Throw Away Your Germy Kitchen Sponge

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Quick — what’s the germiest room in the house? Written for Time Health

You might be surprised to learn that it’s not the bathroom. Microscopic bugs and bacteria actually favor the kitchen, where you eat and prepare food. And the nexus of all that microbial activity could be sitting right next to the kitchen sink: on the sponge. If you’re washing dishes by hand, your cups, plates, and flatware may not be as clean as you think.

In a 2017 study published in Scientific Reports, German researchers did a germ-analysis of kitchen sponges with some startling results. There were 362 different kinds of bacteria lurking in the crevices of sponges they collected from ordinary homes, in astounding numbers — up to 45 billion per square centimeter. (That’s about the same amount found in the average human stool sample.) Considering the size of a typical dish sponge, that’s nearly 5.5 trillion microscopic bugs crawling around on the thing you use to “clean” your dishes.

That amount even surprised the researchers conducting the study. “It was one to two orders of magnitude more than we initially expected to find,” says Markus Egert, professor of microbiology and hygiene at Furtwangen University, who led the study. When Egert and his team visualized the bacteria under the microscope, the 3D impact was even more alarming. “No one had ever seen bacteria sitting inside a sponge,” he says. “One problem we have with bacteria and microbes is that we cannot see them. And if you don’t see them, you don’t believe they are there.”

Here are the nasty secrets of your kitchen sponge — and what you should use to wash your dishes instead.

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Why you shouldn’t use a sponge

The ideal way to sanitize dishes and cups is to run them through the dishwasher. Since a dishwasher cycles both hot water and hot heat during the drying phase, it’s an effective way to get your eating utensils clean. But it’s important to use the full energy cycle to get the best results. Energy savers use less energy and therefore generate less heat for sanitizing. (The heat is important to destroy the microbes.)

If you don’t use a dishwasher, you’re likely to choose a kitchen sponge. But sponges are ideal breeding grounds for bacteria, given the amount of food residue that can stick on and inside the porous surfaces, and the numerous moist havens that lure the bugs and provide fertile ground for them to breed. “The sponge never really dries. It’s the perfect environment for bacteria, you never totally rinse the food out of the sponge.”

The good news is that the bugs residing in these sponges aren’t generally the ones that can make you sick. Egert did not find the common bacteria that cause foodborne illnesses, such as salmonella, E. coli, and Campylobacter. Still, it’s possible that these disease-causing bugs were simply overwhelmed by the sheer number of other bugs;  if researchers look hard enough, they would find them in some sponges.

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The better way to hand wash your dishes

Use a plastic or silicone brush. Brushes tend to stay drier when they’re not used, and they don’t have as many deep crevices as sponges where water and bacteria can grow. “You can stand brushes up, or put them in a caddy where they are likely to dry out. The material is not as porous as a sponge is, and if something is stuck to the brush, you can see that and rinse it out.” They’re easy to clean; you should run them through the dishwasher once a week or so.

How to clean a sponge

If you insist on using a sponge, you should make peace with frequently cleaning it and throwing it out.

Simple soap and water won’t cut it. Sponges that were cleaned this way harbored more bacteria. These microbes were more likely to be the kind that are more resistant to detergents since they survived the cleaning, and they could potentially cause harm to human health. In other words, if you clean your sponge the wrong way, you’re selecting for the nastier bacteria. Improper cleaning may make the situation even worse. “Cleaning, especially by non-cleaning experts at home, usually does not clean all the bacteria inside because there is such a large amount of microbes. Some survive, and become more resistant; if you do this a couple of times, you might select for more pathogenic communities.” That’s why changing kitchen sponges weekly to avoid bacterial buildup.

Still, it is possible to clean sponges. House-cleaning experts advise that you sanitize dish sponges every few days in a variety of ways, from soaking it in a bleach solution to zapping it in the microwave or running it through the dishwasher.

Good Housekeeping compared these three methods and found that the bleach and water solution worked best in removing 99.9% of salmonella, E. coli and Pseudomonas bacteria they added to test sponges. They created a solution of 3 tablespoons of bleach to a quart of water and soaked the germy sponges for five minutes, then rinsed them out.

