Smelly Sponges - need help!

blase73September 25, 2006

We seem to have a problem with our kitchen sponges getting really stinky, and only after a few days of using them!! I swear all we do is open them up, and then barely use a few times - and they start smelling. I wipe the counters with them a few times a day, and wash an occassional stainless steel pan - everything else goes in the dishwasher. The smell is hard to describe, but it's not a moldy smell. More like a "stale" smell. Then the stench is on my hands after I handle the sponge for a few seconds. The brands are varied - O-Cel-O and also the Scotchbrite ones - they all smell the same way.

I've tried washing them in the dishwasher with the dishes but that helps only temporarily - then the smell comes back.

Any suggestions? I've thrown away about 5 sponges in the last month and it's really annoying! Not to mention costly....

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What soaps or cleansers are you using? You could be getting a "machine shop" smell from the stainless steel.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2006 at 11:07PM
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Try rinsing them and putting them in the micro for about 90 seconds. If they still stink try soaking them in borax.
I also stick my sopnges in the washing machine when I am bleaching dish towels and such.
Linda C

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 12:30AM
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I rinse it until the water is clear and then microwave the damp sponge every day. It only takes a few hours for the bacteria to build up and really get stinky, so if you use a sponge for dishwashing and/or cleaning up food spills, it's a good idea to get into the habit of tossing the sponge into the micro for a minute as soon as you are finished with the wipe-up. Actually, the same applies to dishrags but most folks like to bleach the cloth instead. Either bleach or heat, the point is to kill the germs that are causing the stink.

Also be sure that *where* you put the sponge is clean. If you constantly set it to one side of the sink, then wipe that area with a vinegar/water 50/50 solution every day. That will both kill the bacteria which have invisibly oozed off the sponge and deodorize. DH keeps a small saucer for the sponge, which is washed with the dishes every day; that works just as well.

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 7:04AM
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Yuk, I'd toss them.

You know you can often find some really cheap washcloth sets at dollar stores and such. Sometimes they are cheaper per item than sponges. I know you've heard this, but sponges harbor bacteria big time and I've heard nuking them doesn't always get the bacteria.

If this is a more current sponge smelling problem, I would guess that it stems form the fact that it is not as hot outside so your sponges are taking more time to dry and producing more bacteria.

If you feel you must use them, then I would soak them in bleach water. I would try to dry them like on a clothspin or some kind of rack that can get air all around. And, be sure to wash and rinse them with dish det. after each use. Although even if it's clean, most anything sitting around "wet" for a while (like sponges because of their shape) will produce bacteria.

Again, I would really suggest cheap wash or dish clothes. I have like 30-40 of them. I use a new one for each chore. And change daily. There's always extra room in the machine to wash them. They dry better and harbor less bacteria; you can toss them when they are wearing out. I just feel my house is cleaner using them. I couldn't stand feeling that I was just moving bacteria around, or making a table dirtier than it was by wiping it down. YUK!

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 11:01AM
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How do you store your sponge? If you store it flat it doesn't have a chance to dry. If you store it on its side it can drain more of the liquid out. You can also get things from the store that allow it to drain eithout really touching the sink, so it will get completely dry. That to me keeps the smell at bay longer.


    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 1:58PM
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I agree with Vickey and others here. Rinse it thoroughly, wring it out, microwave it for a few seconds, and rest it on its side to dry overnight somewhere that it will have air circulation (not under the sink).

    Bookmark   September 26, 2006 at 8:53PM
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Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I always thought those sponge holders they sell were a silly idea, but maybe that's what I need in order to prevent the sponge from interacting with our stainless steel sink.

I'm going to try bleaching the sponge tonight (should I use a solution or just straight bleach?) and also will implement the microwaving tip in the future.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2006 at 12:08PM
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I run it through the dishwasher when ever that happens. Just put it in one of the silverware bins.

Also find a rack or something to rest it on in the sink so it can dry out.

    Bookmark   September 27, 2006 at 9:30PM
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I've given up on regular kitchen sponges. No matter which of the above things I've tried, they don't really help.
Some years back I tried a different kind of sponge, no smell. It has really tiny holes and is smooth looking compared to other sponges. There's always a scrubber backer on them no matter who's making the things.

Right now the brand I've been buying is made by Spontex, and it's called WOW! I used to buy them before when they were made by Vileda, and before that they were made by one of the big name sponge companies whose name escapes me at present.
Anyway, I can't go back to any other kind of sponge, I've been spoiled.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 2:25PM
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If the problem is the stainless steel and the sponge, the bleach won't do a thing. Bleach is only for bacteria. You might try baking soda to cover the smell, but that usually only works on fungal smells, and so may do nothing for the stainless problem either. Just thinking through my keyboard here. I went and bought four more sponges and I'm rotating them - use one a day and by day 5 I'm back to the first one, which is totally dry.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2006 at 4:40PM
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I never use sponges where clean up of food is involved. Because of the nature of the make up of a sponge it absorbs food particals, therefore, that is where the food particle decay, thus smell.

