How to Kill and Prevent Mold or Mildew in Kitchen Sponges and Wash Cloths

How many times have you walked past your kitchen sink and caught a whiff of the unmistakable, musty smell of mildew. The culprit is almost always the kitchen wash cloth or sponge. Guess what the most unsanitary item in your home is. The toilet? No. . . it’s your kitchen sponge or wash cloth.

Think about it; all those holes, the moisture, the bits of food. The perfect real estate for microorganisms to thrive. And thrive they do, sometimes within hours. You need to know how to kill and prevent mold or mildew in kitchen sponges and wash cloths.

Is mold/mildew a dangerous health risk? It certainly can be. But let’s not get freaked out about it, let’s learn how to kill the stuff and prevent it from growing again.

Quick Wash Technique to Kill Mold and Mildew

Try washing them in a solution of dishwashing detergent and hot water. Let them dry between uses to prevent mold and bacteria from growing. You can also sanitize in 1 quart of water mixed with 3 tablespoons of household bleach. Soak for five minutes, squeeze excess water out, and let air-dry. Domestic maven Heloise  color-codes: one for dishwashing, another for wiping counters, and a third for heavy-duty cleanups. Throw out sponges after two to eight weeks, depending on use. White vinegar is also good, a 50% water/vinegar combo works, or you can do as I do and just pour it over full strength and rinse it out with a firm squeeze. The acid environment will inhibit mold growth. Diluted hydrogen peroxide also does the trick.

Use the Dishwasher

Place your sponge in the dishwasher and run it with a drying cycle. The multiple rinses and high temperature will take care of any troublesome mildew and bacteria.

Microwave the Suckers!

At Science Daily they advise putting a damp sponge in the microwave for one minute. Scientists found that microwaving sponges killed 99.99999 percent of bacteria present on them, while dishwashing killed 99.9998 percent of bacteria.

What Works Best?

As for yeasts and molds, the sponges treated in the microwave oven or dishwasher were found to harbor less than 1 percent (0.00001 percent). Between 6.7 and 63 percent of yeasts and molds survived on sponges soaked in bleach, lemon juice, deionized water or left untreated.

Thus microwave heating and dishwashing with a drying cycle proved to be the most effective methods for inactivating bacteria, yeasts and molds on sponges. These simple and convenient treatments can help ensure that contaminated sponges don’t spread foodborne pathogens around household kitchens of today’s busy families.

Prevent Mold or Mildew in Kitchen Sponges

You can’t completely prevent mold or mildew from growing in your kitchen sponge but here are a few suggestions to minimize mold:

  • Try a mesh sponge instead, the meshing allows for faster dry times, giving mold less time to grow.
  • By a sponge rack to suspend the sponge with every surface exposed allowing the sponge to dry quickly.
  • When you are done using a sponge squeeze out all of the soap. Soap slows the sponge from drying out which give mildew the chance to grow.
  • Crack open a kitchen window or run a fan when you are finished washing dishes. Increased ventilation will dry the sponge faster and discourage mold growth.
  • One note about replacing your sponge:  while anti-microbial sponges sound like a good idea, they are usually made with rather nasty chemicals that can harm as much as the lack of “microbials” can help.  Stick with what works.

Also see How to Get Rid of Mildew Smell and Kill Mold and Mildew Naturally Without Toxic Chemicals.