Kitchen sponges massively absorb and spread microorganisms, leading to contamination of kitchen appliances, surfaces, and food. Microwaving as an effective and widespread technique can rapidly reduce the microbial load of kitchen sponges. However, long-term effects of such treatments are largely unknown. Notably, it has been speculated that regularly applied domestic cleaning and disinfection may select for microbial communities with a higher pathogenic potential and/or malodorous properties. In this study, we distributed newly purchased polyurethane kitchen sponges to 20 participants, with the instruction to use them under normal household conditions for four weeks. Ten of the participants sanitized their sponges regularly by a standardized microwaving protocol, while the remaining ten sponges remained untreated. Metagenomic sequence data evaluation indicated that, in addition to bacteria, viruses, eukaryotes, and archaea were also part of the kitchen sponge microbiome. Comparisons of sanitized and untreated kitchen sponges indicated a trend towards a reduced structural microbial diversity while functional diversity increased. Microwave sanitization appeared to alter composition and metabolic properties of the microbial communities. Follow-up studies will have to show whether these changes are more positive or negative in terms of domestic hygiene, human health, and well-being.
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