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Dirty Sponges!

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 

I recently bought some new sponges made of recycled walnut shells (which I thought was pretty cool!) BUT i was also reading Organic housekeeping and they have a section in their about how unsanitary sponges are because of the amount of bacteria built up in them. They suggested rags as an alternative but I don't see myself washing dishes with rags...


thoughts anyone?


(I use the dishwasher the most often but sponges are needed as well!)

post #2 of 12

In terms of cleanliness of sponges in general...I think my housemates had the same sponge for months and months before I moved in.  The squishy side of it was kind of grey...yeah, a little gross...


I'd never thought about using rags before.  That would definitely encourage you to throw them in the washing machine I think.  Another option if you do like the sponge might be compostable sponges.  My mom was gifted some Twist sponges.  She got the ones made from loofah.  But I think their Naked Sponge #55 is compostable (of course they note you should use biodegradable soap if you're going to compost). 


At least maybe that way you can divert some of the waste from the landfill when your sponges need to be replaced.


Anyone else have ideas?

post #3 of 12
Thread Starter 

In Organic Housekeeping it says that dishwashing sponges doesn't clean them because the temperature inside isn't high enough. To clean them you must microwave on high power for 30-90 seconds based on your microwave's power and sponge size... only downside to that, is if the sponge is dry it may ignite the microwave :-/

post #4 of 12

We use dishclothes for handwashing dishes- they are the size of wash clothes, and work really well.  When there is something really stuck on a plate, I use steel wool (or the nylon version of steel wool) as that seems less able to breed bacteria, and when I used to have a dishwasher, I would occasionally push it over one of the spears on the top rack.


I've heard that before about microwaving sponges- as you alluded to, make them damp first! :)

post #5 of 12

why not just soak it in bleach or vinegar on occasion?

post #6 of 12
Thread Starter 

Well bleach for the obvious reasons (toxicity, etc.) and vinegar.. hmm.. im not sure if it would kill all the bacteria? (The method's not mentioned in the book)

post #7 of 12

vinegar may not kill all the bacteria, though maybe you could get a more concentrated vinegar, I dunno if they sell/make that or not. AFAIK vinegar is generally 5% acetic acid, I'd assume a 10% or higher concentration would be more effective at killing things.


Toxicity is a BS argument for bleach, IMO. All cleaners have to be toxic that's how they kill things. That's why washing stuff with luke warm water isn't effective, it's not toxic.  There are other, better reasons to not like bleach I'm sure. ;)


You could always boil your sponge.

post #8 of 12

in response to the last couple posts you are totally right about the toxicity of bleach being BS, and the enviromental impact of bleach is not as large as one would think because it breaks down to salt and oxygen/water entirely. Household bleach, used to whiten fabrics or remove mold from surfaces, is a 5% solution of a stabilized form of chlorine. Most of the chlorine that enters lakes, streams, or soil evaporates into the air or combines with other chemicals into more stable compounds. However do note that Chlorine-containing chemicals that seep through soil down into groundwater can remain unchanged for many years. 


The main reason to steer clear of bleach is the health impact. Especailly if you have any history of breathing problems or if those in your home do, because bleach vapors are especially caustic to the lungs. You should especially not mix bleach and vinegar, or bleach and any acid/amonia as it will release very dangerous chemcials in vapor form, again, to be especially avoided by those with any breathing problems.


here's a list of health concerns and reactions


Short-term, high-level exposures:

  • Immediately or shortly after exposure to 30 ppm or more of chlorine gas, a person may have chest pain, vomiting, coughing, difficulty breathing, or excess fluid in their lungs. Exposure to 430 ppm in air for 30 minutes will cause death.
  • The health effects of breathing air that has less than 30 ppm of chlorine are the same as listed below for inhaling liquid bleach vapors.
  • Liquid chlorine bleach and its vapors (at levels of 3-6 ppm in air) are irritating to eyes. At levels of 15 ppm in air people experience nose and throat irritation. Touching liquid chlorine bleach can cause skin irritation. Drinking levels over 4 ppm can cause throat and stomach irritation, nausea and vomiting.

Long-term, low-level exposure (e.g. several years of exposure to chlorine):

Organ Systems: The main effects of exposure to chlorine gas include diseases of the lung and tooth corrosion. People with previous lung disease, smokers, and those with breathing problems are more sensitive to chlorine.

Cancer: There is no information currently available about whether chlorine causes cancer.

Reproductive Effects: No reproductive effects from chlorine exposure have been reported.

In general, chemicals affect the same organ systems in all people who are exposed.

A person's reaction depends on several things, including individual health, heredity, previous exposure to chemicals including medicines, and personal habits such as smoking or drinking.

It is also important to consider the length of exposure to the chemical; the amount of chemical exposure; and whether the chemical was inhaled, touched, or eaten. People with preexisting lung or heart disease may be particularly sensitive to the effects of chlorine.

post #9 of 12

 How might one define high or low level exposure to bleach?  I.e., where does breathing in vapors while you're cleaning fall on that scale?  I guess I also wonder about exposure to bleach during cleaning versus, say, swimming in a chlorinated pool where it's all over your body....

post #10 of 12

chlorine exposure is defined similarly to other chemicals/ingredients by using the ppm measurement. Parts Per Million.


30ppm or more is considered high exposure. You are usually going to find this in certain accidents, like pool and factory accidents, this is this very very strong exposure.


More then likely you will experience low level exposure, normally around 3-6 ppm (so this definitly falls into low level exposure) and pools should be between .2-4 ppm. I'm really not sure of what sort of difference being submerged in the liquid makes to your ppm threshold and the effects, but I assume it's probably a negative one, however I would need to look more in depth to access that. sorry ;-)


I know if you are an asthmatic (like my son and I) even the low levels of cleaning with bleach can cause serious issues with your lungs, headaches and eyes burning. I can not function to use bleach to clean. even diluted I can't handle being around it, I can't breathe, my eyes burn so bad I can't keep them open and I feel like i'm choking ever breath I take. that was enough to tell me, personally that it wasn't something I needed in my home. I have heard others with lung issues talk about similar reactions.



Originally Posted by Lola:

 How might one define high or low level exposure to bleach?  I.e., where does breathing in vapors while you're cleaning fall on that scale?  I guess I also wonder about exposure to bleach during cleaning versus, say, swimming in a chlorinated pool where it's all over your body....


Edited by kaymmiv - Fri, 25 Jul 2008 03:41:07 UTC
post #11 of 12
My sponge process- After using the sponge I throw it in the dishwasher with the dishes. Then, I soak it in Sol-U-Mel and zap it in the microwave for 1+ minutes (the sponge needs to be very wet for this- you want to boil the water in the sponge- killing most of the bacteria), then when it's not too hot to handle I wring it out as much as possible and let it dry completely. Letting your sponges dry completely is the key. I have three sponges- each a different color so I know who's who. NOTE- Microwaving is for cellulose sponges ONLY- not natural. The natural sponges may catch on fire. When it's ready to retire it becomes a bathroom sponge, shoe polish, some times I put them in plant pots if I think they aren't too gross...
post #12 of 12
I had not seen this thread before. Thanks relmeka for starting it back up - and welcome to Green Options.

I use towels. It's hard to find a real eco-friendly sponge, and most come with excess packaging. I haven't bought a sponge in 8 years or so and we've survived. We use older cloths for washing any hand wash dishes and just toss them in the laundry on cold. Then we're never letting sponges sit around and we don't have to buy new unnecessary stuff with new packaging.
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