Friday, July 25, 2008

favorite thing friday

There are very few things that really gross me out.

Actually, I just started thinking about that statement and it's not entirely true. My idea of fishing is to hold the rod. I need to have someone else put bait on the line - and then, have someone else take any fish off the line that I may have caught. Touching the bait - or a live fish - makes me queasy. And the time that I stepped barefoot on a snail when I was 18 years old, still to this very day, makes me nauseous. Almost 20 years later, I can still hear the crack and feel the slimy jagged ooze between my toes.

But almost more than either of those things, the one thing that really grosses me out is old sponges. Old stinky kitchen sponges.

A few years ago, I watched a show on Oprah about a woman who lived in absolute squalor. She never cleaned her bathroom, never cleaned her kitchen, never cleaned her house. She had the same sponge in her kitchen that was at least five years old that she used to wipe down her dishes and her counters.

A team of scientists - including mold and mildew experts - went in to this woman's house and collected samples from her rugs, bath mats, counter tops, and curtains. They bagged up her nasty old sponge and took it back to their lab for an evaluation. And although I remember feeling really grossed out with the state of this woman's living space, what I remember most from that show is that her kitchen sponge was loaded with E. coli and salmonella.

I can only imagine how bad it smelled.

Growing up, I remember my family would always throw sponges in the washing machine every few days to clean them. The average life of a sponge was at least a year. If not a decade or two. Even now my mother has sponges in circulation that I recognize from high school.  The sponges are clean, I'm sure of it, but I never did understand reusing something that I considered to be disposable. The quality of the sponge was degraded

So once I landed my first job and collected my first paycheck, one of the very first purchases I made was to buy NEW sponges for my apartment. Once every couple of weeks, I'd break out a new sponge and throw the old one away. It was and still is a great treat for me to open up a brand spanking new sponge.

Up until recently, I would use a sponge for washing dishes and wiping down counters. But when my mother noticed that some of her friends were using bar mops, she ran out to the store and bought me a pack.

Now, I use bar mops exclusively for wiping down and drying our counters, and I use sponges exclusively for washing dishes. At the end of the day, I toss my used bar mops in to the wash and pull out a clean one for the next day.

My sponges still go in to the trash after two weeks or when they get stinky, which ever comes first. But after reading this article, I have also started running our sponges under water and then, sticking them in the microwave for one minute to zap any bacteria.

Here's a link where you can purchase bar mops. I really like the William Sonoma brand. I also really like William Sonoma dish towels. In my opinion, they are the highest quality dish towels around. We've had ours for five years and counting. Come to think of it, I really like pretty much everything from this store.

Almost as much as I like clean bacteria-free counters.


  1. I love bar towels. I just recently started using them instead of sponges. We had been in San Francisco, and the sponges never really went gross. Pop them in the microwave and they were fine. Now we are in Dallas, and EEWww! No kidding after about 3 days the sponges smell so bad I don't even want to try the microwave trick. I've been using bar towels even for dishes (that and the little Teflon scraper that comes with stoneware).

  2. yes, thank you for acknowledging! sponges -yuck. it makes me feel a bit better that i'm not the only one.

    i try to pull a fresh one out each week or two tops. my pet peeve is when someone pulls out another nice new clean sponge for some unexplained reason and then i have two lurking in the sink getting grimey. they have a short shelf life.

    and we use bar towels for counters too.

    i still don't love those sponges. when i wipe the kids trays I imagine spreading e coli all overthem. i got to a point that i was using paper towels but that's not so eco friendly. i'm going to try that microwave trick.

  3. I am so with you on the sponge thing, just the thought of what could be on them makes me want to toss my cookies. My MIL just recently told me about the article on sponges that you posted about, now I'll go read it for myself! I will definitely be checking into the bar towels though, they sound heavenly! Hope ya'll are getting back into the swing of things!!! P.S. I'm pregnant!

  4. Dirty, smelly sponges are disgusting! Try putting them on the top rack of the dishwasher. That seems to to work as well.

  5. I do the microwave thing with our sponge also. I put dishsoap on it and rub it in, heavily dampen it with water, and toss it in the microwave for three minutes. Just make sure it is good and wet. Also, the steam from the sponge will then allow you to wipe down the inside of the micro so that is all clean too. BONUS!!


  6. I don't use sponges and never have. I just think they push the dirt around.

    All we use are microfibre dish cloths. I have a pile of them, and use about two or three a day. I have thick and thin ones. I use the scotch bright brand in the kitchen; they are thin and dry really fast.

    I am also a huge fan of magic erasers. My sink is always so shiny from them.

    Dutch tea towels are also awesome. I have a few that I've used for 15 years and the cotton has held up wonderfully! All of mine are from Holland--it helps have so many Dutch relatives.

  7. I do use bar towels, but I don't use sponges. I bought lots of packs of those cheap flannels / face washers / thing towels (whatever you call them in your part of the world) and I use a clean one each time I wash the dishes or wipe somthing up. We have a small hamper in the kitchen, and I toss them in after using them, and they get washed.