The next most effective method was microwaving. It didn’t kill as many E-coli as the bleach method but still destroyed enough to sanitize the sponges. It’s important to wet the sponge thoroughly before zapping, to prevent it from catching fire in the microwave. It’s important to thoroughly dry the sponge before using it to wash dishes again, since the dampness could attract more bacteria.

Throwing the sponge in the dishwasher was the least effective cleaning strategy of the three, although the machine wash did kill 99.8% of the bugs. If you opt for this method, make sure you don’t use the energy-saving option.

You can choose a sponge that isn’t made from paper or wood pulp, which is what’s used to make traditional cellulose sponges. Many are now made from plastics that are less porous and absorbent, and therefore less likely to retain the moisture that attracts bacteria. Plant-based foam sponges infused with a citrus cleaning solution keep bacteria at bay for about a month.

What to do with your dirty old sponge

If throwing out sponges frequently seems wasteful,  use them in other parts of the house where bacteria might not be so important, such as cleaning floors or gardening equipment. As long as the germy sponges aren’t being used on the dishes, glasses or flatware that you eat with every day, your sponge shouldn’t cause problems.

 

 

 

 

 

Throw Away Your Germy Kitchen Sponge

15 ‘Car Hacks’ Every Driver Should Know

This came as information on my email, and I thought it was worthwhile, even though it is not design or cooking or even fashion.  It may save you and your car.

While driver’s education may teach a person how to drive, it doesn’t teach everything a person needs to know about their car. Here are 15 ‘car hacks’ that all drivers need to know. These things could help you in the case of an accident or emergency situation!

1. Use A Plunger to Remove Small Dents


Those annoying small dents in the car can amount to thousands of dollars to fix up! But a simple hack that works for most small dents is to use a toilet plunger by placing it over the area of the dent and getting the air pressure tight and giving it a nice little tug. Works for small and medium-sized dents most of the time!

2. No Tickets? Get A Lower Auto Insurance Rate


You might think you’re already paying a low auto insurance rate, but recent research shows that only 5% of Americans over the age of 30 are paying less than $50 per month for car insurance. If you’re currently paying more than $50 per month, and have had no accidents or tickets in the past two years, you can probably secure a much lower car insurance rate. The best way to do that is to compare quotes from multiple insurers  let them compete for your business.

3. Know What Your Check Engine Light Means


While it may not always mean you’re going to destroy your car if you continue to drive it, in many cases, the check engine light does indicate a major problem. There’s a new device though that can actually save you thousands of dollars in car repairs. It’s called FIXD and plugs into cars manufactured after 1996. If your “check engine light” comes on it will tell you the exact reason why. This is great because it means that mechanics won’t be able to lie to you in the hopes of taking more of your hard earned money (you’d surprised how many do).

4. Change Your Air Filter Every 6 Months


If you want to help increase your fuel efficiency, make sure you change your air filter every six months or as recommended in your owner’s manual. A lot of people often neglect to do this, and they find that they just aren’t getting the fuel efficiency they were promised by their car manufacturer. This alone can save quite a few hundred dollars yearly.

5. Get A Roadside Emergency Flare

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Being stuck on a highway with a puncture or engine problem is most peoples ideas of a bad day. The Haylo Safety flare is something everyone should have with them. Offering the highest level of roadside safety for on-the-road situations and more, it can be used as a road flare and emergency beacon. It’s perfect for emergency use, camping/outdoors, road flares etc.
It’s easy to use: Just press the button and hold to turn on and cycle through the different lighting options. The super bright array can be seen up to 1 mile at night and can also provide additional protection during the day as well. The strong magnetic backing allows the Haylo to adhere to the hood of your vehicle.

6. Keep A Multi-tool In Your Car


For anyone who has ever been involved in a serious car accident, you know just how traumatic it can be. In the United States alone nearly 40,000 people per year are killed in car accidents. That’s why it’s imperative that every American have something like the ‘RoadSide Hero’ in their cars. It has 9-in-1 Multi-Function life-saving tools. It can function as a belt/rope cutter, glass breaker, hammer, compass, mounting magnet, strobe/emergency light, power bank and solar panel. This is the ultimate tool that should be in every vehicle.

