A question we get asked about a LOT is the use of sponges and scourers for cleaning and, like most things in the food industry, the answer should be based on risk assessment.
Overall, the use of sponges and scourers is NOT something we would recommend. This is because they:
- are very often poorly managed as cleaning tools;
- can quickly become a source of contamination and spread microbes, allergens, and foreign bodies (including pieces of the sponge or scourer itself);
- are virtually impossible to clean and disinfect adequately;
- can scratch the surface they are cleaning and make them more difficult to clean in the future; and
- are rarely made of food contact compliant material.
However, we do know that they are widely used by the food industry and that, sometimes, there really is no better alternative for removing hazardous soils.
Consequently, the advice we would offer is,
- that sponges/scouring pads are not intended to come into direct contact with food;
- to weigh up the risk of using the sponge/scourer against the risk posed by the hazard you are trying to remove. If the risk from the hazard is greater, then the use of the sponge/scourer may be justifiable;
- ensure that the sponge/scourer use is managed properly including,
a. where they are used,
b. how long they are used for,
c. how frequently they are changed;
- to choose high-quality sponges/scourers to minimize the risk of their degradation during use.