Posted on: January 15, 2009 Posted by: Nicole Harding Comments: 0

Many of us use sponges and rags to wash our dishes yet, over time, the stench that can arise will be unbearable. Listen to our our structured approaches for getting rid of your sour sponge smell so you can get your fresh smelling sponge back before you know it!

First you need know why your sponge smells nothing like the food you wash it with. The odours comes from the bacteria present in the sponge. They can come from all manners of origin, yet the food that you scrub away using your sponge becomes embedded in the tiny pores. This food looks incredibly appetizing to bacteria that chow down and digest it. You’d think this would help but, in actuality, these bacteria need to let out their own waste. This is where your stinky sour smelling sponge gets its stank.

Approximately 1mL of sponge water can house up to 1 million bacteria. If this thought grosses you out, then get rid of your sour sponge smell as soon as possible!

1. Buy a new sponge.

The easiest method to get rid of the smell is to outright throw out the sponge and buy a new sponge. They are thankfully cheap enough, so you should not shy away from this approach if you don’t feel like cleaning your sponge. Yet, you came here for methods to eliminate smell and not to hear the obvious, so read on for some further ideas!

2. Properly wash and maintain your sponge.

This is another obvious fix, yet proper daily maintenance will do wonders for the long life of your sponges. If you properly clean out your sponge, bacteria will have less food to live off of. So you can pull out food scraps to ensure they have no food to decompose upon, wring your sponge dry and store your sponge in a dry area, because bacteria need moisture to survive.

3. Clean your sponge in the dishwasher.

A word of caution before you investigate this method: Please ensure your sponge is dishwasher safe, meaning that it will not fall apart under high pressure and temperature and potentially lodge itself into the washer.

Once you have ensured your sponge is dishwasher safe, you can place it in your utensil area and start up your dishwasher as you would normally do. The scientific literature on the subject shows that this will remove upwards of 99.9998% of the bacteria. This is a very effective fix to your solution, yet there is a more thorough alternative as well.

4. Microwave your sponge.

Once again, express caution when proceeding. Some sponges contain metal wires and other materials you cannot place in a microwave. Please ensure your sponge is microwave safe before trying this method. Try reading the packaging to see if there are any helpful suggestions in this regard for you to know about.

First, properly soak your sponge in water and don’t let it dry. If it is not moist, the sponge could ignite and burn your microwave from the inside out. Place the moist sponge in the microwave and set the time to 2 minutes. This has been shown to kill more bacteria than the dishwasher method. Once the 2 minutes have elapsed, remove the sponge from the microwave with tongs since it will be exceedingly hot.

Place the sponge in a dry area to cool down and do not wring out the excess water as it will be even hotter than touching the sponge directly, and may cause burns. After the sponge has cooled, scrape away any residual food with a paper towel. The main issue with this is that your microwave may have a distinct smell afterwards.

5. Soak Sponge in Diluted Bleach Solution.

This method is less effective than dishwashing or microwaving, yet is the best alternative for individuals who don’t have a dishwasher or microwave.

Prepare a solution of bleach that is 10%. This can be accomplished by combining a higher stock concentration of bleach with water to diminish its high concentration. Place your sponge in this solution for 3 minutes. Following this, wring the sponge, rinse it out with water, and then place it in a dry container to dry. You can repeat this multiple times if necessary.

Research has shown that this method kills 37-87% of bacteria, so the results are fairly inconclusive. You will get rid of some of the sour sponge smell, at the very least!

6. Other soaking methods.

There are other methods that have worked for others yet have not been backed up by scientific research. Soaking your sponge in white vinegar has been shown to be effective in removing the smell if you soak for a few hours and then wring the excess water out.

Soaking your sponge overnight in bleach and soap has also been shown to be effective. This extends on the 3 minute bleach approach but may leave trace amounts of bleach and/or soap in your sponge due to the extended soak period, so keep this in mind when using this solution.

Soak your sponge in a Baking Soda solution made of two tablespoons combined with water. Do this for an hour to eliminate the smell.

Adding Lemon Juice to any of the aforementioned fixes adds a bit of a zest to the smell and may help eliminate the smell of the sponge while clouding the smell of bleach or baking soda.

7. Preventing the smell in the first place.

At the end of this ordeal, you may wish to eliminate the pressing need for a clean smelling sponge in the future. This can be managed with general prevention tactics.

Instead of cleaning up meat juices with your sponge, which can become trapped deep in the pores, use paper towels or a rag.

You can purchase germ-resistant sponges that have been advertised as means to minimize the amount of liveable area available for bacteria. Use several sponges to minimize the amount of food particles embedded into any one sponge.

Finally, never use a sponge on a cutting board due to the high prevalence of tiny food pieces that can clog up a sponge.

With these fixes and preventative tips in mind, you should hopefully have the means to avoid a home smelling of sour dough and rotting fish. These easy steps can be added to a normal routine without much concern so feel free to try them out and see what works best for you.

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