Clean Up, Clean Up, Everybody Everywhere
August 11, 2017 4:21 PM   Subscribe

 
Physician and infectious disease expert Judy Stone's response: "Germs On Your Kitchen Sponge? Get a Grip!":
Keep in mind, too, that we do not live in an otherwise sterile environment. We, and all our surroundings, are covered in bacteria. This is normal.

We also share germs with people all the time—while touching telephones or doorknobs, shaking hands, kissing, or having sex. Our toothbrushes sit around for months, breeding bacteria. Why worry so much about a sponge?

Want to put something dirty close to your face? Try your cell phone. In a study of 200 healthcare workers, 95% of their phones carried nasty nosocomial (hospital-acquired) bacteria—including MRSA and resistant Gram negative bacteria that can cause serious infections.
posted by grouse at 4:33 PM on August 11 [32 favorites]


Am I the only one who just uses a sponge to scrub crud off before using something else to do the cleaning? I let a sponge be a kitchen sponge for a month or two, and then it gets to be a bathroom sponge for another month or so, and then it gets tossed.

I bought a 12-pack of inexpensive kitchen towels at Costco to balance out my paper towel usage, though, because I was using tons of them to do everything from serving as napkins to cleaning countertops.
posted by Autumnheart at 4:34 PM on August 11 [8 favorites]


I wash my (Trader Joe's) sponges in the clothes washer and I pour boiling water on them now and then. They last for months and they never stink. I do pre-wash all dishes with a brush so the sponge rarely gets much food on it. Am I doing it wrong?
posted by Bee'sWing at 4:44 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I'm focusing on breeding super bacteria; after the critters have partied a while and made babies, I nuke the soggy host in the microwave till it's boiling hot. (Also serves the purpose of speading them around the interior of the nuke zone as they waft about on plumes of superheated steam.)
posted by mightshould at 4:56 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I heard licking them works?

just kidding.
posted by Catblack at 4:56 PM on August 11 [13 favorites]


Clean != sterile. For most of the situations that most people navigate in the day-to-day, sterile is way overkill. Your dishwasher doesn't sterilize your plates and silverware either, and I bet your cabinets where they get put away don't even get cleaned all that often. And yet we seem to do fine.

It's normal and OK for things to have microorganisms on them. You can't go through your whole life trying to maintain sterile technique, it's just not feasible.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 4:57 PM on August 11 [46 favorites]


I've been handwashing my dishes with a sponge for about 20 years and I've only died 6 or 7 times
posted by Automocar at 5:02 PM on August 11 [84 favorites]


I've never bought sponges because I just don't find them all that useful. I use a plastic scrubby to get the food out of dishes, then a dishrag to clean dishes. Cleaning rags and scrub brushes for household cleaning. Not that I do much of that.
posted by Miss Cellania at 5:14 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I use a plastic scrubby to get the food out of dishes

Next up: You would not believe what we found in plastic scrubbies!!
posted by Greg_Ace at 5:20 PM on August 11 [17 favorites]


The only sponges worth a damn are the ones with the scrubby material on one side. The sponge itself is just a reservoir for soap and water. Use the scrubby side 100% of the time, except for really delicate items.
posted by Anticipation Of A New Lover's Arrival, The at 5:21 PM on August 11 [8 favorites]


>Dr. Langsrud says that you should wash your sponge after each use,

....with another sponge, naturally. But for the love of all that's holy, don't accidentally wash the dishes with your sponge-washin' sponge instead of your dish-washin' sponge 'cause once you cross that line there's no goin' back.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 5:24 PM on August 11 [13 favorites]


I'm astonished how many people -- most otherwise very clean if not compulsively clean -- let their sponges sit wet and festering on the floor of their kitchen sinks. It's really not that hard to squeeze them out and put them next to the sink, and does wonder for their odor and non-ickiness.
posted by msalt at 5:29 PM on August 11 [18 favorites]


I have a Spongester, with good and evil sponges. I don't know that I can give up my weekly sponge microwaving habit!
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 5:32 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


