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Friday, October 30, 2009

What’s that? No bacteria in my sponge? Say it ain’t so.

Remember the great Sponge V. Dishrag debate of 2009? I have a follow up for all the sponge haters out there. Nate and Cate did aΒ  science project together last month. They went around the house with Q-Tips, swabbing all sorts of surfaces, and then growing bacteria in petri dishes. When they were collecting their “samples,” I had just finished doing the dishes and wiping down the counters with my sponge. We swabbed both sides of the sponge really well to include in the experiment.

Guess what? NOTHING grew in that petri dish. That’s right, Nate’s ear grew more junk than my sponge did. Okay, so this was not the most controlled experiment and we’re pretty sure that Nate’s ear sample was contaminated…but still. Just sayin’. No fungus, bacteria, virus, nothing grew in the sponge’s petri dish.

Let the furor begin! I know the dishrag folks won’t take this lying down. Even though the scientific evidence is indisputable…okay, maybe not indisputable, but whatever. And, for the record (a record that will make the more Type A personalities cringe), the sponge was 1-2 weeks old and I had not run it through the dishwasher or microwave at any point in time. Guess those poor sponges are getting a bad rap for no reason, eh?

(Note: I am not endorsing using sponges for weeks on end, especially if they smell or turn green. Yeah, that one might grow some bacteria. But so will your stinky, green dishrag.)


  1. 1

    How old was the spunge?

    My spunges stay pretty clean too but after a while they get a little stinky and need a bleach bath.

    I will say that the few times I have attempted to use a dishrag they have gotten nastier much faster.

  2. 2

    Sorry, I meant sponge, never eat and type and always spell check!

  3. 3
    Jane Maynard

    Hi Marie!

    I kept changing the post…I hit publish too soon! I just added that the sponge was about a week or two old.

    and thanks for the sponge support.

    and everyone…remember…I grew up in a dishrag family. I’m going against blood, here.

  4. 4

    I stick with my original comment in the first great debate–absolutely no question that sponges are the best! And the kind I buy are AWESOME. The brand is Estracell and I will never buy another kind. I change them weekly just to keep them more sanitary, but even when I forget and they go much longer, they never smell. Never. Makes me so very happy–and so does their price!

  5. 5

    I use sponges and I cut them in 1/2 so I get twice the amount.

  6. 6

    Personally I’ve gone back and forth and have been using dishcloths for years now. Notice I say “cloth” not “rag”. It makes me feel better and you get the stacks of cheap washcloths at Target in great colors for only a few dollars. I throw mine in the wash just about every day and get out a new one. So really, I don’t care what you use as long as it isn’t stinky!!!

  7. 7

    I hate dish rags!!! They stink after the first day of using them. I would much rather use a sponge any day over a dish rag (which my mother always used the dish rag). This evidence is good to know.

  8. 8

    Hilarious! That’s a great idea for a science project…
    I am with the previous comment: as long as you keep your rag OR sponge clean and fresh, you can use whichever you like and it won’t bother me. It just drives me crazy that some people don’t notice when they get smelly!!

  9. 9

    This post was too fun, Jane! I am a sponge girl myself and buy them in bulk at Costco so that I can feel fine about replacing them regularly. I’ll need to check out those Estracell sponges recommended by Linn, though. Oh, and I also microwave mine regularly and really feel pretty good about the whole thing.

  10. 10

    Okay, just a general comment about the science experiment. We did this exact same experiment way back in middle school. All of the other kids went running off with their q-tips to the floors and the bathrooms. I on the other hand swabbed the vents from the heating system in our classroom. Judging from the petri dishes, I would rather lick the school toilets and floors than breathe air from the heating system (should breathing ever become optional). No wonder kids are always so sick!

  11. 11
    Jane Maynard

    so funny, hebmily! and that is AWFUL! πŸ™‚ we did the same thing in high school…the soda cans out of the soda machine grew the most bacteria of anything in the school, even the boys bathroom! BLECH!!

    actually…interestingly…in nate and cate’s little experiment, the leaves and dirt in the garden grew the most stuff. who knows WHAT we’re actually growing and if it’s harmful, but still interesting!

  12. 12

    I must be type A. Although I swear my house is a disaster on most days. I only use my dishcloths and dishtowels once and then they go in the wash in hot water and a bit of soap and vinager. My mom has always been a sponge person and the smell of it always repulsed me. Whatever floats ya boat is what I say. I’m antisponge πŸ™‚

  13. 13

    I’m wondering whether your sponge still had anti-bacterial dish soap or another type of cleanser on its surface when the sample was taken?

  14. 14

    Evidence – schmevidence…. When Nate & Cate come out and do the same test on my dish rag/cloth you may start my move from dishrag believah to sponge believah! A little bleach bath works just as well for dishrags as sponges you know…

    By the way – I do use both but ‘prefer’ the good, old fashioned – tool of my pilgrim and pioneer ancestors, the dishrag!

    I hestiate to say this final comment but… exposure to a few germs and bacteria build strong bodies – I’m not advocating using ‘stinky’ sponges or dishrags but a few germs aren’t so bad.

  15. Too funny! Although I’m sure my sponge would grow something… thanks for the reminder to throw it out ;).

  16. 16

    The second part of the question is whether your sponge contains triclosan.

  17. 17

    I use both–no favorites here, but just from my biochem background, if your sponge/rag starts to smell it means something is growing. Bacteria and molds like to grow in damp environments, so which ever you use, wring them out well and let them dry between uses. And I would avoid using products with antibacterial drugs, like triclosan, since these can be easily absorbed into our bodies and have adverse affects, and can create “super bugs”-or bacteria with resistance to these chemicals. Bleach and the microwave kill the bugs in other ways that they can form resistance to.

  18. 18

    Sorry…I should have written …”Bleach and the microwave kill the bugs in other ways that they CAN’T form resistance to.”

  19. I gotta swap out my sponges. i’m really bad about it. so bad, that i can’t even admit it here!

  20. That’s actually really interesting because I’m a sponge HATER. Anything that smells mildew-y and full of bacteria is off my list.

  21. 21
    Jane Maynard

    I am so loving all your comments…and the fact that between my two sponge/dishrag posts we have a crazy amount of comments. cracks me up! πŸ™‚

  22. 22

    I wasn’t around during the debate earlier in the year… but that is very interesting. I actually use both! The rag is just for wiping tables & counters… it only lasts 2 days tops.

  23. 23

    I am a bit dismayed at the shoddy science practised by the good doctor.

  24. 24
    Jane Maynard

    the good doctor didn’t think I should write the post…but the results were just too fun. blame the good doctor’s wife for the shoddy science! πŸ™‚

  25. 25

    NO WAY! I still think sponges & disrags get very stinky after awhile. Still making scrubbies is my way to go. But I could be changed.

  26. 26

    I found this site because my sponges have started to smell after just a few days so I figured Google would give me some answers. After some research, I’ve found that sponges and dish cloths both will hold the same bacteria. Some nasty stuff too, like E. Coli. (Sorry, but I have to trust the more scientific studies.) My conclusion? A sponge should be either bleached or tossed after 3 days. A dish cloth should be washed after 3 days. Taking this into consideration I’ll go with the cloth (I’ve used sponges for 25 years) because cloths would be cheaper to use.

  27. 27
    Jane Maynard

    that’s true…cloths would be cheaper switching them out that often!

    you can also microwave your sponge or throw it in the dishwasher and that helps sanitize…so if you want to stick with sponges and prolong their life a bit, that would be a good way to go.

    glad you found the site! πŸ™‚

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