I mean no disrespect for the choices of others, and I’m not casting nasturtiums or anything, but when I go into someone else’s kitchen to wash the dishes, and there’s no sponge, I fall into a kind of petite despair. My practical contributions to the world are few. I don’t cook. When I say “Can I help you?” while you’re cooking me dinner, and you assign me the simplest task, like chopping vegetables, I’m going to ask you ten questions about size and shape and then labor away with a pitiful sawing motion until you take over the job yourself. I’d much rather do the dishes afterwards.
But then I approach the sink. Oh no, I think. A dishrag person. There’s a sad, limp little dishrag hanging on the faucet and no sponge anywhere. It looks like something Cinderella’s stepmother made her use. It becomes slimy with goo almost immediately if it wasn’t already. I drag it around inside a pot with the conviction that I have merely disrupted the most evident deposits and left behind a uniform veneer of thin sludge. What I want is a nice, hand-sized cellulose sponge with a scrubby pad on the back. I’m going to put on a dot of detergent and tear into that crusty stuff with the scrubby side and rinse with water hot enough to blister a rhino. Cleaning dishes with a droopy dishrag is like mowing the lawn with a rough blanket.
At the same time I’m aware that dishrag people feel very strongly about their sorry little schmatta. Otherwise, surely, they’d use a sponge. I decided to post a simple query on my Facebook page and see what developed: Dishrag, or Sponge?
We’ll set aside Susan Ellis’s answer for the moment (“husband”).
Responses were pretty evenly divided. Sponges had their adherents. But the dishrag people were adamant that we sponge people were purveyors of the Plague. When they go into a house and see a sponge on the sink, they are persuaded that every surface is covered with a film of poop molecules. They will realize they have entered a fecally enhanced atmosphere, a dun-colored haze, primed by a miasma of coliform bacteria billowing from the kitchen. “A kitchen sponge renders the kitchen ten billion times more bacteria-laden than a toilet seat,” the experts intone, somberly.
This, in spite of the fact that I have hardly ever used my dish sponge to wipe my butt, particularly the scrubby side. And I would further submit that they have no idea what I can do to a bathroom when I’m good and charged up.
Well. What is required is the stockpiling of clean dishrags, each one of which must be dunked in bleach, sent through a scalding laundry and dried crisp after each use. Then, to be on the safe side, they should be spoken to sternly, and set on fire. There’s nothing to be done with a sponge. They should be prevented from entering the country with a wall and concertina wire.
I’m not changing anything. I read up. Actually, the experts say dishrags and sponges are equally culpable. I’m going back to my usual lifetime strategy of deliberate ignorance. I’ve been smearing bacteria around my kitchen for forty years and remain in the pink of health. If I’m not worried about my sponge, it can’t hurt me. As soon as I learn the nature of the catastrophe that awaits me, I’ll develop eighteen different kinds of nervous disease. Besides, I’m not a bit scared of coliform bacteria.
In fact, I’m packin’.
You can wash dishes at my home any time you like, Murr — I not only have a scrubby pad by the sink, but also a copper scouring pad that I keep under the sink, for when I have to bring on the big guns. I change the scrubby every week, and while it may have germs, a dishrag would harbor just as many. To my mind, as long as you rinse the dishes off with hot water, you're good. I think that belief plays a big part here: if you think a sponge is going to make you sick, you are probably convincing your body that it should get sick. I like to believe that my kitchen sponges are not out to get me.
But you'll feed me first, right?
If you throw the sponge away every day, or boil it and put your dishrag into the machine wash every day. Either is good. I use sponges for dishes and dish rags to mop up the counters.
I also use bleach water to clean the dishcloths and counters.
But who runs the dishwasher or laundry machine every day? Not me.
I also prefer the sponge, but I am adaptable if I have to be. I don't think coliform bacteria can hurt me any more. I highly recommend children eat a handful of dirt every month until their immune systems can tolerate damn near anything. Then they don't have to worry about the dishrag or sponge.
I definitely rolled around in dirt a lot as a kid, but I don't think I ate much. I was a picky eater.
PS I got over that.
Dirt eating was not always intentional. Like when you are screaming and falling face first.
Sponge, but I microwave it every few days. My daughter told on me; when I visit her, I microwave her sponge because I know she doesn't. Her friends think it's funny. I think I'm saving lives.
I'm betting it all on the hot water rinse.
Dishrag, sponge, scrubby thing – I use the dishrag for the dishes; the sponge for the counters and whatever else looks like it needs wiping; the scrubby thing for stuff that's stuck to stuff. Bacteria are everywhere and I'm positive we're healthier for it!
