When To Use Sponges, Disposable Wipes And Other Hand Tools


A reader writes: “I know you do not like sponges and disposable wipes but I believe there are times when they can be effective. How do you respond?”

First of all, I have nothing against sponges, disposable wipes and other products when used correctly and safely. The question we should all be asking is “what is the goal or purpose in using this product?”

There are times when a disposable wipe might be more appropriate than any other product. I am challenged by commercials I see claiming “disinfection” by simply wiping a surface with a disposable wipe treated with some chemical. I would suggest that they are using the term “disinfection” loosely and should probably use the term “sanitize” which is a lower kill rate and easier to defend. I always look for an EPA registration number that can help support their claim and then look for the fine print indicating the necessary dwell time for true disinfection to occur.

Remember that most disinfectants DO NOT clean unless they have a detergency element that helps break up the soil load first. Using a disinfecting wipe can certainly help towards the goal of reducing total germ count on a surface and when used correctly, reduces the chance of cross contamination. Note that the texture of the wipe can also have a major impact on their effectiveness in picking up the “critters” they are trying to kill and remove.

As to sponges, you must make special note of their “anti-microbial” claims since they can easily harbor and grow germs if not maintained correctly. They can be used for bulk water pick up and with the scrubby side can be used dealing with built up soils. I see well-meaning people soak them in bleach, use the microwave and simply wash and allow to air dry to suppress the germ growth. I do not have any data to support or challenge such practices.

I only suggest that you err on the side of safety when it comes to using sponges and other products that may be hard to verify that they are germ free to avoid cross-contamination.

Your comments and questions are important. I hope to hear from you soon. Until then, keep it clean…

Mickey Crowe has been involved in the industry for over 35 years. He is a trainer, speaker and consultant. You can reach Mickey at 678-314-2171 or CTCG50@comcast.net.