If leaving food that should be refrigerated out on the counter overnight can make you sick if you eat it because of the bacteria that might grow on it, how can we be so sure the bacteria that grow on the residues of that same food left on plates that sit out overnight or in the sink and are then transferred to your sponge, where they have a chance to grow over periods of up to weeks, are incapable of causing harm?
posted by jamjam at 5:32 PM on August 11


How many bacteria can be retrieved from your sponge is irrelevant. The relevant question is how many bacteria can be retrieved from your clean, dry, put away dishes. If you wash your dishes with enough soap to emulsify the food debris, and rinse them thoroughly, and let them dry before you put them away, there won't be many bacteria on them because there won't be anything for the bacteria to live on, so they won't reproduce.
posted by Bruce H. at 5:37 PM on August 11 [15 favorites]


I am extremely obsessive about food safety, so I have been following this story very closely. For someone like me, this is a nail-biting thread, except obviously I don't bite my nails because that's unhygienic.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:39 PM on August 11 [9 favorites]


how can we be so sure the bacteria that grow on the residues of that same food left on plates that sit out overnight or in the sink and are then transferred to your sponge, where they have a chance to grow over periods of up to weeks, are incapable of causing harm?

Because I'm not in the habit of pouring hot soapy water over my Thai basil chicken, but I do that when washing the dish?
posted by Automocar at 5:39 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


If you're catching diseases from your sponge, STOP LICKING IT.
posted by Bruce H. at 5:40 PM on August 11 [6 favorites]


My trick for making sure my dishes are clean is to wash them with water so hot it hurts your hands, and to be sure you've inspected them thoroughly afterword to make sure you can trust that they're clean enough. Wash them again as needed, or until you feel like crying because you know you'll get sick again someday and there's nothing you can really do about it. Also don't leave them sitting in the sink overnight!
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 5:44 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


Time for my first favourite poem as a child. Ahem...

Strictly Germ-proof

The Antiseptic Baby and the Prophylactic Pup
Were playing in the garden when the Bunny gamboled up;
They looked upon the Creature with a loathing undisguised;—
It wasn't Disinfected and it wasn't Sterilized.

They said it was a Microbe and a Hotbed of Disease;
They steamed it in a vapor of a thousand-odd degrees;
They froze it in a freezer that was cold as Banished Hope
And washed it in permanganate with carbolated soap.

In sulphurated hydrogen they steeped its wiggly ears;
They trimmed its frisky whiskers with a pair of hard-boiled shears;
They donned their rubber mittens and they took it by the hand
And elected it a member of the Fumigated Band.

There's not a Micrococcus in the garden where they play;
They bathe in pure iodoform a dozen times a day;
And each imbibes his rations from a Hygienic Cup—
The Bunny and the Baby and the Prophylactic Pup.

—Arthur Guiterman
posted by droplet at 5:45 PM on August 11 [37 favorites]


I can't decide if you win at post titles or if I'm enraged because I'll be singing that for days now.
posted by epj at 5:51 PM on August 11 [6 favorites]


How many bacteria can be retrieved from your sponge is irrelevant. The relevant question is how many bacteria can be retrieved from your clean, dry, put away dishes. If you wash your dishes with enough soap to emulsify the food debris, and rinse them thoroughly, and let them dry before you put them away, there won't be many bacteria on them because there won't be anything for the bacteria to live on, so they won't reproduce.

That may be true, but it's not the claim of the article, which is that all these bacteria are "normal".

