Sponges: Separating the new from the used

Reader Kathryn sent us the following tip to avoid sponge confusion:

In our household, we discovered a trick: the Good Clean sponge [for dishes] is used as-is, straight out of the package. When it gets downgraded to the Wiping Sponge [for kitchen counters and the table], we cut one of the corners off. When the sponge gets downgraded again to a Skunging Sponge [the dregs of cleaning], we cut another corner off. This way, each sponge is easily identifiable by its shape. People who have more than 3 life cycles for their sponges could adapt this by cutting off additional corners as the sponge continues to move down the ranks.

This is a simple tip that makes sponge identification obvious to all of the people in a house. A pair of kitchen shears would easily tackle the cutting job, too. Thanks, Kathryn, for the great tip!

What simple tricks do you use in the kitchen to make your time there easier and more streamlined? Share your insights in the comments.

68 Comments for “Sponges: Separating the new from the used”

  1. posted by Peter on

    I was bleaching my old sponges then I learned that bleach leaves poisonous dioxins that never degrade into our planet’s environment. The dioxins are directly linked to growing rates of cancer and birth defects.

    Bleach = VERY BAD!!! Use your sponges until they die and buy new ones…for the children ; )

  2. posted by Laura on

    My two cents: I use “Heavy Wipes”, the heavy-duty version of “Handi Wipes” available at most grocery stores. I use one every day in the kitchen, then wash it with my other cleaning rags ~

    For the bathrooms and rest of the house, once a year I go to Target and buy cloth baby diapers. They are soft and lint-free, and I can wash/sanitize the heck out of ‘em, and they last and last.

  3. posted by Peter on

    Wow, thanks SuziQ…I loved using bleach (unless I got some on my clothes and got white spots…ugh!!!).

  4. posted by julia1060 on

    I’m with Laura – I love baby diapers for cleaning! I’m also a big fan of washing and cutting up any “cease and desist” t-shirts and other cotton garments that have worn out. Cotton cloth beats a sponge anytime for cleaning – picks up lint, doesn’t streak, less likely to harbor germs. Bonus: They can be washed and used over and over and over.

    PS LifeTree makes a great concentrated bathroom/ household cleaner with Tea Tree Oil and Lavender. Smells fresh, is ecofriendly and chem free, cleans better than anything I’ve used (I used to clean houses for a living) and kills germs as well. I mix it with h2o and soak dirty rags – They brighten just fine without those pesky dioxins.

  5. posted by Andamom on

    We added certain chores to my 14-year-old daughter’s chore list. Now, she pays attention to what falls on the floor because she knows that she’ll be cleaning it later that week.

  6. posted by Me! on

    I have to laugh at the paranoia about germs in sponges. I’ve never been particularly worried about germs and I can’t say I’ve ever been ill because of the types of germs that apparently live in sponges (after 20 something years of running my own household).

    My kitchen sponge (the only sponge in the house) is used to wipe down counters, cupboard doors, the table and occasionally the floor if I drip water on it. I rinse it in cold water occasionally and it dries between uses. It never smells and is most likely to be replaced because my kleptomaniac cat has stolen it and I haven’t been able to find it lying in the back yard – yes I do keep using it if I find it out there.

    If there is something particularly stuck on that I can’t wipe up I use diluted white vinegar in a spray bottle to assist – I believe white vinegar is a disinfectant but I’m not sure of it.

    Bathrooms etc are cleaned by my cleaners who bring their own cloths or whatever they use.

  7. posted by Emma on

    Great tip, I love it and will start using it

  8. posted by Patricia on

    @ Alice :
    I stopped using bleach and other harsh chemicals a while back. For general disinfecting I use vinegar– which is supposed to get rid of 99% of germs (although I am not particularly germ-phobic), is cheap, and non-toxic. The smell goes away in a couple of hours. I use it also to clean the toilet bowl and sink. A half cup or so in a pail of water goes to mop the tile/stone floor.

    Baking soda is another extremely useful product. Use it as a gentle scrub for dishes, or the counter. I sprinkle it on vegetables and fruits then rinse with water. Check the Arm and Hammer website for more ideas.

    Vinegar or lemon juice and oil combine for a wood cleaner/polisher–in a pinch it’s your salad dressing too ;-)

    Counter tops are wiped with a solution of 1 cup distilled water with about 30 drops of essential oil with disinfecting properties–lemon and rosemary are nice for the kitchen, and for the bathroom, tea tree oil and lemon.

    The house smells fresh and clean and I don’t have to worry about toxic fumes :-)

  9. posted by Adriana on

    Very good tip! I am very picky on how and where SPONGES are used at home, but sometimes when my BF or relatives help cleaning, my sorting gets disrupted, arg! So now I know: cut the tips or assign color codes! easy to explain and memorize, I guess. And, even though we never got any problems I do agree with microwaving and changing sponges on a regular basis.

  10. posted by Jennifer on

    This is a big deal for me too. Sponges can get gross but you don’t want to just throw them out when you can use them for the dirtier jobs.

    At first I wrapped a used rubber band around the ‘wiping’ sponge to tell the difference between it and the dish washing sponge.

    Then I tried the corner cutting method (didn’t cut two corners tho… That’s a good idea.)

    The problem with using a sponge for 3 levels of cleaning (dishes, wiping and gross) is that they start to fall apart and you’re cleaning up pieces of sponge everywhere.

    Now what I do, is that I use blue sponges for wiping and gross cleaning (first wiping and then downgraded to gross) but I only use colored sponges for dish washing like pink or orange or designs… depending what type had been on sale at the store.

  11. posted by Jennifer on

    One more thing… I find to extend the life of my dish washing sponge, I run it in the dishwasher in the top rack. I’ve also soaked it with some vinegar to kill germs in it. I use the smell and appearance of the sponge to tell me when it’s time to trash it.

  12. posted by Laura on

    Oh, for heaven’s sakes! You will greatly unclutter your brain and life if you stop worrying about sponges vs. dish cloths!

  13. posted by Elizabeth on

    Very funny thread! Perhaps Al-of-Sysani doesn’t read the site enough to realise that s/he self-nominated an UniTasker. For the worst of messes, we use and discard paper towels or rags with disinfectant. Everything else gets a microfibre cloth. If I can be bothered I use vinegar but usually I don’t. The cloth gets laundered, with everything else, when we think it’s time to do so. I did think about implementing a regular downgrading type of system but I know I’m the only one in the household who would remember or care about it. So far the germs don’t seem to have got us (and yes, I know I might look at things differently if our household had to address compromised immunity, so I’m grateful for that).

  14. posted by Karen in the northland on

    I buy those disposable dish clothes with detergent in them. I use one each day and then set aside. When I have some built up, I boil them in a big pot with detergent. And then with some bleach for good measure.

    Then air dry. I don’t have a microwave, so this boiling meathod works for me.

  15. posted by karan on

    I think that sponges are very bad because they catch bacteria easily.

  16. posted by Cheryl on

    With regard to Laura’s post of 9/24/2008, you can’t find Heavy Duty HandiWipes is most grocery stores. I can’t find them in ANY grocery store, Walmart (used to have), or any website. I have gone to the ends of the Internet and all I can find is regular HandiWipes. HELP!

  17. posted by The Truth About Sponges | Mom Living on

    [...] all types of cleaning. That’s one of the reasons I was so excited to find this tip from the Unclutterers blog: In our household, we discovered a trick: the Good Clean sponge [for dishes] is used as-is, [...]

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