3 Simple Rules That Will Make Your Entire Kitchen Safer


Which do you think is dirtier: your toilet seat or your kitchen sponge? As much as I hate to say it, your kitchen sponge likely wins out—and by a shockingly large margin!

According to the Wall Street Journal, a grimy kitchen sponge can be 200,000 times dirtier than a toilet seat and host up to 10 million bacteria per square inch. (Yikes!) The thought of taking that germ-ridden sponge and using it to scrub my dishes is enough to turn my stomach!

Once I had processed this unsettling discovery, I was motivated to do some research on my own to learn how we can prevent this type of bacterial takeover on our sponges, brushes, and other dishwashing tools. I simplified my findings into three simple rules that I’ll be sharing with you here, in hopes that it makes it a little easier for you to keep your kitchen safe and sanitary!

3 Simple Rules To Keep Your Sponges Sanitary


1. Trust Your Nose

Regardless of whether you prefer sponges or brushes, any dishwashing tool can get grimy over time! If you’re not sure whether you should continue to use your sponge or brush, there’s an easy test to help you decide: just sniff it!


If it smells slightly sour, that suggests bacteria has already settled in. If it’s a sponge or dish brush, you may never be able to sanitize it completely, so it’s best to just replace them! Sour-smelling dish cloths, on the other hand, can be washed in warm water with bleach and then reused without worry.


2. Avoid Cross-Contamination

As much as I love a good multipurpose tool, I also know how important it is to avoid using the same sponge or cloth to wash dishes and clean countertops. Doing so can easily spread bacteria around your kitchen, and it’s especially dangerous when dealing with juices from chicken and other raw meat.

The best way to avoid harmful cross-contamination is to designate a separate sponge or cloth for each surface in your kitchen. You should also use disposable paper towels to wipe up messes made by raw meat.


3. Follow The 1-1-4 Rule

To keep your kitchen sponges sanitary and prevent them from developing that unpleasant sour smell, follow the easy-to-remember “1-1-4 Rule”: 

  • Dry your sponge completely at least once (1) per week to discourage bacterial growth. (If possible, set it out in the sun for a while for added antibacterial action!)
  • Sanitize your sponge at least once (1) per week using your dishwasher or microwave.
  • Replace your sponge every four (4) weeks. (This also applies to brushes too.)

Looking For A Better Dish Cleaning Tool?

  • If you’re ready to ditch your current sponge or dish brush, you’ve come to the right place! Here are a few of the most beloved products for cleaning and washing dishes, from sponges to scrubbers:
  • Scotch-Brite Non-Scratch Scrub Sponges – These sponges are consistently popular on Amazon because they work well, they’re durable, and they won’t scratch up your cookware.
  • Scrub Daddy – Scrub Daddy is made with a heat-sensitive material, making it easy to control how abrasive the scrubber is. Use it in cold water for maximum scrubbing power, or use it in warm water to make the scrubber softer and more pliable.
  • OXO Good Grips Dish Brush – This inexpensive dish brush is sturdy, durable, and has a good ergonomic design too. The front of the brush comes in handy for getting into corners and scraping baked-on messes.

For more highly rated cleaning products from Amazon for both the kitchen and beyond, check out my recommendations here.

What’s one way that you keep your kitchen safe and sanitary kitchen?

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Jill Nystul Photo

Jill Nystul (aka Jillee)

Jill Nystul is an accomplished writer and author who founded the blog One Good Thing by Jillee in 2011. With over 30 years of experience in homemaking, she has become a trusted resource for contemporary homemakers by offering practical solutions to everyday household challenges.I share creative homemaking and lifestyle solutions that make your life easier and more enjoyable!

About Jillee

Jill Nystul

Jill’s 30 years of homemaking experience, make her the trusted source for practical household solutions.

About Jillee


Homekeeping Tips

  • I used to use sponges but got away from using them. Instead I use a wash cloth, at the end of the day I replace it with a new one. Same with kitchen hand towels. This way I don’t forget and use them longer than I should.

  • Every evening after washing dishes I throw the wet sponge into the microwave for 45 seconds, and it is absent of bacteria and viruses. If it is dirty you could bleach it, but better yet, toss it into the trash and use a new sponge.