And anyway, even if a small number of bacteria that could cause trouble are on the plates, and I doubt a cultured swab would show them to be as clean as you think if washed with a very dirty sponge, and you have a problem which happens to diminish your stomach acid or are taking proton pump inhibitors, say, those bacteria will have as much as a day or so to multiply inside you under pretty ideal conditions and with only your oral bacteria to compete with.
posted by jamjam at 5:51 PM on August 11


Here is a 2016 study from a food safety journal:
During the cleaning of kitchen utensils, the prewashing and washing steps are usually carried out using sponges in order to remove food residues. In due course, some parts of the food residues could adhere to the sponges. Food remains, together with humidity retained in sponges, tender a positive environment for growth and survival of bacteria. Report shows that such heavily contaminated sponges could be the main vehicle that significantly contributes to the dissemination of potentially pathogenic bacteria in back of house setting [1]. Research on the significance of bacterial contamination of kitchen environments started 40 years ago. According to the early studies, uncooked material is the major cause of contaminants in kitchen although the area nearby the kitchen could contribute free-living bacteria. Accordingly, numerous studies revealed that sponges can be vital disseminators of pathogens and can transfer bacteria to surfaces and utensils, leading to cross-contamination of food [1, 2].
posted by jamjam at 6:00 PM on August 11


Dish mop or GTFO
posted by bondcliff at 6:03 PM on August 11


I've always thought that other people's home-cooked food smells funny and now I'm wondering if this has anything to do with it. I like to cook for visitors too, but I wouldn't know to ask politely if they tend to taste anything odd about stuff that I cook for them.
posted by polymodus at 6:25 PM on August 11


I have a pile of dish rags, use one per day and then they go in the laundry. I think I got this from a 19th century book of housekeeping.
posted by Botanizer at 6:28 PM on August 11 [9 favorites]


The sponge itself is just a reservoir for soap and water.

This is why I can't hang with dishcloths. It just feels like they lose their soapiness way too fast.

Maybe I should use those Japanese nylon body scrub towels for dishes, because they're like the most perfect cleaning tool ever invented for the shower.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:33 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


I just scrub everything clean with a fresh clean orphan's soul every day.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:36 PM on August 11 [14 favorites]


Anyone have a theory as to how people in the dark ages occasionally lived to be fifty or sixty?
posted by notreally at 6:47 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


They hadn't invented cleaning yet
posted by emjaybee at 6:54 PM on August 11 [10 favorites]


And to their surprise, sponges regularly cleaned in soapy water or the microwave actually harbored more of a bacteria called Moraxella osloensis. This bacteria is generally common and harmless, but it can cause infections in people with compromised immune systems.

I have a nasty scalp infection that keeps not going away, and I've been following the suggestion to throw away my kitchen sponges weekly since reading articles about this last week. (I mean, I've only thrown away one so far, but I bought like a 12 pack instead of the 2-pack I usually get, so I can keep throwing them away weekly.)
posted by 23skidoo at 6:59 PM on August 11


Big Sponge is real---I fight back with a vinegar soak in the microwave.
posted by Napoleonic Terrier at 7:06 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


For someone like me, this is a nail-biting thread, except obviously I don't bite my nails because that's unhygienic.

OMG haven't you heard?? Fingernail shards contain vital antibacterial components! You're probably gonna die soon.
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:30 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


On a less frivolous note, I read somewhere recently that microwaving a (thoroughly wet!!!!) sponge for 4 minutes instead of 2 minutes did a better job of killing microorganisms, and I have to say 4 minutes does a great job of making my sponge smell like nothing at all. But none of the links in the FPP mention how long sponges were cooked in their experiments....
posted by Greg_Ace at 7:40 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Today I learned people microwave their sponges...
posted by pravit at 7:53 PM on August 11 [11 favorites]


What, you eat them raw??
posted by Greg_Ace at 8:12 PM on August 11 [30 favorites]


Today I learned people microwave their sponges...

This is new to me as well. They are so cheap that it seems weird to go to any real effort to extend their lifespan. I buy the ones with blue scratchy stuff on one side in packages of 6 or 12 and get a new one out as soon as the old one is looking icky.

But thinking about it, it seems like one of those plastic scrunchy things (made of plastic wire, no sponge material) would hold less grossness and be easier to clean.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:14 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I used to hate the sour smell of an old sponge. (I'd boil it, and add clorox ... sometimes it worked.) Then I went vegan, and now my sponges never smell.
posted by anshuman at 8:16 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


jason_steakums, you're on the right track. I'll never go back to sponges after starting to use these incredibly fast-drying puppies that rarely get to the point of smelling sour, even during the hot, humid time of year when dishes left to air-dry are still wet in the morning.
posted by lakeroon at 8:25 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Then I went vegan, and now my sponges never smell.

