Every time there’s a splotch on the kitchen counter or a dirty dish, the sponge conversation pops up. In my family, sponges and how to wash dishes are like fingerprints; no two of us share the same sentiments.

For me, hand-washing a glass sparks certainty that the next morning my cold brew will taste like Lemon Joy; I depend on the dishwasher for dishes to be fully rinsed. My middle daughter believes the reverse. She thinks dishwashers leave soap residue and will make her coffee taste like Cascade.

My firstborn—my clone—is sponge-phobic like me. Her strategy when we’re together is to have me clean up. It’s the strategy I used with my mother.

My youngest criticizes me for sloshing water (no soap) with my hand around a pot that had steamed only green beans. But get this: she will wash that pot with the sponge—albeit with soap—that she uses to wipe the counter!

It conjures images of that TV commercial for anti-bacterial wipes in which a “housewife” slathers raw

Cesspool of bacteria (left) and Sponge (right)

Cesspool of bacteria (left) and Scrub Daddy (right)

chicken over her kitchen’s surfaces, including her baby’s high chair, in order to “clean” them, making the point about the grossness of wiping counters with sponges. (That said, I am not advocating anti-bacterial anything.)

Don’t take my word for it—check out this from the New York Times:

Sponges, which retain water and food particles, are a “cesspool” of bacteria, said Dr. Aaron E. Carroll, professor of pediatrics at the Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis.

My “cesspool of bacteria” alternative is my bare right palm. It’s easy to wash my hands after I clean my string bean pot or anything else. For tough, burnt-on gunk, there’s Scrub Daddy. (Don’t be fooled by the gender-inclusive Scrub Mommy, of which one side is sponge).

If you don’t know Scrub Daddy, it means you are not a regular viewer of “Shark Tank.” Scrub Daddy is “Shark Tank’s” best selling product ever. It is plastic-y and porous and dries fast, allowing less time for opportunistic bacteria to contaminate it.

Admittedly, I use a sponge for wiping counters. But don’t think the concern escapes me that my daughter will use the infected counter sponge on a pot when I’m not looking.

I cope by framing this as the cognitive distortion of jumping to conclusions and then I set into motion the behavioral cognitive therapy technique of picturing the worry drifting downstream on a palm frond.

As for cleaning things that clean, I wash Scrub Daddy and that grimy sponge in the dishwasher. This leads me to the family dishwasher debate, which I plan to discuss in a future post.

Meanwhile, I’d love to know how you/your family clean dishes, pots, counters, sponges . . .

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