  • Now I don’t have to fight with my girlfriend about throwing out perfectly good wash cloths haha. No, but seriously, the third point you made was key. I bet 90 percent of people don’t even do 1/3. Simple crucial tips! Thanks a lot for this  

  • I use cotton dish clothes. I wash them with towels and a little bleach. I dry them on my clothesline or in the dryer. I like a sponge for cleaning the bathroom sink and tub. I let it dry and replace it often.

  • I make it a habit to put my sponges in my dishwasher every time I run a load which is once a day on average. That way I feel the sponges are at their cleanest.

    • I do the same, and the dish brushes too. All go in the dishwasher and only one stays out, to go in with others the next time. Been doing this for years, everything stays very clean and lasts a long time too. Throw out sponge every four weeks???? Not necessary.

    • I also use a clean dish cloth daily sometimes two in a day, depends on what I wiped up with it, and change my towels daily. I don’t like sponges, in the past I would put it in the dish washer, BUT they always have water standing in them when it cuts off and I just didn’t feel like they were clean. I wash my kitchen towels and dish clothes in a separate load by themselves in hot water with bleach.

  • I add dishwashing soap to hot water in the dishpan, with a splash of bleach to soak my sponges in for several minutes. Squeeze and rinse to dry. Keeps them in good shape and smelling sweet. My dish brush, I rinse and wash it when I run the dishwasher I only use it to scrape food so it gets washed with the rest of the items. Thank you for your good hints and your upbeat attitude! I start my morning you you and a good cup of coffee, Jillee!

  • Go to your local Trader Joe’s and get their amazing kitchen cloths. They are better than a sponge or regular cloth. They rinse easy, dry quickly and can be washed and used over and over and over.

    • I buy dish towels and dish cloths at the Dollar Tree in Pittsfield, MA, they are washable and last a surprisingly long time. The manager, Kerry, often works the register and is always helpful if you need help finding an item. If the item/s is/are unavailable, she will hold some for you when those items arrive in the store. She has no say as to what items are shipped to the store.
      I have bought wine glasses, cards, which are either a dollar a piece or two for a dollar, cleaning items, socks, pot holders, large ladles and other household items.

  • Thank you for all the wonderful advice, I’ve been enjoying it for years now! I have to agree with a few of the other environmentally inclined posts, and disagree with replacing brushes once a month, too. Can’t those be easily soaked in a bleach-water solution and be considered thoroughly cleaned? At $6 each monthly, that’s a significant expense for a single cleaning product, and more importantly, way too much plastic to be pitching that often. Having said all that, I’m with the folks using the washclothes – and blue scouring pad when needed.

    • I dry my dish brush between uses and soak it regularly in straight bleach. I’ve been using the same brush for over a year and have no qualms about it spreading germs.

  • I love this blog and read it frequently. I really love the sustainable nature of many of your articles. Today, though, I confess I’m a bit disappointed. I’m no eco-warrior, and I do agree that cleanliness is vital currently more than ever – HOWEVER we must do our bit to reduce single use plastic and landfill. I’d love to see this rewritten for people like myself who are conscious of the 17 trees required to make one tonne of paper towels and those who feel horrified by throwing away yet another sponge full of micro and nano plastics. We are choking our seas and killing our marine life with these seemingly innocuous hygiene recommendations. Sorry Jillee – I’ve never commented before but I’ve been a loyal reader. Now I felt duty bound to say something. Thanks for all your info though. You are an inspiration x

      • I do the same thing. I purchased enough white dish cloths for a whole week so that I can use a fresh one each day. I don’t even own a sponge!

      • I do the same and don’t own a sponge. I keep a small closed trash can in the kitchen. Each morning the dry rag and towel go in it.

    • I stopped using regular kitchen sponges many years ago and bluntly refuse microfiber cloths, which are made of plastic.

      I went to eco-friendly biodegradable/compostable Swedish sponges for dish use. If you haven’t heard of them, they’re a flatter, washcloth sized sponge that are marvelous! Each one lasts several months (they claim about as long as 5 rolls of paper towels) and can be washed in the dishwasher or clothes washer. They dry very quickly so there’s much less of a chance for mold or mildew to set in. Mine do last around 5 months of dish cleaning before being downgraded to regular household cleaning. Then they get several more months of use that way before being shredded and relegated to the compost pile.

      I do keep a roll of paper towels at my house for the very worst messes but the roll I’ve had has easily lasted over a year and I’m only halfway through it.

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