Oh lord.

Just FYI, in case any of you ever run into me on the street, I am the dirtiest human being you will ever cross paths with. I wash my clothes only when they start smelling like wastewater, and I never, never, ever wash my hands. In fact, I wear rubber gloves in the shower.
posted by Literaryhero at 8:35 PM on August 11


This is why you never hear of bar sponges, (for cleaning at least,) it is bar towels, bleachable bar towels, so dish dowels, dish rags. One old lady, down in southern Utah, knits scrubbers from rolled net material. Those do some of the scrubbing work, but do not pick up water.
posted by Oyéah at 8:39 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I have discovered that bleach dissolves sponges.
posted by amtho at 8:41 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


Sometimes, when we were getting ready for school, Mom would decide you had jelly on your chin or something, and would wipe your face with the dishcloth. If that dishcloth was a little or a lot sour, that smell was with you all day long. I can't believe I reminded myself of that. It's so gross.

If you put a wet sponge in the microwave and nuke it for 2 minuted, the crud on the microwave will be all steamed and you can easily wipe it clean(ish).
posted by theora55 at 8:53 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


The snark:sincerity ratio in this thread is about perfect. '
posted by theora55 at 8:53 PM on August 11 [9 favorites]


it is bar towels, bleachable bar towels

you're so right. Definitely the best kitchen solution - picked this up working in restaurants and now it's about all we use. No paper towels, no dishrags, no sponges, just a stack of bar mops that you toss back into the wash, so you've always got a few clean ones at hand. More absorbent than anything, crazy durable, easily clean-able, able to scrub because of their thick nap, cheap and easy to find. Never going back.
posted by Miko at 8:57 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


I can't say I don't use sponges, because I do. They last about a week, then they need to go in the garbage.

Those of you that do use sponges--go to your kitchen, lift the sponge, and bury your nose deeply, and sniff hard.

If you can't or won't do this, it's time to toss in the sponge.
posted by BlueHorse at 9:00 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Oh, another trick I learned at camp: good sponges are whole. Once they're a little bit used, lop off a corner and they become wipe-down sponges for surfaces. Once they're tired, lop off another corner. 2-corner sponges are for bathroom cleaning only. If you care to extend this system, lop off the 3rd corner and keep that sponge wherever you keep the real "dirty jobs" stuff - trash can scrubbing, utility sink, etc.
posted by Miko at 9:01 PM on August 11 [18 favorites]


jason_steakums, you're on the right track. I'll never go back to sponges after starting to use these incredibly fast-drying puppies

You MONSTER!
posted by Abehammerb Lincoln at 9:08 PM on August 11 [14 favorites]


What would be interesting is why microwaving sponges doesn't kill everything. I imagine it's because bacteria can hide where the wave pattern doesn't hit them or where water has already been boiled away.

The solution, I intuit, is to immerse your sponge in water before microwaving to a boil. I don't see how this couldn't work.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 9:47 PM on August 11


A sponge moistened enough and microwaved enough so that it's so hot you can barely touch it and have to pick it up with a folded up paper towel to avoid hurting yourself.... is an excellent tool for cleaning your computer/TV screens. It's an awesome no-streak steam cleaner thingy.

My actual cleaning is inspired from birds taking dirt-baths and that the Star Trek episode "Mudd's Women" where the nice woman tells the dirty old dilithium miner to hang his pots out in the constant sand-storm to get them clean because they ain't got that much water to begin with, much less spare to waste washing dishes.

I also did grow up playing in dirt. Literally, my father bought a dump-truck full of dirt to fill in a low spot in the yard and then didn't after us kids started playing on it. And when my parents divorced... ha, there was a low spot in the new yard that was going to 'require' a dump-truck full of dirt. I've also been homeless for a couple of years of my life, sleeping in the dirt and under bridges and bushes and rarely having the benefit of sanitation... which might explain a bit.

