A hot cleaning tip from UF now comes with a warning

Published: Thursday, January 25, 2007 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 24, 2007 at 11:17 p.m.

When Pinellas Park resident Kenneth Anderson read in his local paper that microwaving kitchen sponges can kill bacteria, he thought it was a great idea.

So he popped his two-toned blue dish sponge in the microwave and set the timer for two minutes — the time recommended in the article.

"I got a phone call so I had to leave the kitchen for a minute," said the 76-year-old Anderson from his home Wednesday. "And all of the sudden I smelled something stinking to high heaven."

When he opened the microwave door, Anderson realized he must have done something wrong.

"It was basically charcoal," he said.

Anderson isn't the only one who has set a sponge on fire since the University of Florida put out a news release Monday promoting the benefits of microwaving sponges to sterilize them, said Steve Orlando with the university's news office.

Though the UF news release did mention that the sponges should be wet before being placed in the microwave, some news outlets who picked up the story didn't emphasize that point — leading to sponge fires in cities as far away as Germany.

Orlando said they had received four phone calls from news outlets reporting fires as of Wednesday afternoon.

"What we did is we got the first report (Tuesday)," Orlando said. "So we immediately pulled down the release temporarily, contacted the researcher and re-posted the story about an hour later with a big clarification on top."

Now anyone who reads the news release will notice bold print at the top that urges readers to completely wet the sponge before microwaving, limit the time to two minutes, be sure there are no metal parts on the sponge and to be cautious because the sponge will be hot when it comes out.

As long as those guidelines are followed, Orlando said, people should have no more problems microwaving their sponges.

"In fact, the researcher said he put a sponge in the microwave for 10 minutes when it was wet and nothing happened," he said.

Alice Wallace can be reached at 374-5036 or alice.wallace@gvillesun.com.

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