Your bacteria-ridden kitchen sponge could be threatening your family's health
Kitchen sponges are the biggest hosts of active bacteria in the household and can be home to more microbes than a toilet, new research has revealed.
The study found that kitchen sponges act as the ideal incubators for pathogenic bacteria including E. Coli, Salmonella, and Staphylococcus which can be the cause of a number of gastrointestinal infections. Klebsiella, a bacteria which can be responsible for pneumonia, and Proteus, which can cause urinary tract infections, were also found to be abundant on used kitchen sponges.
A well used kitchen sponge was found to host up to five trillion bacteria, according to the study which was carried out by researchers from Justus–Liebig–University Giessen, the German Research Center for Environmental Health and Furtwangen University.
Professor Markus Egert, a microbiologist at Furtwangen University in Germany, who led the study, said kitchen sponges can be a threat to health, particularly to those who are vulnerable, such as the elderly or children.
"Kitchen sponges are hotspots of microbial life, because they have a very large surface area, are usually wet and stored in a warm kitchen environment. Dirt and food residue provides nutrients for bacteria, too.
"A cubic centimetre of sponge tissue contains seven to eight times more bacteria than there are human beings living on the Earth.
"So instead of keeping your “dirty old friend” for too long, you should regularly replace it, in particular if you have ill or elderly people at home."
The research, published in the journal Scientific Reports, revealed that bacteria in kitchen sponges pose a greater threat to health as they are often used to clean large surface areas and cutlery, which have direct contact with food.
The German experiment involved the analysis of fourteen sponges sourced from households in Baden-Württemberg for the presence of pathogens. Seven new sponges, purchased in a supermarket, were also used as part of the research.
The study also found that placing sponges in the washing machine or dishwasher did little to kill bacteria, and neither did soaking the sponges in boiling water.
Instead, the researchers suggest tossing your sponge into the bin once a week and replacing it with a fresh one to keep the bacteria at bay.