My current theory goes like.... if you can't get it off the plate with really hot water and some scrubbing and a hot rinse, it's not going to come off in your food either, and nothing much dangerous can live on a dry slab of porcelain.

I still do use a bit of soap here and there and rotate out my sponge once in a while (where it gets slathered in Bar Keepers Friend and used for cleaning non-dishes. I'm not still a total barbarian.
posted by zengargoyle at 10:00 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


I have never used sponges, just dish scrubbers and towels. Sponges are nasty. Also non recyclable, yes? Use towels yall.
posted by emjaybee at 11:09 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


those bacteria will have as much as a day or so to multiply inside you under pretty ideal conditions and with only your oral bacteria to compete with.

In which case, I recommend getting an autoclave for your sterilization needs, and not exposing sterilized dishes except as needed. You should also subject all food products to autoclave temperatures, and minimize air contact when eating.

Note that canned/sealed food products such as Soylent make this procedure much simpler. You may wish to invest in face masks or a "bunny suit". In any case it helps if you invest in a clean, sterile environment with white surfaces.
posted by happyroach at 1:15 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


Those of you that do use sponges--go to your kitchen, lift the sponge, and bury your nose deeply, and sniff hard.

If you can't or won't do this, it's time to toss in the sponge.


Um... My sponge is 4 days old, used once, and I *still* wouldn't do that, so.... You're suggesting I move to single use sponges? Ok, but it sounds awful for the environment.
posted by greermahoney at 1:44 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


I'm just ... not fussed about this.

You're covered in microorganisms, too, and I'll hug you anyway.
posted by kyrademon at 4:03 AM on August 12 [8 favorites]


Haven't thought about this song for years.
posted by JanetLand at 5:24 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


I shared this video of microwaving a bar of soap with my wife and she said "We do have bars of soap". Which means a) she is willing to go along with this and b) she thinks I don't know about the soap.
posted by srboisvert at 6:30 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


happyroach: Note that canned/sealed food products such as Soylent make this procedure much simpler. You may wish to invest in face masks or a "bunny suit".

No mention of 0.003 micron medical lab air filters and maintaining positive pressure? Lame. You're gonna die.
posted by clawsoon at 6:57 AM on August 12


I always give my sponge the sniff test before deciding to replace it. But also, aside from physically displacing grime and food residue, the sponge just delivers soap and water. When you rinse the soap off, you probably rinse off most of whatever the sponge left behind, bacteria-wise.

These germophobic panic articles are worse for your health than sucking on an old sponge.
posted by grumpybear69 at 7:54 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


I agree. They're part of the fear complex that underlies a lot of public manipulation.
posted by Miko at 8:14 AM on August 12 [4 favorites]


Well, here is the other thing in the gross equation. If you cook your relatively fresh, or canned food, eat it, then rinse/wash the dishes so soon after that nothing has even dried on the plates, then there is not a lot for the bacterial culture of rot, to work with. If you eat mostly vegetables and grains, then the culture of rot in those foodstuffs, isn't the stuff that will make humans seriously ill. It is the cultures that break down proteins that will make humans seriously ill. If you water is clean, if you wash your hands and carefully separate toileting functions from cooking and cleaning functions, then you have a lot of what we treasure in our comfy dwellings.

However all these rules go by the wayside with small children, they have to be made to wash hands before eating, and keep their fingers out of their mouths and noses, in between.

All bets are off when there is no food, no food safety, no sanitation, no sewer, no social order so, the talk about the dirty sponges is a problem that a lot of people would like to have. In fact, when you look at the human population of the world, this is a problem that most people would like to have.
posted by Oyéah at 9:36 AM on August 12 [1 favorite]


