Sterilize wet sponges in the microwave

By HSC Staff Writer • Published: April 27th, 2007
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

Forget burnt popcorn and bubbled-over spaghetti sauce… now a little overtime in the microwave can be a good thing. University of Florida researchers have discovered that wet kitchen sponges are quickly and easily sterilized of bacteria and viruses by zapping them in the microwave. Just two minutes at full power is enough to kill ninety-nine percent of the germs on the sponge.

Sponges are a hitching post for potentially dangerous bugs because they are often used to clean kitchen surfaces touched by raw food. A damp sponge creates a welcome environment for harmful microbes to flourish. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports seventy-six million cases of food poisoning in America every year, resulting in nearly five-thousand deaths. The common kitchen harbors E. coli and salmonella, the leading agents in food-borne illness. With over ninety percent of the American population owning microwaves, this is an easy way to cut down on household bacterial contamination.

The radiation generated by the microwave excites water molecules in the sponge, drastically upping the temperature. The high heat knocks out the microbes.

Researchers suggest that you run sponges through the dishwasher to first remove large food particles, then sterilize them in the microwave for two minutes every other day.

There are just a few simple rules to follow when microwaving your kitchen sponges. First, make sure the sponge is completely wet. Second, make sure the sponge contains no metal. Lastly, be careful when removing the sponge from the microwave… it will be hot!