Funny story: when first started dating DH & was at his apartment one day, he asked me to see what was causing "that smell" in his kitchen. It smelled like rotten food. It didn't take me long to track it to a sponge on his sink. He had been using a sponge to wash his dishes!! It's a wonder he didn't get really sick.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2006 at 4:24PM
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Every night, after dishes are done, I make a cup of tea. I pour the rest of the teakettle through my sponge in the little sponge basket on the side of the sink. No more stink!

    Bookmark   October 28, 2006 at 7:05PM
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Its a bit ot, but I'm not going to make a new post about this.
Anyone ever heard of Big O sponges or know anything about them? They're irregular sizes and shapes but good cheap sponges. Look like they may be O-Cel-O. I don't use them in the kitchen, but for cleaning up messes, bathroom and where ever else I may use a sponge just once or twice.
Only place I've seen them is at Walgreens, but they don't seem to carry them in store at the moment, although they are on their website (see link).

Here is a link that might be useful: Big O Sponges

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 1:25AM
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Wrong link above.
Are we not able to edit our posts around here? I thought we were before.

Here is a link that might be useful: Big O Sponges

    Bookmark   November 4, 2006 at 2:10AM
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Happens to me all the time. I don't think it's bacteria/algae/mold as microwaving doesn't seem to get rid of it. However, putting them in the dishwasher takes care of the problem.

We never had a problem with this until the last several years. I don't know if it's the sponge material or the combination with dish soap.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2006 at 1:48PM
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I quit using sponges, b/c of their makeup, they just harbor bacteria. That smell is a bacterial/souring/mold combo, that is just spread when you reuse the sponge...even if the smell isn't present at the moment you would be surprised at the amt. of bacteria it is harboring. My aunt works in a lab and you would be shocked at what grows in a petri dish from a relatively new sponge!!! (YUCK) I would invest in a few dish cloths that can be dropped into the washer with a little bleach, and a long handled plastic bristle brush for washing the pans (plus it keeps you hands out of the water). Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2006 at 10:08AM
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OcelO sponges, use several of them here at same time. Some get frequent use & some infrequent.
If I don't bleach them real quick after first use they will grow black mold. Once bleached they never grow mold so there must be some spores included in the purchase price.

I just add a splash of bleach to a bowl of water and sterilize both for a few hours then pass that bleachy water on to soak the germs off other coffee cups or whatever as the day goes on.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2006 at 11:16AM
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hi everyone. I had smelly sponges for the longest time. bought every other kind of sponge there was. come to find out it was the dish liquid!! i was using Dawn and switched to ajax and the smelly problem went away. :-) i recently visited my daughter and she uses a new dawn and i smelt her sponge and boy did it smell. lik mine used to. i told her to change the liquid and i hope she did.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2012 at 6:24PM
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I would toss it. I quit using sponges years ago because I think they are nasty. When easy wipes or handy wipes came out, that is what I started using. They are so nice, clean one everyday, toss the soiled one in the laundry = no smells of any kind, even if you leave it wadded up over night.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2012 at 11:52AM
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Wet them, wring out and place in your microwave for one minute. It will kill bacteria. But be careful handling the sponges when they are hot.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2012 at 9:05AM
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It could be the type of water you have.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2012 at 11:35AM
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For smell I would suggest you to soak that sponge overnight in a baking soda and warm water solution. Then rinse it with clean water on the next day. Problem of bad smell will definitely resolve with this.

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 5:23AM
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megamuffins is least in my case. We've lived in our house for 31 years. About 5 years ago we started having stinky sponge issues as well as a wretched smell coming from the sink drain. And this drain was was fairly new so it's not like it was lined with years of gunk. NEVER had this problem. And it's not just sponges. Microfiber towels stink too. The only thing it could be is a change in the water. We live in the country with community well water. When I fill the sink with bleach water, I put my sponge and scrubber in there too. I run my sponge thru the dishwasher but that only lasts a couple of days. I just did the microwave thing for the first time a few days ago. The directions I found on line said microwave a wet sponge for two minutes. I just checked it. Smells good :) I routinely dump baking soda down my drain and flush with boiling water.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2012 at 11:04PM
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i boil my sponges for one or two minutes and it works wonders on freshing them. just be sure to run cold water over them to cool them down. this has never failed.

    Bookmark   December 15, 2012 at 9:16PM
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Ophra had a show on this. As a science problem, a teenage girl did a study and found that sponges used in the kitchen had more bacteria than the water in the toilet. Yuk!

She also said that a sponge MUST be wet before you put in the microwave. It is dangerous to put it in dry.

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 2:53PM
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I had the same problem, stinky acidic smelling sponges get thrown away so fast. And one day at the dollar store I found this blue liquid soap Palmolive OXY power degreaser, the size was the attraction point, 10oz that sits nicely by the sink. The price was great too. Then the discovery, the sponge is not smelling not even later, not even when it gets shredded and ready to be replaced.( I dont even rinse it ) I told all my friends and are all converted. Buying it in larger size in other stores does not save you money. Just be careful it is very concentrated, so use very little.

