The Way You Wash Your Dishes Might Make You Sick

If your life is absent of a dishwasher — condolences. But even if your kitchen has been blessed by one these wonderful, labor-saving pieces of technology it's almost impossible to completely avoid washing some dishes by hand.

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For that, most of us use our trusty sponge, but unfortunately, this simple tool may be one of the dirtiest things in your kitchen. When a sponge is used to wipe off excess pasta sauce, scrambled egg grime, or a chicken-coated cutting board, it absorbs and preserves any bacteria present on the dishes. When cleaning a surface used to prepare raw meat, the sponge potentially picks up dangerous strains of bacteria like salmonella, which thrives in damp, moist crevices. Another notorious bacterium — Escherichia coli (more commonly known as E. coli) — is more prevalent in household sinks than on toilet seats, according to a University of Arizona study. Washing dishes by hand can therefore increase the risk of spreading or contracting these germs.

Since your sink and sponge house a multitude of microorganisms, it's important to learn the best dish-washing practices. The United States Department of Agriculture tested four different methods and found that either microwaving a sponge for one minute or running it through the dishwasher killed 99.999 percent of bacteria. To thoroughly clean a sink, every night after doing dishes, spray some distilled vinegar around the sink and scrub vigorously with a baking soda-topped brush.