My current sponge is at least a year old, judging by the state of wear, possibly two years. I smelled it this morning, about four hours since I used it last. Still slightly damp. Smelled fine. Maybe a hint of dishsoap. No hint of decay or corruption.
posted by Bruce H. at 9:41 AM on August 12


were you all aware that there was a children's television show produced by Disney in the early 00s covering the themes of this exact post and also including a nod to vegetarianism and the politics of the underdog

see: http://recess.wikia.com/wiki/Germ_Warfare

"With nearly all the students joining Gus' campaign, Mikey decides to speak out for germs, but is jeered at by the students. Soon enough, they are cleaning up the playground and donning masks and surgical gloves, and a couple of tanker trucks arrive to disinfect the area of germs. Mikey decides to protest by holding up degermification, and refuses to budge. This only leads to a furious tussle between the two, which results in Mikey dropping his slide and breaking it. Believing that Gus killed the germs, Mikey becomes furious with him and the two start a big fight, which continues for some time until Gretchen arrives, having recovered from her cold.

Gretchen rekindles Gus and Mikey's friendship by saying that germs are neither good nor bad and they are just a part of life. Gus and Mikey both make up for earlier, and Gus happily re-opens the playground."
posted by runt at 10:07 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


Sponges are super gross and wasteful. You should honestly just stop buying them and using them unless you have a specific reason to need a sponge instead of a rag, brush or scrubber.

There's a reason why you don't see them in commercial kitchens and dish pits, and why they're banned by every health department I've ever met.

And I'm so not a germaphobe. I eat plenty of dirt and I have an immune system like some kind of mutant. I eat things that would shock and outrage AskMetafilter.

But if really you want to practice evidence-based scientific food hygiene in a kitchen it's really easy, and this is what every food service worker with a food handling card is supposed to learn and do.

You use towels in buckets of a sanitizer solution. The easiest, cheapest way to do this is with bleach diluted with cold water in a bucket and a towel kept fully wet in the bucket. Most kitchens use a quaternary sanitizing solution system. This wet towel can be used for food prep surface cleanup and knife/tool wipedowns.

For manually washing dishes you use a triple sink system. Soap-scrub, hot water rinse, cold water bleach solution final rinse. I've seen dirty techno ravers and hippies practice this at group camp kitchens with little more than 5 gallon pails, dawn soap, a bottle of bleach and water.

Sure, you probably don't have a triple sink at home. Using sanitizer solution and rag or towl sounds like it might be overkill, but if we're talking about what actually works and isn't consumer BS designed to sell a lot of disposable plastic sponges, well, go with the bucket and rag and the science based food handling rules about temperature control, storage, holding times and cross contamination.

The actual science of cleaning and food safety as practiced in commercial kitchens and food processing is a lot different and more severe than what most people practice and know at home, and it goes a lot farther than not using the same cutting board and knife to prep a salad and raw chicken.

I have a lot more respect for kitchens now, especially if I can see them doing it right. It also kind of cracks me up when people get grossed out about something like, say, a sandwich station or counter wiped down with the solution and rag, like it's somehow more gross than their kitchen sponge at home. Man, that thing is soaking in bleach or quat. It'll kill basically everything smaller than a dustmite.
posted by loquacious at 10:08 AM on August 12 [7 favorites]


No mention of 0.003 micron medical lab air filters and maintaining positive pressure? Lame. You're gonna die.

Look, all I'm saying is a few simple procedures can seriously reduce the risk of contamination.
posted by happyroach at 12:14 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


That weird hippie practice (which Ive been told originated with 1970's era student coop movement, or something like it) of downgrading your too-gross dish sponge to a dedicated counter-wiping sponge, indicated by cutting off a corner of the grosser sponge, seems so obviously backwards. You rinse off of your dishes after you have sullied them with a sponge, but you don't often rinse your countertop. Why would anyone think that using a more - disgusting sponge on the surface that you are cleaning far less thoroughly is a good idea, given that sponges are made of renewable cellulose and cost something like $1?
posted by girl Mark at 1:23 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Deep fried sponge toast!
posted by clavdivs at 1:43 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


Deep fried sponge avocado toast!

FTFY
posted by Greg_Ace at 1:51 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


If you eat mostly vegetables and grains, then the culture of rot in those foodstuffs, isn't the stuff that will make humans seriously ill.

