The sponge is possibly the grossest thing in your house. I say this as someone who regularly comes home from holding a train pole and immediately eats finger food (it's builds character!), but still the sponge disgusts me. It is, by nature, a festering cesspool of germs, a wet thing used to clean dirty things that you let fester in the open while also sucking up all the bacteria in the air. The smell of a dirty sponge is one of the worst household odours, one that lingers on your fingers and leads to me obsessively washing my hands after every single sponge contact. It's like cat urine or black mildew - it's the smell of bad housekeeping.
Studies say sponges are actually dirtier than toilets and that you should replace your sponge about every week, which surely none of you actually do. Keeping tabs on your sponge use is hard, especially when you have roommates and have no way of knowing just how much bacteria is having a germ rave below the bubbly surface.
Here's an easy way to keep track of how gross your sponge is, which I learned from my sponge-obsessed roommate: Get a Sharpie and write the designated use on the dry sponge (dishes, counters, pet food bowls, walls, sex swing or whatever). You can also write the date you first used the sponge on there - or, alternately, the sponge's "expiration date" - to remind yourself to replace it.
Writing on the sponge will remind you what each sponge is used for so you don't cross-contaminate your counters with food germs from your dishes, and keep you cognisant of just how long that thing has been in use. Like so:
Photo: Tim Donnelly
And, friend, heed my words: You are (likely) not in university any more, so the extremely short-lived charm of living in your own ramshackle trash pile has long since worn off. Sponges are not expensive, it is OK to splurge on sponges, and replace them as you see fit. There is no financial or moral value in using a sponge that reeks like rotten kale every time you enter the kitchen.
You can't really clean a sponge: A study released in August showed that microwaving or boiling sponges can reduce about 60 per cent of the bacteria, yes, but it won't clean them completely.
"Kitchen sponges not only act as reservoir of microorganisms," the study reads, "but also as disseminators over domestic surfaces, which can lead to cross-contamination of hands and food, which is considered a main cause of food-borne disease outbreaks."
So, be mindful of waste, but also be mindful of your own health and keeping your fingers from smelling like fetid sponge all day. Use that Sharpie to keep your sponges in order - you'll absorbing a new approach to keeping your home clean in no time.