Here's how often you should be changing out your sponge and other cleaning tools

It's been sitting around a little too long...

Modern clean kitchen with terracotta backsplash
(Image credit: Luke Butterly)

It might be a meta exercise to think about how and when to clean your cleaning tools but having germ-free supplies is a necessary part of giving your home the best chance to shine. While surfaces and appliances get regular cleanings, there are germs lurking in hidden areas of your home that might need more attention. 

Even after identifying the areas you've been forgetting to clean, people often overlook the areas of their life that see the most germs, like under their sink or their trash can. After identifying these spots and creating a consistent routine, perhaps a few of the most forgotten things in your home that don't get cleaned as often as they should is your first line of defense: the tools you use to clean. 

When to replace your sponge

How long has that little yellow square been sitting by your sink? If it's been more than a few weeks it's time to toss it. A sponge should be replaced every two weeks. You can stretch this for longer if it's clean (and not smelly). Conversely, if it's looking dingy after a week and a half, it's time to swap it out. 

While you don’t need to keep a calendar when it comes to replacing cleaning and kitchen supplies, setting up a recurring delivery of sponges or tools from an online retailer could serve as the reminder you need to keep everything clean. A regular rotation of sponges and other tools can be a great way to keep things clean, all year long.  

Store sponges (and other tools) in a dry space

For professional cleaner Angela Donal from Peachy Clean, based in Belfast, Northern Ireland, learning when to toss or hold onto cleaning tools is all part of the job. Donal’s advice for keeping your space clean all starts with the right upkeep of your cleaning tools. The most important place to start is in the kitchen with an infamously germ-ridden tool: the dish sponge. 

When it comes to proper care, her advice is clear. “To store sponges, keep them dry," says Donal. "Wet sponges will let bacteria grow." The worst part? “It will eventually smell.” In order to keep an odor-free kitchen, start by creating a space for the sponges to stay dry, even after use. This advice applies to items like soap dishes, washcloths, and mops as well. Whether that means you need to find a place to air dry the tools, or use a washcloth to dry them after use, this one piece of advice can save you from bringing more germs into your home and lengthen the life of your sponge.

Regular maintenance keep sponges good for longer  

One advantage of learning to properly take care of your tools is that regular upkeep could make them last longer. In order to increase their lifespan, Donal advises easy regular maintenance. “For sponges, I disinfect them in the sink using boiling water and bleach,” she says. Regular maintenance for other tools can include deep cleaning items every so often, especially with high-use tools like cutting boards and mops.

Note what else needs a replacement

If you notice that your sponges need to be replaced, it is also worth taking a look at your other kitchen tools to see what else can be deep cleaned or thrown out, including dish towels. Although items like mops and brooms don’t often need to be replaced, they do have a limited life span depending on how often they are used and how they are stored.

Use your cleaning products correctly

When it comes to purchasing the right cleaning products, Donal explains that finding the products that work for you is only half the battle. “It’s not so much about the product but the ‘dwell time,'” she says. “Often people spray and wipe immediately but don’t let the product dwell, which is what we should do to kill germs.” Using these products correctly could be a game changer when it comes to tackling germs and bacteria in your home. 

Be consistent with cleaning tool maintenance

When it comes to cleaning (and cleaning your tools), Donal recommends staying consistent. “My advice on keeping your space clean is to do a little every day,” she says. A little goes a long way, especially when cleaning and replacing your cleaning tools. So, toss that sponge and give your new one a little TLC.

Kate Santos

Hello! I’m Kate Santos, a writer and photographer based in Los Angeles. In the design world, I got my start working as an Editorial Intern for Dwell magazine in San Francisco. Since then, I’ve written about design and architecture in many national magazines and online publications, including Playboy, Hunker, and The Culture Trip.

I grew up in a very old house in North Carolina and am still influenced by the rustic, charming, antique and aged elements of a home. Sustainability and longevity is extremely important to me and I believe learning to reuse materials or purchasing items you’ll love forever goes a long way. I also lean towards the Japanese philosophy of wabi-sabi when designing my own home, embracing the perfectly imperfect items I can find.