Microwave Sponges

January 24, 2007

(PLEASE NOTE: To guard against the risk of fire, people who wish to sterilize their sponges at home must ensure the sponge is completely wet. Two minutes of microwaving is sufficient for most sterilization. Sponges should also have no metallic content. Last, people should be careful when removing the sponge from the microwave, as it will be hot.)

Sponges have become one of the top sources of bacteria problems in most American homes. Now, University of Florida engineers have discovered that after a few minutes in a household microwave, a sponge once ridden with germs will come out bacteria-free. Here’s UF engineer Gabriel Bitton:

Bitton: “A dishwasher will not remove completely the microbes, unless you use chlorine and chlorine smells. So I think the best way to do it is simply wet your sponge, don’t do it with a dry sponge, wet the sponge, and put it in the microwave for about two minutes and the sponge will be sterilized.”

Tests show the heat from the microwave renders bacteria like e-coli inactive in barely a minute. Experts say it’s an easy and cheap precaution to take.

Bitton: “One of the cheapest machines you have in your home is a microwave. It could be less than $100. So, anybody can afford a microwave, a cheap way to take care of contamination.”

In tests so far, the approach has proven completely effective.

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