4 Signs You Need to Replace Your Kitchen Sponge

As handy as they are, kitchen sponges have a short life. After only a few uses, they can become filled with bacteria and develop sour smells and stains

We’ll walk you through the best way to make your sponge last longer, and the top signs it’s time for a replacement.

Why Your Kitchen Sponge Gets So Dirty

4 Signs You Need to Replace Your Kitchen Sponge

Your kitchen sponge is capable of holding as much bacteria as a toilet. A study from Scientific Reports tested 14 used kitchen sponges, finding zillions of microbes in each. 

The reason kitchen sponges are so germ-ridden is because of their composition. Holes in sponges provide the perfect place for bacteria to form communities. Pair this with the job of sponges – wiping away food and messes – and the result is exponential bacteria growth.

How to Make a Kitchen Sponge Last Longer

According to the USDA, the top method for eliminating bacteria in a sponge is microwaving it or placing it in the dishwasher. Scientists from the ARS Food Technology and Safety laboratory report that both methods kill more than 99% of bacteria.

To kill bacteria in the microwave, remove any handles or hard pieces from the sponge. Then wet the sponge and microwave it for 60 seconds. Allow it to cool for a few seconds before removing it.

Note: If your sponge has any metal pieces or is stainless steel, don’t put it in the microwave.

You can also kill 99% of bacteria on your sponge by placing it in the dishwasher and running the dry cycle after cleaning.

Use one of these methods to sanitize your kitchen sponge at least every two days. Also, be aware that there’s some debate among scientists about whether these methods eliminate all strains of bacteria or only the weakest ones.

Other ways to make your sponge last longer include rinsing and wringing it out after every use and placing it in a spot with good ventilation so it can dry.

Top Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Kitchen Sponge

Overusing a kitchen sponge leads to the spread of bacteria – which is counterproductive. These are the top four signs it’s time for a replacement.

It’s Been Two Weeks

If your current sponge is older than two weeks, it’s time to toss it. Sponges provide prime conditions for bacteria; the older the sponge, the more likely the bacteria to build up.

Keep a pack of sponges in your kitchen and start a routine where you replace your sponge on the same day every week or two.

It Smells Bad

A sour-smelling cleaning sponge indicates germ or microbe build-up. If you’ve sanitized the sponge in the microwave or dishwasher and it still reeks, it’s time for a replacement. The smell indicates that germs are still present.

Your Sponge is Falling Apart

Washing dishes and scrubbing counters sometimes requires elbow grease. And sponges tend to fall apart when you exert force on them.

If your sponge has a rip or hole, it’s a clear sign it’s past its shelf life.

It Looks Dirty or Gross

If your dirty sponge shows signs of decay or stains, don’t use it to wash your dishes or food contact surfaces. You may be spreading germs rather than cleaning them.

Should You Use Kitchen Sponges?

If you want to err on the side of caution, use something other than a sponge for kitchen chores. Consider swapping out your sponge for dish rags that you can wash daily in hot water and put in the dryer. You can also use synthetic dish scrub brushes which are less likely to harbor bacteria.