Bacterial levels and diversity in kitchen sponges and dishwashing brushes used by consumers

Trond Møretrø*, Vânia B. Ferreira, Birgitte Moen, Valérie L. Almli, Paula Teixeira, Ida M. Kasbo, Solveig Langsrud

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Aims: The purpose of the work was to investigate bacterial levels and diversity as well as survival of Salmonella in used dish washing sponges and brushes and identify consumer practices that can potentially explain bacterial status of these items. Methods and Results: Used washing up utensils were collected from consumers. The bacterial numbers (TVC) were very variable with an extremely high median level (10.3 log cfu/item) in Portuguese sponges and lower levels in Norwegian items (7.3 and 7.0 cfu/item for sponges and brushes). No self-reported practices or household composition could explain differences found in TVC levels among the collected sponges. Lower mean TVC levels were found in unworn brushes and brushes regularly cleaned with soap, but the differences were modest (1.5 log or less). A common set of bacteria was found in brushes and sponges, dominated by Acinetobacter, Chryseobacterium, Enhydrobacter, Enterobacteriaceae and Pseudomonas. There was no difference in TVC or bacterial diversity between conventional and antimicrobial sponges containing silver after 4 weeks of use. For used brushes inoculated with Salmonella and allowed to dry overnight, a significant reduction in Salmonella numbers was observed. No reduction was observed for brushes stored in humid conditions (in a plastic bag) or for sponges regardless of storing conditions. Conclusions: Overall, lower bacterial levels were observed in used brushes than in sponges, and Salmonella died more rapidly in brushes. A common set of non-pathogenic bacteria dominated in brushes and sponges. Significance and Impact of Study: The study demonstrates that the use of brushes may be more hygienic than the use of sponges.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1378-1391
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Applied Microbiology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2022


  • Bacteriota
  • Brush
  • Cleaning
  • Consumer practice
  • Salmonella
  • Sponge


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