I'm with Kimb. Bacteria schmacteria.
I'm very fond of mine. They've been good roommates.
Crocheted dishrags. A clean one from the drawer at least once per day.
I am growing out some e coli, klebsiella, and such in a petri dish in the kitchen right now, but it's nowhere near my dishrag. That would be gross.
Really clean houses scare me to death.
Me too, I'm always afraid I'll introduce a germ or two and the occupants will drop like flies.
Heh heh heh.
I use everything except a sponge – dishcloth, scrubby pad, baking soda ON the dishcloth or scrubby pad to scrub the non-stick pans, and a dishwasher. But the one thing I make sure to do is to make sure that any dishcloths that are used for raw meat juices are rinsed, hung to dry, and put directly into a basket designated for a bleach wash. You can't do that with a sponge, which is why I don't use them. I have a whole drawerful of dishcloths and dishtowels, so they can wait in the basket until I have a load to do. I also have a theory that once everything is dry, the germs die. So it doesn't much matter.
Holy moly. So, the question is: why am I not dead, dead, dead? Or even sick?
My theory must be right! (see last two sentences above)
You can too do that with a sponge. I do it with mine.
You mean you can bleach them? Doesn't it make them disintegrate? Maybe your sponges have more backbone than ours did. Maybe I should give it another try.
They don't disintegrate immediately, but they do disintegrate faster. I only do the bleach thing for sponges that have wiped up raw meat fluids. Not straight bleach either, diluted about 50-50.
Thanks for the tip, River – good to know.
Murr, I sense that we may be witnessing a generational divide here. As someone who grew up in the 1950s, there was *always* a wet, sloppy dishrag lurking in the kitchen sink. And as a Boy Scout, our Patrol had a "Chuck Wagon Box" that stored our downright slimy dishrags (and poorly-washed pots'n'pans) in between campouts. I survived, with nary a problem.
I can't remember what we used. I think it was a cellulose sponge. They didn't have scrubby sides then.
HOT water is a wondrous thing.
Yes. Any time I think about this, I remember what it's like when we go camping. Stuff doesn't really get clean, but we're always FINE.
Sounds like the sort of thing those Mythbuster chaps would love to prove/disprove.With explosives.
I think in my research I came up with something like that. For sure I remember the consensus was both options were equally bad, or harmless, if you prefer, and I do.
I use a sponge for the most part. I dont cook much and we have a dishwasher. Germs are good for you. They build your immune system. Disinfection is for surgery.
Only because you don't ever know WHERE those surgeons' hands have been!
Oh no! It's KNOWING where the doc's hands have been that calls for disinfectant!
Scrubbie pad sans sponge. I use a dishrag to wipe counter and stove top, but never for wiping out dishes. Yecch.
No wonder all the cave men are dead.
Whatever is available. I don't have a washer at home and have to haul everything to the laundromat, and since I *hate* the laundromat with a white-hot passion, things tend to, shall we say, pile up.
You don't take your DISHES to the laundromat do you?
Oh, snap! You like 'dishes afterwards'? Are you married ? 😉
Chore Boy pure copper scrubbers on the black iron and stainless steel, bleach and scalding water on the dishrags, changed, along with the dishtowel, every day…what's for dinner?
Man, you're a bacteria nazi.
sponge…. and I always put a bit of bleach in a little dishwater just for good measure…Always have and always will and frankly, I'm with you. I always volunteer to do clean up… is folks will feed me!
Of course, sometimes I like to clean up after I've taken a nice nap on the floor.
Murr you are one funny lady.
I have my moments.
I use green scrubbees in combination with various spray cleaners and powdered cleansers if needed. Microfiber dishrags (cheap) purchased in bulk from Home Depot for wiping ctops, and as I've recently discovered, they're good for wiping to near dryness pots and pans before storage. They shed dirt better than regular dishrags and after washing once or twice, I consign them to the wood stove. I refer to those overly concerned about bacteria as germ paranoids… everyone needs to eat a little dirt with their foods to keep the gut microbiome humming along. Ever watch chickens eat… they don't seem too concerned about catching a bug (except the one's they're about to devour).
I resemble them in the wattle department.
Speaking of packing…I really think you should take this up in your next column:
Possibly almost as much of a danger as used kitchen sponges.
Honestly, I can barely squeak out a post about Republican politics. I love hyperbole and there's nothing I can make up that they haven't already said for reals.
