Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


Microwave oven can sterilize sponges, scrub pads

PLEASE NOTE: To guard against the risk of fire, people who wish to sterilize their sponges at home must ensure the sponge is completely wet. Two minutes of microwaving is sufficient for most sterilization. Sponges should also have no metallic content. Last, people should be careful when removing the sponge from the microwave as it will be hot.

Microwave ovens may be good for more than just zapping the leftovers; they may also help protect your family.

University of Florida engineering researchers have found that microwaving kitchen sponges and plastic scrubbers — 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-plus percent of Americans with microwaves in their kitchens have a powerful weapon against E. coli, salmonella and other bugs at the root of increasing incidents of potentially deadly food poisoning and other illnesses.

“Basically what we find is that we could knock out most bacteria in two minutes,” said Gabriel Bitton, a UF professor of environmental engineering. “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.”

Bitton, an expert on wastewater microbiology, co-authored a paper about the research that appears in the December issue of the Journal of Environmental Health, the most recent issue. The other authors are Richard Melker, a UF professor of anesthesiology, and Dong Kyoo Park, a UF biomedical engineering doctoral student.

Food-borne illnesses afflict at least 6 million Americans annually, causing at least 9,000 deaths and $4 billion to $6 billion in medical costs and other expenses. Home kitchens are a common source of contamination, as pathogens from uncooked eggs, meat and vegetables find their way onto countertops, utensils and cleaning tools. Previous studies have shown that sponges and dishcloths are common carriers of the pathogens, in part because they often remain damp, which helps the bugs survive, according to the UF paper.

Bitton said the UF researchers soaked sponges and scrubbing pads in raw wastewater containing a witch’s brew of fecal bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites and bacterial spores, including Bacillus cereus spores.

Like many other bacterial spores, Bacillus cereus spores are quite resistant to radiation, heat and toxic chemicals, and they are notoriously difficult to kill. The UF researchers used the spores as surrogates for cysts and oocysts of disease-causing parasitic protozoa such as Giardia, the infectious stage of the protozoa. The researchers used bacterial viruses as a substitute for disease-causing food-borne viruses, such as noroviruses and hepatitis A virus.

The researchers used an off-the-shelf microwave oven to zap the sponges and scrub pads for varying lengths of time, wringing them out and determining the microbial load of the water for each test. They compared their findings with water from control sponges and pads not placed in the microwave.

The results were unambiguous: Two minutes of microwaving on full power mode killed or inactivated more than 99 percent of all the living pathogens in the sponges and pads, although the Bacillus cereus spores required four minutes for total inactivation.

Bitton said the heat, rather than the microwave radiation, likely is what proves fatal to the pathogens. Because the microwave works by exciting water molecules, it is better to microwave wet rather than dry sponges or scrub pads, he said.

“The microwave is a very powerful and an inexpensive tool for sterilization,” Bitton said, adding that people should microwave their sponges according to how often they cook, with every other day being a good rule of thumb.

Spurred by the trend toward home health care, the researchers also examined the effects of microwaving contaminated syringes. Bitton said the goal in this research was to come up with a way to sterilize syringes and other equipment that, at home, often gets tossed in the household trash, winding up in standard rather than hazardous waste landfills.

The researchers also found that microwaves were effective in decontaminating syringes, but that it generally took far longer, up to 12 minutes for Bacillus cereus spores. The researchers also discovered they could shorten the time required for sterilization by placing the syringes in heat-trapping ceramic bowls.

Bitton said preliminary research also shows that microwaves might be effective against bioterrorism pathogens such as anthrax, used in the deadly, still-unsolved 2001 postal attacks.

Using a dose of Bacillus cereus dried on an envelope as a substitute for mail contaminated by anthrax spores, Bitton said he found he could kill 98 percent of the spores in 10 minutes by microwaving the paper – suggesting, he said, one possible course of action for people who fear mail might be contaminated. However, more research is needed to confirm that this approach works against actual anthrax spores, he said.

Gabriel Bitton | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia
21.10.2016 | Universitätsklinikum Magdeburg

nachricht New potential cancer treatment using microwaves to target deep tumors
12.10.2016 | University of Texas at Arlington

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: New 3-D wiring technique brings scalable quantum computers closer to reality

Researchers from the Institute for Quantum Computing (IQC) at the University of Waterloo led the development of a new extensible wiring technique capable of controlling superconducting quantum bits, representing a significant step towards to the realization of a scalable quantum computer.

"The quantum socket is a wiring method that uses three-dimensional wires based on spring-loaded pins to address individual qubits," said Jeremy Béjanin, a PhD...

Im Focus: Scientists develop a semiconductor nanocomposite material that moves in response to light

In a paper in Scientific Reports, a research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute describes a novel light-activated phenomenon that could become the basis for applications as diverse as microscopic robotic grippers and more efficient solar cells.

A research team at Worcester Polytechnic Institute (WPI) has developed a revolutionary, light-activated semiconductor nanocomposite material that can be used...

Im Focus: Diamonds aren't forever: Sandia, Harvard team create first quantum computer bridge

By forcefully embedding two silicon atoms in a diamond matrix, Sandia researchers have demonstrated for the first time on a single chip all the components needed to create a quantum bridge to link quantum computers together.

"People have already built small quantum computers," says Sandia researcher Ryan Camacho. "Maybe the first useful one won't be a single giant quantum computer...

Im Focus: New Products - Highlights of COMPAMED 2016

COMPAMED has become the leading international marketplace for suppliers of medical manufacturing. The trade fair, which takes place every November and is co-located to MEDICA in Dusseldorf, has been steadily growing over the past years and shows that medical technology remains a rapidly growing market.

In 2016, the joint pavilion by the IVAM Microtechnology Network, the Product Market “High-tech for Medical Devices”, will be located in Hall 8a again and will...

Im Focus: Ultra-thin ferroelectric material for next-generation electronics

'Ferroelectric' materials can switch between different states of electrical polarization in response to an external electric field. This flexibility means they show promise for many applications, for example in electronic devices and computer memory. Current ferroelectric materials are highly valued for their thermal and chemical stability and rapid electro-mechanical responses, but creating a material that is scalable down to the tiny sizes needed for technologies like silicon-based semiconductors (Si-based CMOS) has proven challenging.

Now, Hiroshi Funakubo and co-workers at the Tokyo Institute of Technology, in collaboration with researchers across Japan, have conducted experiments to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

#IC2S2: When Social Science meets Computer Science - GESIS will host the IC2S2 conference 2017

14.10.2016 | Event News

Agricultural Trade Developments and Potentials in Central Asia and the South Caucasus

14.10.2016 | Event News

World Health Summit – Day Three: A Call to Action

12.10.2016 | Event News

Latest News

Resolving the mystery of preeclampsia

21.10.2016 | Health and Medicine

Stanford researchers create new special-purpose computer that may someday save us billions

21.10.2016 | Information Technology

From ancient fossils to future cars

21.10.2016 | Materials Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>