Cleaning those nasty sponges

I had to repost this from the Hill Billy Housewife Blog. Head on over there for lots more great articles.

Even Our Cleaning Sponges Need Cleaning – Tidy Tuesday

Many of us have been trying to live a more frugal lifestyle, taking steps to eliminate wasteful things like using paper towels. Some of our frugal ways have actually brought up some subjects we may not have expected. Like germs.

We were used to wiping up a dirty counter top with a fresh paper towel, then throwing it away, along with the germs. Now, we have to stop and think as we reach for our sponges. I used to throw away bacteria… now what?

Yes, we’ve noticed that using sponges to clean our homes has raised an interesting question. It’s a funny thing that, even though we wouldn’t dream of using cloth rags over and over and over again without washing them, we continue to leave that old sponge sitting there for what seems like an eternity. For some inexplicable reason, a sponge gets thrown back where we keep it after we squeeze it out, but we don’t often give it any more attention than that.

What is the harm? Of course, it’s germs, bacteria, that nasty stuff that can transfer from place to place and eventually make us sick. Consider the fact that if you are using the same kitchen sponge to wipe meat juice off the counter that you are using to wipe off the baby’s high chair, you have a science experiment in the making – and not with a favorable conclusion.

You don’t have to discontinue using sponges, but how do you take care of them so they don’t harbor germs? Well, it’s not much different than you might imagine. Some good old vinegar and water, bleach and water, and soap and water will do the trick.

Here are a couple easy instructions for cleaning those hardworking sponges:

For your kitchen sponges – simply throw them in the dishwasher with your next cycle and they will be sparkling clean and disinfected. You can also fill a stainless steel or glass bowl with hot water, drop in just a tiny splash of bleach, and let the sponge soak in there for about 30 minutes. The same thing can be accomplished using hot soapy water and vinegar, just increase the amount of vinegar to about 1/2 the amount of water. Many people will take their washed sponges, rinse them under fresh water, wring the excess water out, and stick them in the microwave for about 1 to 2 minutes. Be sure to use a tongs to remove the sponge from the microwave. Let cool, and the sponge will smell fresh as new and be germ free, too.

For your bathroom sponges – you don’t want these sponges to go into the dishwasher for several reasons, one of which I’ll mention here; they will be somewhat embedded with hair. To wash and disinfect sponges used to scrub toilets, sinks, tubs, and showers, you want to wash them in your washing machine with other rags used for cleaning floors, windows, and even your car. I recommend washing them once without any detergent as they’ll have plenty of soapy residue that you’ll want to remove first. Just add a couple cups of white vinegar to the washing machine before the sponges and rags start the wash cycle. Let the machine go through the entire wash, rinse and spin cycle once. Then, for especially mistreated sponges, put them through the cycle again with a small amount of laundry detergent. When finished rinsing, let your sponges and rags dry outside. Don’t make the mistake of putting them away wet.

For your spa or body sponges – you don’t want to use any harsh cleaning methods. Avoid any bleach, laundry detergent, or dishwashing liquid or powder. A bucket filled with hot water and a little shampoo works well. Be sure to rinse thoroughly, then hang up where they will dry well. Don’t put them away wet. You can use a tiny amount of white vinegar in your rinse water to ensure that all the soup is rinsed out. However, be sure it’s just a drop or two of vinegar – not nearly as much as you would use for your kitchen sponges.

NEVER mix ammonia with bleach. This means several things – don’t use ammonia to clean sponges that have been used with any bleach product, and vice versa – don’t use bleach to clean sponges that have been used with any products that contain ammonia.

Furthermore, most common sense approaches would indicate that if you use a multitude of cleaning products, and some contain bleach and some contain ammonia, it’s best to wash your sponges, separately, in simple dish soap and water… just be sure your dish soap does not contain bleach or ammonia! This is not a complicated matter in homes that stick to one or two cleaners, but if your home has a closet full of different concoctions, you will need to heed these warnings.

If you keep your sponges clean, following these steps every couple times you use your sponges, you shouldn’t have to worry about spreading germs around from surface to surface. Of course, your sponges won’t last forever, so be sure to watch for signs of deterioration. When your sponges start to break down, it’s time to throw them out. You did the best you could for them, for as long as possible, so don’t feel bad. They served their purpose and you kept your home nice and tidy… and free of germs!

If this project gets you in the mood for more cleaning ideas, be sure to check out our Spring Cleaning Tips For Mom and get your whole house as sweet smelling and germ free as your sponges.

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