Is it safe to use a kitchen sponge during the outbreak?

As the coronavirus spreads, people are trying to safeguard against getting sick themselves. Though reusable sponges are something of a kitchen culprit as a breeding ground for up to 82 million bacteria even when there's no global pandemic going on, you'll want to be even more cautious these days.

According to Healthline, the coronavirus spreads when an infected person coughs or sneezes and the vapor or water droplets come in contact with another person. This is why it is important to wash your hands often and clean frequently-used surfaces on a regular basis. When we use things like sponges to clean kitchen counters or the handles to the refrigerator, however, the germs we clean from the surface can remain inside the sponge itself. 

So, as it turns out, it's important to clean these items well too to prevent the spread of germs (via Today). You can always use disinfectant wipes instead of your trusty kitchen sponge, but if those go out of stock or you can't get any because of a grocery store ration, soap and paper towels are an option too.

How to safely disinfect kitchen sponges

Should you need to use sponges to clean and disinfect your kitchen instead of disposable disinfectant wipes, make sure you clean the sponges thoroughly before moving to another surface to prevent the spread of germs. To clean sponges between uses, wash them with the hottest possible water and rinse them until the water runs clear. Next, let the sponge air dry.

Oregon Live also suggests microwaving sponges for two minutes every day before using them and disposing of sponges every two weeks. The heat from the microwave should help kill any germs that could be living deep within your sponges. They also recommend cleaning surfaces in one direction to prevent introducing new bacteria from a dirty surface to one you already cleaned by circling back.

Finally, if someone in your home is showing flu- or cold-like symptoms but has not been tested for coronavirus, it never hurts to be extra cautious. Provide them with their own set of plates, glasses, and silverware to limit any possible cross-contamination with safe flatware that healthy people will use to ingest food.

Bottom line? You can use a kitchen sponge while coronavirus remains an issue, but you need to be extra careful, clean the sponge often, discard and use new ones on a regular basis, and consider moving to other cleaning methods if possible.