Household Tip O' the Day

From LiveScience:
Sponges and kitchen scrub brushes can be loaded with disease-causing viruses and bacteria.

So microwave them, scientists say.

Researchers soaked sponges and scrubbers in a disgusting brew of raw wastewater containing fecal bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites and bacterial spores, including Bacillus cereus spores—known for being very hard to kill with heat, chemicals and even radiation.

Zapping at full power for two minutes killed or inactivated 99 percent of living pathogens. It took 4 minutes to destroy the B. cereus spores.

“People often put their sponges and scrubbers in the dishwasher, but if they really want to decontaminate them and not just clean them, they should use the microwave," said Gabriel Bitton, a professor of environmental engineering at the University of Florida.

The study was announced today and was detailed in the December issue of the Journal of Environmental Health.

Other studies have shown that sponges and dishcloths are common carriers of pathogens from uncooked eggs, meat and other food. Damp objects help them thrive.

The researchers suggest wetting the objects—water being heated by the microwave seems to play a role in the sterilization—before zapping them every other day or so.

Guess what I'm going to do when I get home? I wonder if this goes for cutting boards and dishtowels as well? I'm certainly going to try it!


Ashley said...

Wow that's really interesting! I am glad to know that. I always mean to clean my sponges in the dishwasher, but I ALWAYS forget! Good to know I can stick them in the microwave.

mrs.burke said...

I would think the cutting board would be fine after the dishwasher- it doesn't have all those recesses and pores like a cloth, and dishwasher soap contains bleach.

Maybe this will remind Mr. Burke to throw used dishcloths into the washing machine. EEEEWW.

Joanna said...

I have a wood cutting board, and it's not supposed to be 'immersed in water', so I typically clean the surface well and let it dry vertically (to not trap moisture underneath it) and avoid the dishwasher.

I've read: "Wood cutting boards deal with bacteria in the opposite way that plastic boards do. Wood boards actually absorb the bacteria into the wood. After the surface of the wood has been cleaned and dried, the bacteria near the surface dies. It turns out the wood near the surface forms a hostile environment for bacteria to live in. There are lots of bacteria living in the cutting board, but about 1/8 in. below the surface. This is deep enough that a heavy handed chop into the wood is unlikely to release bacteria (unless the wood splits). If your cutting board fits in your microwave oven, heating up the board in the microwave for 30 sec. or so will completely cleanse the board of bacteria, inside and out."

That Cooking for Engineers article if fabulous in regards to knowing lots about the choosing and care of cutting boards, BTW.

Ashley said...

You know how some people get multiple blenders for their wedding? Well we got multiple cutting boards. :-) (I think we have 6!) However, all are either plastic or glass, so they should be okay. I'm assuming that plastic doesn't have the same absorbing capabilities as wood?

Joanna said...

According to the above-linked-to article, plastic boards have a non-porous surface, so bacteria aren't absorbed, but, after time, your knife will inevitably chew up the surface of the board, providing lots of bacteria-hiding-places. The dishwasher should get rid of most of the bacteria. Let the board dry propped up, rather than allowing moisture to be trapped underneath.

Jes said...

So before microwaves and dishwashers were invented what did ladies do to clean cutting boards? And if your cutting board doesn't fit in your microwave then what? Some of us unfortunate women live in houses where we have to wash our dishes in our sink...by hand!

mrs.burke said...

Bleach! It's been around forever. And a scrub brush..

Corey said...

Might want to give this article a read before trying this at home. :)


Joanna said...

I did see that in a few places, Corey, thanks... and when I tried this out last night, I did make sure to wet the sponge thoroughly. And, yes, after 2 minutes, the sponge is very hot and has generated a lot of steam. You have been warned.

I wasn't so bright though, and microwaved the sponges right BEFORE doing the dishes, and couldn't use them to do the dishes, because they were too hot to hold. Luckily, I had a back-up scrubber and only a couple pots to wash.


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