Sponge of course, our obsession with sterility is making us all sick…in the head.
Well, with some of us that started first.
What happened to the dishwasher??? I like it the best, but when I do the things that cannot go in, I juse the scrubbers ( https://jet.com/product/detail/f8469ac4dc3d4b5584587e1764f3380a?jcmp=pla:ggl:gen_jd_home_garden_a3:household_supplies_household_cleaning_supplies_sponges_scouring_pads_a3_other:na:na:na:na:na:2&code=PLA15&ds_c=gen_jd_home_garden_a3&ds_cid&ds_ag=household_supplies_household_cleaning_supplies_sponges_scouring_pads_a3_other&product_id=f8469ac4dc3d4b5584587e1764f3380a&product_partition_id=154598761980&gclid=Cj0KEQjw5ti3BRD89aDFnb3SxPcBEiQAssnp0lVy0u8jGgv5E70dw0SQjm7D6mtoSaUb16SgJ5_BaDoaAolu8P8HAQ )
I never use sponges. Cannot stand them. I use the antibacterial wipes for all counter tops.
Seriously, most people in the know recommend against antibacterial wipes (and soap and…). They're doing in some really good critters that we'll find out we need when they're all gone.
Don't you use brushes over there? I use a specially designed plastic brush for cleaning the dishes and some micro fibre rag to clean the counter tops.
Some people have brushes. I am generally happier with those people than the plain-dishrag people.
I use a sponge, but not one with the scrubby side. My ex, the second one, insisted on the scrubby sponges and scrubbed things that weren't meant to be scrubbed, so now they are badly scratched. Tupperware and glass saucepan lids, stuff like that. I ditched him and the scrubby sponges.
I buy the cheap sponges so I can have a clean one as often as needed. Most sponges will last a month in my kitchen, they get a thorough rinsing after every dishwashing session, squeezed out, then left to dry. Apparently a dry sponge supports far fewer bacteria than a damp one.
After that, if they're not too grubby, I'll put them in the wash with towels and stuff, then they become the bathroom sponge, used to wipe down the basin and other surfaces, before eventually being thrown out. Any sponge used to wipe a spill off the floor is thrown out immediately.
Yes, my sponges have a sink hierarchy, going from dish-worthy to counter-worthy to floor-worthy to the trash can.
Nope. It's knitted dishcloths made with Sugar and Cream cotton yarn. I love them! I do have a friend who's extremely cautious about germs, is always dragging out the liquid antibacterial stuff (she even keeps one in her car to use after shopping in a store). She has an obvious blind spot to the wall-to-wall carpeting that she has had on her kitchen floor since I met her in 1987! One would hate to take a culture off that thing!
Not to mention the saturation of the carpet with flame-retardants that have probably already killed her cat and messed with her babies. Wait a minute: you said carpet on the KITCHEN floor? Oh that's just wrong all around.
It IS really disgusting! And it just doesn't fit with her germ phobia.
When I see a curled up, dirty sponge with the scrubby thing full of ick I kill it immediately. A nice dish cloth hung to dry and given the sniff test before every use is how I roll. I like to feel where the gunk is that needs de-gunking, and I can't do that with a fat sponge. Plus there are these thin gold scour pads (can't remember the name) that I couldn't find for THREE YEARS in various parts of the country, and when I did I stocked up. I was down to one very tiny raggedy (but regularly run through the clothes washer) scour rag before that. Dishwashing tools are very very personal.
I believe we have hereby demonstrated that to perfection!
What's got me most agape, after reading the comments here, is how many people do the thing called a "bleach wash." I suspect these same people sort their laundry by color before washing it, too.
Sister, on all fronts, I just can't be bothered.
Lower standards=better mental health.
I use a dish brush for dishes and occasionally soak it in dish detergent by itself to clean it (not faithful about that – assume really hot water takes care of lots of stuff) and I use Handi Wipes for the counters. I like the "lower standards=better mental health" saying. My house is clean but not immaculate – and it gets cluttered – I'm 67 and I've survived…
You probably didn't have asthma and ear infections and allergies either.
Why are sponges treated with kid gloves? I get cheap scrubby-sided ones. I use one to wash dishes once, then dump it in the laundry basket. It goes through with the rest of the laundry. I have about a dozen, so there's always a clean dry one to use each time. No big deal.
I do all of that except the putting it into the laundry and washing it part.
Is this the most comments ever about anything?
No, but it's a surprisingly controversial subject, sort of like Frank Sinatra.
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