Numerous tests have shown that kitchen counters contain more germs that almost anywhere else in the house. Microwave ovens are good for more than just warming leftovers; they may also help protect your family from getting sick.

University of Florida engineering researchers have found that microwaving wet kitchen sponges and plastic scrubbers, whichare known to be common carriers of the bacteria and viruses that cause food-borne illnesses, sterilizes them rapidly and effectively. That means that the estimated 90% of Americans with microwaves in their kitchens have a powerful weapon against E. coli, salmonella and other bugs. DO NOT MICROWAVEPLASTIC, WOOD, OR ANY SPONGE THAT IS DRY.

Researcher Gabriel Bitton and his team soaked sponges and scrubbing pads in raw wastewater containing fecal bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites and bacterial spores. He says, “Basically what we find is that we could 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.”

How often should you do this? Bitton says it depends on how often you cook, but every other day is a good rule of thumb. Just be sure they’re WET when you put them in the microwave?otherwise, they may catch on fire.

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