Many people swear by putting dirty cloths or sponges in the microwave to get rid of nasty bacteria.

However, a recent study carried out by Furtwangen University in Germany suggests that such practices, though common, are not all that helpful.

The study shows that heating a cloth in the microwave did, in fact, decrease the number of germs – primarily those that are not harmful to humans.

However, pathogens – microorganisms that can cause human disease – are better at surviving and can even multiply when placed in the microwave.

There is also the risk that the cloth will catch fire in the microwave.

So what’s the best way to keep your kitchen cloths and sponges clean?

The German Center for Nutrition advises replacing heavily used sponges on a weekly basis.

If you don’t want to do this, you should replace them when they begin to smell.

Cloths can be washed on the hot cycle of a washing machine. When using them, always make sure to squeeze out excess water and leave them to dry in a well-ventilated place. This keeps the number of germs at a minimum. – dpa