Monday, May 26, 2014

How to De-stink and Disinfect Your Sponges

Okay, so I don't know about the rest of you, but I am all about living as "green" as possible.  Now I'm not perfect, not even close, but I do make a conscious effort to make as many "green" choices as I can.  One of these choices is I try to predominately use sponges in my household cleaning (and for when I use paper towels I used ones made from recycled products and I recycle them). Since I use sponges for the vast majority of my cleaning (including the bathrooms) I find that they can get stinky and grimy really quickly.  I know a lot of people would just automatically say "just throw them away" but that kind of defeats the purpose of the sponges.  If I were to throw out a sponge every time it gets grimy it would be almost the same as using paper towels.  From my research, I haven't found any specific recommendations or research on how long to keep a sponge, but I generally keep them until they start to fall apart.  However, sponges can get funky LONG before they fall apart.  You definitely don't want to use a funky sponge because that 'funk" is due to bacteria growing.  So in order to extend the life of my sponges I do a couple of things.  First, I make sure to rinse my sponges out with VERY hot water (as hot as I can stand) after each use. This helps kill any germs that are on the sponge, and making sure they are not wet helps cut down the chance of bacteria as well.  Second, I make sure to store them in a dry place in-between uses.  For my kitchen sponge I place it in a special sponge holder on the side away from the water. And for the bathroom sponges, I store them under the sink to keep them away from moisture.  Finally, I go through a disinfecting routine about every month.  This routine helps keep my sponges absorbent, fluffy, good smelling, and bacteria free; which allows me to use them for a lot longer then you normally would.  So here is my sponge de-stinking and disinfecting routine!

Here are my sponges before and after the disinfecting.  It's hard to tell with the iPhone picture, but before hand the sponges were very stiff, thin, and not very absorbent. The "before" sponges are wet, so you can see how thin they are.

What you need:
  • A medium/large Tupperware with lid, if your lid has a vent that's even better.
  • Distilled white vinegar (I prefer organic)
  • HOT water
  • Microwave
  • Stinky sponges

Step 1: Put the sponges in the Tupperware and fill it half way full with HOT water.

Step 2: Put the vinegar in the Tupperware, I free hand this part, but I would say its about a cup of vinegar.

Step 3:  Put on the lid (if you have a vent tab make sure it's open) and put the Tupperware with sponges in the microwave, and cook for 10 minutes.

DO NOT put damp or dry sponges in the microwave for this long by themselves, the MAY catch fire.  That is why I put them in the hot water and vinegar to keep the wet while they disinfect.

This part is the what really disinfects the sponges.  You put them in for so long so the water will boil (the closed lid helps facilitate this) the boiling water along with the vinegar will help to kill any bacteria and germs that are in you sponges which brings them back to life.  A second benefit to this, is if you have the vent open then the vinegar and water will evaporate and de-stick anything that's in your microwave so you an easily wipe them away with a paper towel (or your newly clean sponges).  I love being able to get two chores done at once!

Step 4: Once the timer goes off drain the Tupperware with the sponges still in it.  This is another time that the vent comes in handy, because you can drain the majority of the hot water with the lid closed and reduce your risk of getting burned.  *NOTE: The water is going to be extremely hot so be very careful.*

Step 5: Rinse your sponges in cold water.  I usually fill the Tupperware back up with cold water, put the lid back on and shake the container. Think of it as the agitation cycle of the washing machine.  The water will be fizzing (that's the vinegar).  I then drain the water and wring out the sponges (note, they may still be hot).  I do this a few times until the water no longer fizzes after I agitate. This way I know there is no more vinegar left (to prevent hardening of the sponges, or the vinegar smell).

Depending on how much vinegar you originally put in, you may have to do the rinse, agitate, wring cycle a few times before all the vinegar is washed out.

So that is how I rejuvenate my sponges.  Doing this every month or so, as needed, helps to extend the life of my sponges by a ridiculous amount.  Before I figured out this routine, I may have kept my sponges for a month or so.  Now I'm able to keep them for 4+ months!  This helps me really reduce my carbon footprint in the amount I put into the landfill, and it saves me money!  This is especially the case since I purchase sponges made from recycled material which are about $5 for a pack of 3.  But I have tried this on regular sponges and it works great for all sponges. Let me know what you guys use to extend the life of your sponges or other household items!

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