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How to Clean Dishcloths & Sponges

It's important to keep your kitchen sponges clean, hygienic & free from germs and bacteria – find out how to clean dishcloths & sponges with this useful guide!


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how to make sure your cleaning tools are safe

Keeping your cleaning tools hygienic and safe is just as important as any cleaning task around the house – after all, a dish or a surface is only as clean as the cloth you wipe it with! Whether you use a microfibre cleaning cloth or a basic dish washing sponge, you need to wash and sanitise your cleaning materials regularly.

Never fear – this particular job is quick and easy with the right method. Here are some of the best ways to stop your cleaning equipment from becoming magnets for germs.

Dishcloths can be washed with a laundry detergent, like Breeze with ActivBleach. Just remember to read the fabric care label and the instructions on the product before washing.

How to Sanitise Your Cleaning Cloths

A cleaning cloth should be rinsed and hung or laid out flat after every use to avoid the warm, damp surface becoming a breeding ground for microbes. You should also regularly sanitise cleaning cloths using the washing machine:

  1. Pre-soak stained or really dirty cleaning cloths in a bucket containing a couple of capfuls of household bleach, e.g. Domex. If your cloths aren’t completely filthy, skip to step 2.

  2. Rinse the cloths thoroughly with water.

  3. Place them on a hot cycle in the washing machine.

  4. Hang to dry outside if you can. This method is suitable for microfibre cloths as well.

How to Sanitise Your Household Sponges

If your sponge smells bad, it’s not a good sign, and means there is an increased risk of bacteria growth. For the best results, you should clean your sponges a few times a week. There are three effective ways to do this:

  • Place your dish sponge in with a normal cycle on your dishwasher if you have one, as the hot temperatures will kill any germs.

  • Wash the sponge in the sink with some very hot water and anti-bacterial detergent, working it into the sponge with your hands and then rinsing. Follow with a soak in a very weak solution of bleach and water (a gallon hot water and a tablespoon of bleach) and leave to soak for an hour. Then rinse.

  • Place a wet sponge in the microwave and zap it on a high setting for two minutes. Make sure there are not any fragments of metal embedded in the sponge, and use caution with this method, as the sponge could burn if it’s not properly dampened. Also take care when removing the sponge, as it will be very hot. This is a popular solution, as it is quick and effective.

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General Tips for Looking After Cleaning Tools

  • If you’re waiting to wash a load of cleaning cloths, store them in a plastic container with a lid, so that they don’t cause the kitchen to smell.

  • Dishwashing brushes are generally considered the most hygienic option for cleaning dishes, as they are easier to rinse as you go, and dry off quite quickly. These should still be sanitised frequently by soaking in a weak bleach solution.

  • If you’re using a microfibre cloth, consider cleaning it after every use to get the best results.

  • The main thing to remember is to squeeze as much water as you can from all your cleaning tools and allow them space to dry properly – warmth and damp make a haven for bacteria.

Cloths or Sponges: Which are Safest?

Every person has his or her preference and opinion about which cleaning tools are best for certain household jobs. Some prefer dish sponges for washing up, while others always use cloths for wiping down kitchen counters.

In terms of cleanliness, there’s not really much difference between dishwashing sponges and dishcloths – they can both harbour germs if not cleaned regularly. So you know what to do, make sure you keep them as clean as possible!

Sanitising cloths and sponges is simple and quick once you know how, and an essential aspect of keeping a clean, hygienic home. With these tips, you should be able to tackle the task in minutes.

  • You can zap a wet sponge clean in no time using the microwave.

  • Use bleach to clean really dirty dish sponges or cloths.

  • Remember to squeeze out as much water as possible from your cleaning tools and allow them to dry properly.

Do you want to learn which household cleaning tasks cause the most stress?  Then read our Heated Household data analysis. 

Frequently asked questions on cleaning dishcloths and sponges

How are kitchen sponges made?

There are 3 main ingredients in the steps for how kitchen sponges are made. The first is cellulose fiber, which is developed from wood pulp. This is first soaked in chemicals to ensure the fibers are smooth and supple. The second ingredient is sodium sulphate, usually in crystal form. The third and final main ingredient is hemp fiber. The three ingredients are places into rotating drums to blend them together. Once fully combined, the mixture is placed into a mold and heated to remove the liquid. The final stage in sponge making is to repeatedly soak the block created by the heating process in bleach to remove impurities followed by water to rinse it. This process creates a pliable end product, which can be dried and cut to shape.

How do you store a dish sponge?

The steps for how to store a dish sponge are simple. You must ensure that it is placed in a basket or wire rack to have full air circulation. This will allow it to properly dry and prevent a build up of unwanted bacteria.

Is it possible to buy sponges that don't smell?

Sponges that don't smell do exist – you simply need to purchase ones which state they are formulated not to mildew and thus to be odor-free. However, with proper cleaning and storage, you can take steps to ensure that any sponge you use in your kitchen doesn't develop any smells.

How do you best use a sponge in cleaning?

Here are some simple tips and tricks for how to use a sponge in cleaning. Sponges are extremely porous, which makes them an ideal candidate for absorbing water and water-based cleaners. This means they can be used in a number of jobs around your home from soaking up liquid spillages, to scrubbing surfaces clean. When using a sponge in cleaning, make sure it is clean itself. Sponges can be cleaned by popping them in the microwave for 1 minute. Our final top tip is: if you are using a sponge for cleaning your dishes, use one side for scrubbing and the other for soaking up soapy water for the final clean.

Originally published