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Are Your Kitchen Surfaces and Sponges Really Clean

Contributors: Esther Ellis, MS, RDN, LDN and Sarah Klemm, RDN, CD, LDN

Published: October 23, 2020

Reviewed: March 16, 2023

cleaning stove

You can find illness-causing germs all around your kitchen. So, it's important not only to wash your hands, but also to clean kitchen surfaces and sponges to reduce the spread of bacteria.

Kitchen Surfaces

Use hot soapy water to clean kitchen surfaces after preparing each food item. Wipe down your appliances, countertops, utensils and cutting boards. Keeping cutting boards and surfaces clean helps prevent cross-contamination that could cause food poisoning. To sanitize dishwasher-safe materials, use a high temperature setting and drying cycle.

For items that can't be run through the dishwasher, such as large cutting boards or appliances, sanitize with a mixture of 4 teaspoons of unscented liquid chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water.

Sponge and Dishtowel Safety

Dishcloths and sponges are the cleaning tools of choice for many Americans. Help keep them clean by following these dos and don'ts.


Do Don't

Clean Sponges Daily
Microwave damp sponges for one minute or put them in the dishwasher with a drying cycle to help reduce bacteria and other harmful microorganisms.



Don't Be a Scrooge
Many of us keep sponges until they look dirty or smell bad. Some of us even wait until sponges fall apart before throwing them out. And, a few of us keep using the same sponges for weeks or even months.

Be sure to throw out used, smelly sponges. And don't wait until they're falling apart to get a new one.


Start a New Cycle
Wash dishtowels and dishcloths frequently. Put them in the hot cycle of your washing machine and dry thoroughly on a high setting.


Don't Use Sponges to Wipe Up Meat Juices
Cleaning up spills with a sponge can increase your chances of spreading harmful foodborne pathogens.

Instead, use a paper towel or disinfectant wipes to clean up spills from ground beef or poultry.


Replace Frequently
Even after two or three uses, your sponge may be teeming with bacteria. Replace it regularly.

If your sponge starts to smell at any point — toss it out immediately.


Don't Use Sponges on Countertops
Sponges may contain millions of bacteria. And, it only takes a few to get you sick.

Using a paper towel or disinfectant wipe to clean countertops will help reduce the chances of spreading germs with your sponge.


Keep It Dry
Wring out your sponge completely after each use and wash off any loose food or debris.

Store it in a dry location. Letting your sponge lay wet on a countertop takes longer for it to dry and allows bacteria to grow.

Also, avoid leaving any damp sponges in an enclosed area such as a bucket or under the sink.

Don't Ignore Dishcloths
Be sure to launder dishcloths frequently as they can harbor enough harmful bacteria to make you sick.

Washing in hot water and drying them on high heat in the dryer is recommended. And, consider having separate dishcloths for different purposes (for example, hand-washing and dish drying). Different colored towels can help; for example, use blue for hands and green for the counter.


Download: Kitchen Sponge Safety Tip Sheet

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