7 Kitchen Items That Need to Be Cleaned or Replaced ASAP

Using common kitchen items—like sponges, dish rags, and cutting boards—for too long can spread germs and bacteria. Learn which ones you're probably forgetting to clean and when it's time for a replacement.

1. Cutting Boards

Cutting boards are one of the most versatile kitchen tools. They're perfect for prep, and their stable surface makes cleanup a breeze. Plus, most cutting boards have a long life if properly maintained. Simply run them through the dishwasher after each use or clean with hot, soapy water if you're using a wood or bamboo model. Replace cutting boards when they show signs of wear, such as deep groove marks or an unstable surface. Crevices can make cutting boards impossible to fully clean, leaving harmful bacteria behind.

How to Clean Your Cutting Board Without Chemicals

2. Sponges

Because sponges come into contact with so much grime and bacteria, they're bound to build up a layer of their own filth. Clean your sponges daily by tossing them into the microwave or into your dishwasher to help kill germs.  However, this is only a temporary fix. No sponge will or should last forever. We recommend replacing sponges every month or so.

3. Water Filter

Using a water pitcher with a built-in filter is an easy, inexpensive way to increase the quality of your drinking water. But can you remember the last time you changed the pitcher's filter? If you're not keeping up with the manufacturer's recommendations for replacement, the filter won't be able to do its job. Consult your manual for recommendations, but most filters need to be replaced every 2–6 months.

4. Water Bottles

Reusable water bottles are a sound investment. They're great for quenching your thirst and keeping you hydrated on the go, and can help reduce your carbon footprint. Plus they can last for years with proper maintenance. As a general rule, you should wash your water bottle every day. Pay attention to easy-to-miss areas like the mouthpiece, and invest in an elongated brush to help you reach the bottom of the bottle. Replace when your bottle shows serious signs of wear, like exterior cracks or funky smells. 

Bottle at the End of Its Life? Make It into a Bird Feeder!

5. Dish Rags and Towels

Your trusty dish rags and towels have been there for you through every kitchen spill and sticky situation. They pick up juice that's leaked onto the counter or wipe away spilled crumbs. But as great as these linens are for wiping up surfaces, they're also prone to transferring germs. Laundering dish rags and towels daily in hot water can keep germs at bay. Or seek out disposable replacements, such as paper towels. 

6. Spices

Next time you clean out your pantry, pay attention to your spice rack. Cooking with old spices won't hurt you, but they can make your food less flavorful. Toss spices every few years, depending on their makeup—whole spices typically last longer than ground versions. When you buy new spices, write the date of purchase on a piece of tape, then attach it to the spice so you'll know exactly how old it is. 

Clever Ways to Store Spices

7. Plastic Storage Containers

We all know somebody who loves to reuse old yogurt containers for years on end. But reusing any plastic container for too long—especially one that was meant to be disposed of—can be dangerous. Over time, plastic breaks down, causing the chemicals to leach into your food. Look for signs of wear after each use—like cracks, discoloration, or unusual smells—and always toss disposable packaging once you're finished with the product. 


  1. these ideas are wasteful.....they can be washed and sterilized ...we live in a wasteful throw away society and this doesn't help anyone...especially our planet! think reuse recycle

    1. I totally agree. Use common sense about keeping things safe and clean, but just because it is not in 'like new' condition is not something to be ashamed of. We need to be much less wasteful and use our blessings to help those less fortunate, who have many needs.

  2. I have made a conscious change from using paper towels all the time to rarely. I started using rags and washing them. One extra load of laundry a week but cheaper.

    1. true!!

    2. Well, trees are a renewable source. Indeed,for any cut down; many more are planted now. You are using more water when washing as well.

    3. It is probably cheaper, but also less trash going to the landfill.

  3. I do both! IKEA has great dishtowels for 89 cents that can be used for a couple years, then make excellent towels for cleaning. We also use paper towels for some things and dispose of them into the yard debris for compost. The pick-a-size rolls are a good way to go because rarely do we need a large towel.

    1. Yes, using both is a good idea; dependent upon the need.

  4. Never cook food in plastic or store hot foods in plastic. Plastic causes many hormonal disruptions

  5. Thanks for this article ... one point, the suggestion to use paper towels ... not a good idea for Mother Nature. After being washed a billion times, my dishtowels become cleaning rags, then finally thrown away. New towels are fun to buy. So many great designs!

    1. I completely agree with you all. We have cut way down on our paper towel usage and use cloth whenever possible, turning them into rags when they're worn. We even use cloth napkins. I bought a supply of large, multi-colored ones and they are so much nicer to use than paper!

    2. The paper towels also require wood to make, depleting the standing trees. I hate to see old growth forests cut down. New growth forests are not really enough to keep up with all the disposables we use. I have bought 2 rolls of paper towels in 4 years. I keep them in my car for when the windows get too smudged up and I am not home to use a couple of cleaning cloths. I keep a spray bottle of vinegar and water in my van to clean the inside when I am waiting for kids to get out to the van. I put a couple of drops of essential oil in it to make things smell good. Much better than using ammonia based window cleaner and having the van smell like ammonia, which also bothers my asthma. I also will use the cleaning cloths until they are rags, and then the last time they are used, it will be to clean the commode good. I use holey socks to clean the commode and then I do not feel bad about throwing them away. Since socks are usually made from cotton and my sons go through them so fast, I always have plenty and they will biodegrade well.

    3. Exactly my thoughts

    4. My paper towels go in my compost bin with my coffee grounds and veg peelings.

    5. Agreed!

  6. Where can I buy the drawer insert as shown in the above photo with the plastic containers? Thx!

    1. That looks like a simple mail/phone charging unit for a desk! Bet you could find one easily!

    2. Looks like a letter holder--any home store.

  7. Just went and gave my reusable water bottle a good scrubbing - thanks for the reminder!

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