Our daily dish washing sponge starts smelling awful within a few days of use. How do you prevent that? I would hope they'd last at least a couple weeks. We use Scotch-Brite Greener Clean for non-stick. have tried:

  1. Adhere to Patrick Stewart's advice, by wringing our sponges after each use
  2. Throwing them in the dish washer to santize
  3. Store it upright in sink organizer, to minimize the wet surface area it's in contact with

Alas, we throw away a lot of sponges while they still look pretty clean and are undamaged.

  • You know the smell is from bacteria eating whatever the sponge picked up, so any good solution will have to do with removing those particles/killing the bacteria.
    – J. Musser
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 19:12
  • 1
    @J.Musser That's right. Dish washing soap seems to be designed for dissolving fat and other stuff and giving the glass a pretty shine, not for killing bacteria.
    – Zaaikort
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 19:58
  • wow I was going to mention Patrick Stewart's advice but apparently you are already there.
    – stevebot
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 22:17
  • I rinse and put my sponge in a holder with slots in it for air but it still smells after only a few uses. I hav put them in the dishwasher and washing machine. After a few uses, smelling again. It gets expensive to buy new sponges weekly.
    – Grace
    Commented Jan 9, 2018 at 0:23

13 Answers 13


Run them through the laundry. Use the washing machine on it's longest, hottest cycle, and same with the dryer. They can be run with a load of laundry, they don't have to be alone. Do this regularly, like you would with dishcloths and such. Other things (like dishcloths) would also get smelly if they weren't run through the laundry on a regular basis.


I keep my kitchen sponge in a small container with a mild chlorine bleach solution. This way the sponge is always clean and germ free at all times. I mix about 8 ounces of water with a tablespoon of bleach, just enough liquid to keep the sponge covered.

Before storage, after washing the dishes, I rinse it completely to make sure no food particles are left over, wring it out to get as much liquid out as possible, then put in the container.

  • You do realize that recent findings discourage exposure to chlorine such as bleach.
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 23:58
  • Citation please. And "recent findings" don't really mean a lot unless there is enough hard evidence to back it up. Commented Oct 7, 2016 at 5:19

I used to have this problem all the time and it annoyed me. However I started propping up my sponges on the rim of their dish, instead of just plopping them in the middle of the dish, and now they last a lot longer without smelling. This way it dries out really well.

The dish I use is just a high-walled plastic container that sits next to the sink. Basically, I'm talking about a cheaper version of your number 3, propping up the sponge to store it. If that's not working for you then that's just not working in this case, but perhaps it dries out even better when kept apart from everything else, rather than tucked tightly into an organizer.

Plus I always rinse off the sponge after using it, at least until there's no visible food particles or grease on it.


Wash the sponge in clean, soapy water (anti-bacterial soap is preferred) to remove any remaining food particles, and rinse it thoroughly. Wring it out to remove most of the water. Place the sponge in the microwave on a microwave-safe plate, abnd cook it on high long enough for the remaining water to begin steaming (about 30 to 45 seconds). This will create a 100 degree C environment in the sponge that should kill any remaining mold or bacteria. Put the sponge in an area with adequate ventilation so that any remaining water will evaporate.

This will only work for sponges that aren't already contaminated. Don't put moldy sponges in the microwave; you don't want to be contaminating your food.

  • You have to be careful when microwaving artificial sponges, as they have the potential to melt.
    – J. Musser
    Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 20:24
  • That's why I recommended only enough time to superheat the sponges. The Scotch-Brite sponges the OP mentions should be OK in the microwave for 30 seconds. Commented Dec 31, 2014 at 21:26
  • This works for me, once or twice a week, I microwave the sponge for 30 seconds, I can hear it steaming when I open the microwave door. Keeps it from smelling bad, and I haven't had a problem with melting sponges. After I take it out, I let it cool for a few minutes, then wring it out with plain water. It doesn't seem to dry appreciably while waiting for it to cool
    – Johnny
    Commented Jan 1, 2015 at 0:10

Aha! The problem may not be the type of sponge or how you store it, it may be the dish detergent you're using. I have found that Dawn dish detergent causes my sponges to stink within days.

