Sponges go bad. Regardless of whether it's old or new, a sponge can pick up a funky smell that gets on your hands, the dishes, the counters… YUCK. And while many recommended solutions don't work, there is one that does.
Sponge odor is caused by bacteria. Sponges provide a perfect environment for microscopic organisms to grow; they are soft, wet, warm, and full of food.
What Doesn't Work
There are many popular ideas about how to get rid of the smell:
Wash with very hot water.
Microwave the wet sponge. (Note: don't microwave a dry sponge - fire hazard)
Soak in bleach.
Soak in vinegar and then soak in a mixture of baking soda and water.
Put the sponge in the dishwasher.
I have tried all of these suggestions and none of them do the trick. The microwave has been noted to kill some of the dangerous bacteria, like salmonella and E.Coli, but in my extensive testing the reek remained. The vinegar and baking soda trick works for about half a day, but bizarrely the smell comes back. (I have been "testing" this method for the last year, willing it to work better every time. No luck. It's is a sponge tease).
The New Solution
I read an article in a women's magazine about the bleaching power of the sun for dealing with fabric stains. The article suggested that after soap, bleach, and stain removers failed, putting a clothing item out in the sun for a few days could remove the stain (especially in lighter colored fabrics and whites).
Shortly after reading this, I was faced with the dreaded stinky sponge again and decided to try the sun. After a week outside on my porch, I brought the shriveled up sponge back into the kitchen, wet it, and leaned in for a tentative sniff. It was odor free! But I'd been fooled before, so I used it for a week, and each day checked again to see if the smell came back.
Friends, our long national nightmare is over: the sponge remained smell free!
Why This Works
In researching the power of the sun's rays, I have hypothesized the following: the radiation and UV rays emanating from the glowing orb in the sky have disinfectant properties. Think of the UV wands and disinfectant lights used by hospitals and doctors. Those UV rays attack the bacteria in the sponge.
Equally powerful: the sponge completely dries out. By putting the sponge outside, you turn the tropical rainforest environment of your wet sponge into a dry desert: hot during the day and cold at night, and eventually pretty waterless (at least in my Northern California climate).
Results May Vary
I'm sure results will vary based on your climate, season, rainfall and sun exposure. I've experimented with leaving the sponge out for only 4 days, and that shorter duration also eliminated the smell. Note: while some UV rays can permeate windows, you will get a much better result if you leave the sponge outside.
So please give this a try, and let me know your results in the comments below and on our Facebook Page.
Related: The RIGHT Way to Load a Dishwasher