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Fun with Science: Your Kitchen Sponge is filled with Bacteria

kitchen sponge
The kitchen sponge may well be the biggest culprit for harboring bacteria in one’s home. Although it’s true the world is full of bacteria, the sheer concentration of bacteria found in a commonly used kitchen sponge can be shocking. Based on a new study from a team of German researchers, their estimates show that a sugar-cube sized piece of the most bacteria-dense part of the sponge would have 54 billion bacterial cells. Feel free to scream, Germophobes.

“Despite common misconception, [past research has] demonstrated that kitchen environments host more microbes than toilets,” according to the authors of the paper, published recently in the journal Scientific Advances. “This was mainly due to the contribution of kitchen sponges, which were proven to represent the biggest reservoirs of active bacteria in the whole house.”

Of course it’s possible that human beings contribute to this bacterial siege. Given that people are in direct contact with sponges, let them sit out after use, and wipe them on assorted things, the researchers focused on the finer details. Not surprisingly, bacteria was discovered to be flourishing.

bacteria in sponge sample

FISH-CLSM analysis of bacteria in sponge sample

According to the authors, further study is needed to determine just how pathogenic the bacteria in kitchen sponges. They also mention the need for a controlled study on how sanitation affects the sponge’s microbiome. Plus they focused on local bacteria abundances instead of the whole sponge. In short, more research will need to be conducted as well as comparative studies from separate groups. Factor in that most bacteria in the study are relatively harmless to human beings and we all can breathe a concerted sigh of relief.

Still, the authors recommend replacing your kitchen sponge weekly. As a Dad with kids who specialize in creating dirty dishes, that’s a suggestion this borderline Germophobe can support wholeheartedly.

What do you think? Time to break out the hazmat suit?

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