Jan. 24, 2007 — Your microwave may be a powerful weapon in protecting yourfamily against disease-causing germs.
A new study shows zapping sponges and plastic scrubbing pads in themicrowave can kill bacteria, such as E. coli, that can cause illness.
“Basically, what we find is that we could knock out most bacteria in twominutes,” says researcher Gabriel Bitton, professor of environmentalengineering at the University of Florida, in a news release. “People oftenput their sponges and scrubbers in the dishwasher, but if they really want todecontaminate them and not just clean them, they should use themicrowave.”
Researchers say disease-causing bacteria and germs from uncooked eggs, meat,and vegetables often work their way onto countertops and cleaning tools, andthe dampness of sponges, dish cloths, and scrubbers provide an ideal breedingground for the bugs.
Microwave Sterilizes Sponges
In the study, published in the Journal of Environmental Health,researchers evaluated the effects of zapping sponges and plastic scrubbing padsin the microwave on bacteria and viruses.
The sponges and scrubbing pads were soaked in wastewater containing adangerous mix of fecal bacteria, E. coli, and bacterial spores. Bacterialspores are more difficult to kill.
The results showed that two minutes in the microwave at full power killed orinactivated more than 99% of all the living germs and the bacterial spores inthe sponges and pads, including E. coli.
After an additional two minutes — a total of four — none of the bacterialspores survived.
Before you zap your sponges in the microwave, researchers offer thefollowing advice:
- Microwave only sponges or plastic scrubbers that do not contain steel orother metals.
- Make sure the sponge or scrubber is wet, not dry.
- Two minutes should be enough to kill most disease-causing germs.
- Be careful in removing the sponge from the microwave because it will be hotand should not be handled immediately after zapping.
Bitton recommends that people microwave their sponges according to how oftenthey cook, with every other day being a good rule of thumb.