponges

I feel good about tossing sponges frequently as it relates to the hygiene of our kitchen space, but I don’t like feeling wasteful. The compromise: Rather than throwing a questionable sponge straight into the trash can, I get out my kitchen scissors, cut it in half, and put it to use for cleaning tasks in other areas of the house. 

My cut-in-half sponges can’t be mistaken by anybody for dishwashing sponges and I feel comfortable that they won’t continue to get used on dishes or in the kitchen. I don’t mind using older sponges for cleaning chores that don’t involve something we are eating directly off of. 

I place these designated sponges under the sink in the kitchen or in the bathrooms and use them for an extra week or so. For the same reasons that washing dishes with a sponge is easier (water and soap retention), certain cleaning jobs are simpler with a sponge. For instance, I do our nightly kitchen-sink scrub-down with the rough side of the sponge. Using the same scrubby side to clean the occasional dried toothpaste globs and other residue and grime from bathroom sinks is also more efficient than using a rag. 

When it comes time to clean glass shower doors, I’m especially happy to have a sponge. Once I spray my white vinegar on the doors, followed by Dawn Powerwash, and I let it sit, a sponge soaked in water helps rinse off the cleaning products quickly while the more abrasive portion allows me to address particularly stubborn soap scum. 

You may remember that, a few months ago, Kitchn said that the FIRST thing you should do with a new sponge is to … cut it in half. If you cut your sponges before you use them, you don’t need to cut them again — just make sure you have a system to keep the dirty ones out of dish-cleaning duty.

The main takeaway here? Most sponges are big enough to warrant being cut in half — either before you use them or after you use them — so that you can get even more use out of them.