    Bookmark   February 14, 2013 at 8:51PM
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I soak my sponges and dish brushes in a bowl of water with a slurp of cheap white vinegar for a few hours. Then I rinse them in a bowl of water with salt in it. I read it in a book of handy hints. It works.

    Bookmark   March 3, 2013 at 3:46AM
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I don't use sponges - they are perfect bacteria growing media. I use microfiber cloths for cleaning, I have dozens of them so they get tossed in the wash after use. For washing pots I have a nylon brush, it's non absorbent o no food particles collect and no smell.

    Bookmark   March 5, 2013 at 11:47PM
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Sponges can get disgusting. We now have a system that DH finally agrees and follows.
(after catching him quickly wiping up a spill on the floor with the sink sponge...then wiping the counter, ick) ...and plopping his work bag on the kitchen counter, etc.

We have 3-4 sponges in rotation and are for the sink only. The one in use goes in the dishwasher every day or maybe 2. Has a nice spot in the silverware caddy. When unloading dishes it goes in the microwave for 2 min. Overkill? who cares, it is hot as fire and goes in wet from the dishwashing.

For counters we use these big white cotton shop clothes from costco. Pack of 30. I buy them once every other year. Nice and nubby, not too thick so they dry quick. Always 2 or 3 fresh ones handy, one by the cutting board, one by the sink. They are for wiping up spills and countertops. Washed often with my light load. I always have 10-15 nice white ones handy and under the chopping area in its cabinet. When they get a little grimy/dingy looking they move to a spot at the other end and are used for floor mopping, dirtier messes, quick window washing dog nose art, etc. A recent dingy batch i put in a bucket of hot water and tined them a pale green. I never use paper towels anymore though i do have them for emergency super yuck like spiders, dog barf. Really ugly ones head out to the garage for cars and grimy stuff.
I still have 10 new fresh ones over the washer that will hit the cycle soon.

My husband has learned and really likes this system. Very clear what is for what and he agrees and we no longer fuss about it.

Drum roll...but...our new favorite sponge is the ScrubDaddy, lol. I got it for him as a joke gift a month ago and it really rocks. haha, no really. He does the hand washing pots and pans. It rests through one of its eyes on our built-in soap dispenser. Super for scrubbing hands after gardening. Never gets spongy oozy and cleans in dishwasher.
(don't think i would micro it, might melt) It is firm when cold and scrubby, but softens a bit when warm. Love this thing. And it lasts. Looks the same after a month.

Just realized this was on a tv show and qvc when i looked for the link via amazon, haha
I don't have 'cute' things around and rather simple and modern...but i like something that works.

I would just toss out your smelly sponge and start over using tips posted by others and me. Sometimes they just need a new job, cleaned through the clothes washer and moved on for garage, etc. My husband bakes bread on the weekends and that slimy dough gets on everything...sponge, cloth, him.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2013 at 2:32PM
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I use sponges and the trick is to keep more then one. One should be dry and ready to use and the other should be cleaned after use and allowed to dry thoroughly and given a day off. I have tried the dishwasher and that is only so- so because the sponge can pick up food particles in there. I wet the sponge and put it in the microwave for 60 to 90 seconds. Then I let it totally dry and use the reserve sponge. No stink and 99.9 percent bacteria free. Dish cloths can be full of bacteria as well.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 1:32PM
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Sponges are so cheap I don't see the need to clean them like that. I don't think you can ever get them clean. I use a clean dishrag every day, no nasty stuff there.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2014 at 6:10PM
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There are various reason why sponge smell bad, it could be due to cleaning dirty dishes or counter tops, food particles get trapped in the sponge pores. These particles start to decompose, the sponge begins to sour and smell bad. The best way to disinfect and eliminate the foul smell from sponge is to place them outside in the sun.

    Bookmark   October 3, 2014 at 7:12AM
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Every day after dinner I rinse them and throw them in the microwave on high for 25 seconds. I leave them on the counter top overnight to dry out.

You could soak them in vinegar or lemon juice to get rid of the smell but it's better just to buy a new one. I toss my sponges when they start to fall apart, usually after two months.

This post was edited by moviegeek on Fri, Oct 3, 14 at 15:04

    Bookmark   October 3, 2014 at 3:02PM
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I get my sponges from the dollar store, so they are cheap enough that I toss them fairly frequently. I do soak them in a bleach/water solution once a week which works well. I am sure the microwave heating will kill bacteria too, I just find that bleach kills everything, so once a week they get the bleach/water.

    Bookmark   October 14, 2014 at 11:50AM
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The sponge is staying too wet. Make sure to wring it out well and then lay it on the edge of the sink or the counter, rather than in the sink to dry between. I also wash my sponges in the dishwasher. My silverware tray has the ideal place to put a sponge, and if I notice it starting to smell, I just pop it in with the dishes. I've also gone to buying Scotch Brite Greener Clean. They are not a pretty color, but they seem to last much longer than other sponges and they don't seem to get smelly as quickly. It is worth the extra cost because I don't have to change sponges as often. Hope this helps :)

    Bookmark   October 16, 2014 at 11:18AM
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