Two minutes in the microwave can kill 99 per cent of the germs harboured by kitchen sponges, scientists have found.
Dishcloths and sponges are known to breed microbes such as E. coli and salmonella, that can cause potentially lethal food poisoning.
But researchers in the U.S. have found that the microwave is an effective weapon against them.
Gabriel Bitton, professor of environmental engineering at the University of Florida, said: 'Basically what we find is that we can knock out most bacteria in two minutes.
'People often put their sponges and scrubbers in the dishwasher but if they really want to decontaminate them and not just clean them, they should use the microwave.'
The scientists soaked sponges and scrubbing pads in untreated wastewater containing 'a witch's brew of faecal bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites and bacterial spores including Bacillus cereus spores which are quite resistant to radiation, heat and toxic chemicals, and are notoriously difficult to kill'.
They also used bacterial viruses as substitutes for disease-causing viruses, such as hepatitis A.
Then they used a microwave oven to zap the sponges and scrub pads for varying lengths of time, wringing them out and checking for microbes after each test.
The results were unambiguous. Two minutes of microwaving on full power mode killed or inactivated more than 99 per cent of all the living pathogens in the sponges and pads.
Dr. Clark actually recommends three minutes, but I find that, unless the sponge is sopping wet, three minutes is a good way to actually cause some sponges to catch fire... *grin* Burning sponge smell does not dissipate rapidly!