    Love it. Even reuising a sponge once was too much for me (I used to work in catering, and as part of my training, we had to grow bacteria from sponges, and from that day, I've never used a sponge again.)

    I also use dish brushes that I can wash, rinse and hange to dry.


  8. OMG did this post make me laugh. My mother is obsessively clean. I mean, she cleans her house from top to bottom every day. If someone comes in her house, even for 15 minutes, she vacuums and mops afterward.

    I am not as much of a housekeeper. Let's leave it at that.

    But the one thing we cannot agree on is that sponges are not for cleaning anything but dishes. My mom wipes down her counters with her sponge. She also washes it in the washing machine. WHYWHYWHY?!?!? Sponges are cheap! I too love to open a new pack of sponges (just did today in fact).

    She's sooooooooooo clean - she was seriously freaked out by that Oprah episode. But the sponges - UGH.

  9. I suppose you could never watch the episode of Fear Factor where they had to EAT LIVE CRAWLING snails, including the shell. Crunch, Crunch, squirt, squirt, slime, mush, EW!

    Oh, sorry. I hope that didn't make you vomit. Tee-hee.

  10. I have never used sponges much, but when I do I use the microwave trick. I also put my little plastic scrubbers in the dishwasher to keep them "fresh."

    I've left ya a little something on my blog. Hop on over to get a little pat on the back:)

  11. I'm loving your favorite things.

    I want to MOVE INTO Williams Sonoma.

    Awesome tip for sterilizing the sponge in a micro...I'm kinda anti-sponge myself, but this could change my mind!

    I stepped on a large frog with my bare foot in the dark once. I will never forget the croak he made and the slime-splat-squoosh feeling. Blech.

  12. I can't even handle using sponges for dishes. I don't understand why anyone needs sponges for anything. They just seem DISGUSTING!! I use dish cloths for everything and use a brand new one every day. Somehow in my mind, that's much cleaner.

  13. I have a confession to make...let's just say I am my mother's daughter.

    Anyway, when I go to visit my hubby during his travels...I often 'collect' face clothes from the hotel bathroom. Somehow they end up in my kitchen....after I bleach them in the wash ofcourse. They really are great! (I know it's bad - okay. Real, real bad)

    But now that I know about the bar towels I won't have to go to confession (as much). So Thanks!

    PS I thought I would feel better coming forward but now I'm stressed that the hotels will find out it's me; Geez. I feel even more guilt!! I really am a nice person but now I will be known as the annoymous hotel face cloth thief. (think I'll have some chocolate)

  14. I think you were well supplied with 3M sponges that are great. Let's hear it for 3M sponges--yeah!

  15. Mark and I opened a new pack of sponges in honor of you guys, tonight!

  16. Ditch the sponges! I only use a brush with a handle for dishes and wipe the counters with paper towels or (I'm embarrassed to say) cloth diapers that I used to use as burp cloths for my twins. I guess I should graduate bar towels. I toss the brush in the dishwasher every few days. Just say no to sponges.

  17. hmm, the idea of sponges at all grosses me out. i hate sponges...for dishes or in the bath/shower. blech. i don't own them. and don't get me started on those bath puff things that lots of women use...ewwww.

    i use jay cloths or brushes for dishes. jay cloths for wiping counters. sometimes i might laundry them, but more often it's toss and grab a new one.

  18. I also can not stand an old sponge. EWWWW! The IL's seems to have the same rag in their sink week after week. I refuse to get NEAR that thing.
    The bar towel idea is smart. I may look into that.
    Also, EW on that woman. I could not LIVE like that. Ever.

  19. I read often but rarely comment, but your sponge discussion brought me out of the woodwork. I, too, am HORRIFIED by old sponges! I actually just don't like sponges in general. I lived in a hippie co-op for a while, and we generally used a scouring brush that was then run through the dish sanitizer nightly to keep them clean (or just our hands- it still shocks me how much stuff my husband misses when he washes dishes because he won't run his hands over a plate before he puts it in the rack! Eeeew!).

    I also think that men just have a different sense of smell. Believe me, I LOVE the fact that my husband has taken on the chore of dish washing, but at the same time, my (#2 plastic) Nalgene bottles all smell like fruit 'cos he never really washes the daily smoothie out of them well enough. I pick them up, smell them, and put them back in the sink to be washed again. And he doesn't understand what the deal is until I force him to stick his nose down in the bottle and take a deep sniff. Then he sort of gets it.

    And, I also wanted to comment on the bar mop things- while I don't use bar mops specifically, I do occasionally buy the 12 for $2 washcloths from Target (they've got tons of seasonally appropriate colors- I have bar mops but end up using washcloths more often) and use those for most of the kitchen clean up. We have a bin that all kitchen towels go in after they're used, and then that bin gets thrown into the wash whenever we have a less than full load. They're cheap, reusable, and the perfect size for a quick clean-up.