I stopped using Dawn, and the problems seemed to go away for years. Just to test it out, recently I was staying at a friends house who used Dawn, and sure enough, within days their sponges smelled. I switched them to Ajax dish detergent, and no problem.

Now I'm not big on conspiracies, but I'm not entirely sure that the sponge makers are not in cahoots with Dawn detergent. I'm sure this problem has boosted their sales enormously.

I haven't taken the time to research if both Scotch sponges (only ones I use) and Dawn dish detergent are products of the same company...

Has anyone else figured out the correlation between stinky sponges and Dawn dish detergent? Maybe some of you can test it out and see if the same happens for you.

  • Dawn 100% makes sponges stink! For years, we've only used Seventh Generation dish soap and our sponges never stank. Recently, a house guest left a bottle of Dawn dish soap and within a couple weeks, the sponge smelled horrible.
    – schulwitz
    Commented Nov 2, 2021 at 23:37

Wash the sponge in hot soapy water and then submerse it in a tall plastic container filled with hot water and a small amount of bleach. Let them soak for ten minutes or so and simply rinse the sponges. Allow them to air dry and you have germ/odor free sponges once again.


Soak them in a 50/50 white vinegar and water solution overnight after rinsing + wringing them a few times. Do this on a regular basis, or as they start to smell.


Washing out a sponge and wringing out as much water as you can after you are done using it will help inhibit odor causing bacteria/fungi from growing on it.

You can also try leaving it in a basket next to your sink. This will allow the sponge to dry out more thoroughly than just leaving it in the sink.

When all else fails, and your sponge still smells, then you can use white vinegar, or hand sanitizer to get the smell out.


I have been plagued by smelly sponges for years. My sponges start to smell within a day of use and nothing works at removing the smell for more than a day.

Alas, I just found a website where many people are claiming the problem to be with particular dish soaps. This makes a great deal of intuitive sense. If the dish soap is the problem no other steps to remove the smell will keep it from quickly coming back.

Here's the link: http://www.stain-removal-101.com/dawn-smelly-sponges.html


You should not keep sponges and should throw them away after a few uses. They are cheap. A bag full costs little money. The kitchen sink is often the filthiest place in the house. Sponges retain food in the pores that cannot easily be removed. Unless you wash the sponge after every use and sterilize, it is best to throw away after two or three uses. Dish rags have a similar problem, cultivate growth, and are very dirty.

  • 1
    When I go in the kitchen, if I see a sponge, I look at it, and if I know it's three or four days old I throw in the trash. It's too hard to remember to clean the sponge. I use paper towels to clean counter tops and throw away, and a brush for dishes with plastic bristles. The best way to solve smelly sponges is to thow away. Commented Jan 4, 2015 at 21:18
  • Are you suggesting that trying to save a couple of pennies a day is worth gambling with our health by smearing a bacterial bouquet repeatedly on the utensils we use to prepare our food and put into our mouths? What a wacky world. +1
    – Stan
    Commented Jul 28, 2016 at 23:53

I use a suction cup mounted bar-soap holder. The sort you'd normally find stuck on a wall in a shower. Stick this to the near-side wall IN your sink. The holder and sponge are then out of sight, and the sponge gets plenty of air to drip dry quickly.

There are several other bonuses: You do not have to wring/rinse the sponge multiple times attempting to prevent it smelling; This leaves a bit of soap in the sponge, saving some soap for the next use. You do not drip water/soap on your counter/floor trying to put the sponge away to dry; You just drop it into the holder.


At the end of the day, wring it out, place it into a plastic bag and store it in the freezer.


I find it's enough to pour some boiling water over it every now and then.

  • why the downvote?
    – SAS
    Commented Nov 24, 2015 at 13:57

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