Germs can't stand the heat
Here's some good news for everyone who worries about germs: Zapping that soggy kitchen sponge in the microwave for a couple of minutes can pretty much sterilize it.
"Microwave irradiation is a cost-effective, practical, fast, easy, and safe method of disinfecting household ... items," according to a study published recently in the Journal of Environmental Health.
For the study, Gabriel Bitton of the University of Florida and his colleagues contaminated kitchen sponges and scrubbing pads with a variety of bugs including E. coli, viruses, protozoan parasites and bacterial spores. The researchers then zapped the objects in a standard household microwave oven for various times and tested them to see how long it took to kill different organisms.
While it took four to 10 minutes of microwaving to kill everything, most of the organisms were dead after just two, the researchers reported.
As many as 80 million Americans contract food-borne illnesses each year, and about 9,000 of them die. Kitchen contamination is common. Microbes on raw meat, poultry, fruits and vegetables can easily transfer to sinks, countertops, cutting boards and other objects. And wet sponges can be particularly prone to picking up pathogens.
The study shows that the microwave can be a simple, inexpensive and effective solution, the researchers said.
"Consumers ... can use microwave ovens to significantly reduce microbial pathogens in the home environment," they wrote.
Bitton added this advice:
Sponges should be fully soaked with water.
Metallic scrubbing pads should never be put in a microwave.
Soapy sponges can be microwaved, but not those containing detergents and other chemicals.