7. Free Frozen Locks With Hand Sanitizer


Even if it’s only parked out front, getting from the front door to your car in the middle of a harsh winter can be pretty miserable. It’s worse if you get there only to find the door locks are frozen shut. Hand sanitizer is your key to getting inside. The alcohol works to thaw the ice, so you can hop in and get the heater turned on high.

8. Get a Portable Handheld Car Starter


We have all experienced that moment where you turn the key and nothing happens. Nothing can be more annoying, especially when you are in a rush! Using a portable car starter is far quicker than having to find someone else to help you get the car started and finding jump cables to make it happen.
This portable car starter is the next-generation of rechargeable 4-in-1 multi-function power banks. It is compact enough to store in a glove box or under a seat when not in use, ensuring that drivers anywhere have a power option to start their vehicle in a number of situations without the need to rely on towing services or the generosity of a jumpstart from a stranger.

9. Use Toothpaste To Clear Cloudy Headlights


After many miles on the road, your car’s headlights are going to get scuffed up and cloudy. It might not majorly affect their performance, but it certainly doesn’t look good. Smear a little bit of toothpaste on a clean rag and start scrubbing the headlights. It contains mild abrasives that can remove a thin layer from the headlight housing and fill in any tiny scratches. Toothpaste is an easy and convenient compound to get your headlights clear again.

10. Transform Night Driving By Using Night Sight Glasses

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Did you know that the vast majority of car accidents happen at night and right before dawn? A lot of that has to do with glare and the problems with vision many people experience.These Night Sight HD glasses promise to reduce night driving glare and eye strain and dramatically improve seeing at night during snow or rainy conditions. They let you see enhanced colors, are durable, lightweight and fully equipped with polarized lenses. Unlike clipons, they protect your eyes from all sides, and you just slide them over your existing pair, if you wear glasses.

11. Fill Window Damage With Nail Polish


Small stones and other road debris can leave chips and cracks in your car’s windows. Oftentimes a crack can grow, meaning you need to shell out for an expensive window replacement. Try filling in window damage with (clear) nail polish. Carefully apply a thin layer to the damaged area. When it dries, it will be almost completely invisible, and might even help prevent a crack from growing. The money you’ll save against a whole new window is worth it, but use this advice with caution.

12. Extend Your Car Warranty


While most manufacturers offer factory warranty coverage on new vehicles, they typically expire within 3 years or after 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.
Has your car’s auto warranty expired? Purchasing extended auto coverage offers the same peace of mind as a no-cost factory plan without the restrictions. That means if your car breaks down, malfunctions or requires a replacement component, you could enjoy huge savings on repair costs without the new car price tag. Make sure you shop around for rates on this.

13. Know When Your Oil Needs Changing


This is an obvious one that every car owner should know. While the rule of thumb used to be every three months or around 5,000 miles, that’s no longer true for all new cars. Read your manual to know when your vehicle’s oil change is due, we recommend setting the date on your calendar. If you’re not sure when you should change your oil, some signs to look for are if your oil looks black & gritty, your engine sounds louder than usual, or you notice the oil level drops. Some newer luxury models will also provide you with an alert when you need to change your oil.

14. Turn Your Smartphone Into A Heads Up Display

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If you never used a heads-up display before then that means you are bound to look down to your phone once in a while if it isn’t properly placed. This brilliant new device turns your smartphone into a heads-up display for your car. It’s called Huddy. All you have to do is take it out of the box and place it on your dash, place your smartphone on top of it and let it do all the navigating while you drive. It’s a transparent display that works in any weather, day or night. It fits any smartphone no matter the size, and it’s slip resistant. Best of all, there are tons of apps available that you can use to see traffic conditions, a speedometer, street maps & much more. You can use it in any car it has an ultra-grip mat that leaves no messy residue on the dash.

15. Park Your Car Facing East to Defrost Windscreen in the Morning.


Although it seems simple you can save some considerable time in the morning. If you live in a place where frost is a big problem on winter mornings and leave your car parked outside then this is for you.
Whenever you can make sure you park your car facing east. As the sun rises in the east you’re using the suns warmth to defrost the ice on your windscreen rather than having to stay outside in the cold and scrape it off. With this trick, you should able to use your windscreen wipers to do the not so heavy lifting for you. Who doesn’t want a little bit of added comfort on a cold winters morning?

 

15 ‘Car Hacks’ Every Driver Should Know