Dishcloths & Sponges: Why Sanitizing Is So Important


We all use dishcloths and towels to wash and dry our dishes. Sponges are not recommended as they harbor bacteria in the holes. You will be surprised to learn that cloths we all use can contain a lot of bacteria. The University of Arizona conducted a study on dish cloths, towels and sponges last year to find out what they actually contained. Their findings showed that 89% of kitchen towels contained detectable levels of coliform bacteria and 25.6% contained detectable levels of E. coli. Their conclusions were, “The common occurrence of enteric bacteria in kitchen sponges and dishcloths suggests that they can play a role in cross-contamination of foods, fomites and hands by foodborne pathogens.” The study took place in five major cities in the US: Chicago, Tucson, New Orleans, Orlando and also included Toronto in Canada. The reasons for choosing these cities was that their weather differed, ranging from cold to hot to dry and humid. The towels were also found to contain Enterobacter cloacae, Klebsiella pneumonia and K. oxytoca. This study showed that dirty kitchen rags can spread bacteria around very easily in a kitchen whether in a restaurant or at home. To reduce contamination on all kitchen towels, they need to be washed frequently and replaced. However, if towels are dried improperly, microbial contamination will re-occur since towels remain damp. The best practice is to launder after each use. This will help eliminate a proven source of contamination in the kitchen.


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ENVIRO-FOOD CONSULTING is a foodservice consulting business run by Sally de la Rue Browne, Certified Public Health Inspector and Food Safety Specialist.

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