Washing dishes – are those dish cloths and sponges harboring bacteria?
A dish cloth or sponge with a musty smell could mean health problems for your family
March 28, 2012 - Author: Linda Huyck, Michigan State University Extension
Have you ever picked up your dish cloth or sponge and realized that it had an odd, musty smell? That smell may indicate that your dish cloth or sponge is harboring illness causing bacteria or mold spores. Many people just assume it is a normal smell. They do not realize that they might be putting their family’s health at risk because of using something that could be harboring dangerous microbes.
More and more people are using a dishwasher to clean their dishes so that they do not have to worry about cleanliness. But for those who do not have a dishwasher or do not want to use it, keeping dish cloths and sponges clean should be a top priority. Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. When done, throw away the towel. If you use cloth towels for cleaning surfaces, wash them often in the hot cycle of your washing machine.
Each time you use your dish cloth or sponge you should rinse it, wring it out thoroughly and let it dry completely. If you use a dish cloth, you should launder it regularly and often. If you use a sponge, replace it frequently and make sure you keep it clean in between replacements. A sponge can be cleaned by wetting it thoroughly and putting it in the microwave for two minutes. Make sure that you let the sponge cool before you remove it from a microwave because it will be very hot! Never microwave a dry sponge as it could catch fire. Another method for cleaning the sponge is to run it through a full cycle in the dishwasher.
Most people do not get sick from washing dishes with sponges or dish cloths that smell musty, but that does not mean that it cannot happen. Taking the time to make sure that sponges and dish cloths, as well as other dish items like bottle brushes are cleaned regularly and thoroughly are important steps toward keeping your family healthy. For more ideas about keeping your food safe and your family healthy go to Fight Bac.