That's one of those things that seems intuitively true but, pound for pound, it isn't, because animal proteins are dense and serving sizes of them are smaller. Veggies carry the most foodborne illness.
posted by Miko at 1:53 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


The article suggests to me that laundry is the likely 'next'. How well does it actually work after a certain point in the life of clothing?
posted by not_that_epiphanius at 3:07 PM on August 12


Laundry is next if it's Sunday, because your days-of-the-week dishtowels remind you. Improved sanitation *plus* timeboxing your chores! Coming to Lifehacker soon!

(I always need two Washday towels, because one of them is in the wash on Washday.)
posted by clew at 5:41 PM on August 12


WTF are sponges even made of? I thought they were the carcass of sea-creatures, seems eco-friendly to me. Or they're some puffed-rice like cellulose compound. Why is tossing a sponge worse than scrubbing your dishes with a dead squirrel? The scrubby bit gives me enough pause to worry and re-use in other applications.

Anyways, I sniffed my sponge and smelled nothing, and counter sponges are soaked in bleach or some other cleaning solution thing that nothing survives, yet it evaporates or otherwise breaks down into harmless enough to be food-safe and sold as kitchen cleaner thing....
posted by zengargoyle at 10:16 PM on August 12


Honestly, I'm more worried about whatever it is they put in sponges to keep them soft and sellable on store shelves... that fresh sponge is creepy... it's been ages since I've seen dehydrated hard sponges on the shelves. Do you wash your sponge before you actually use it?
posted by zengargoyle at 10:21 PM on August 12 [1 favorite]


These researchers are clearly in the pocket of Big Sponge.
posted by runcibleshaw at 7:54 AM on August 13


... whatever it is they put in sponges to keep them soft ...

I'm pretty sure it's just water in a sealed bag. I buy sponges in 3-packs, and yes, they are soft at the store, but when I get them home and open the package to get a new one out, the two remaining are hard and dry after a few days.
posted by Bruce H. at 10:06 AM on August 13


I'm pretty sure it's just water in a sealed bag.
I don't buy that. The feel of an unused sponge is so different than the feel of a sponge that has been used and left to dry, or is just slightly moist. Old sponges left to dry are hard as a rock, I've never pulled an unused sponge out of the multi-pack that is nearly as hard as a dried out sponge. Maybe just a different brand or something.....
posted by zengargoyle at 9:37 PM on August 13


Maybe it's glycerin or something? Water soluble but evaporates really slowly.
posted by jason_steakums at 9:59 PM on August 13


I don't buy that.

Experiment: seal a sponge in a Ziploc with a teaspoon of water. I have a feeling the closed seal makes all the difference.
posted by Miko at 5:46 AM on August 14


can they not at least leave me this? boiling water is the cornerstone of my housekeeping
posted by thelonius at 5:50 AM on August 14


Maybe just a different brand ...

Seems likely. I just compared my ScotchBrite sponge (the same one I sniffed three days ago) with the last unused one left in the package. Didn't feel very different to me, except that the used one is only about half as thick.
posted by Bruce H. at 5:53 AM on August 15


We gave up on sponges years ago and switched to scrubbing cloths that don't hold water and get stinky, and dish cloths that get changed regularly. Sponges are disgusting.
posted by fimbulvetr at 8:25 AM on August 15


My Scotch-Brite experiment went thusly...
Open a fresh 3-pak, leave one in the bag and back into the drawer it goes.
Leave one just sitting on top of the microwave.
Rinse one out thoroughly with hot water and a bit of dish soap (as per normal usage), wring it out and leave it sitting on top of microwave with the 2nd sponge.

As of now, the sponge in the bag and the 2nd sponge left out in the open are pretty much identical. Still full size, soft to the touch, rebound when pressed, and leave a slightly slick oily-like feel on the fingers.

The one that was rinsed and left out, is much thinner, much harder, and isn't springy, it's sorta rough.

There's definitely something added to to them to keep them nice and sponge-like until you use them. I'd guess some propylene glycol or vegetable glycerine.
posted by zengargoyle at 9:33 PM on August 19 [1 favorite]


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