From the "What were they thinking files"
The University of Florida came out with a press release regarding home dishwashing sponges. The article said that putting a sponge in the microwwave for 2 minutes on high would sufficiently sterilize the sponge. Then, the complaints started to flow in. Apparently people were starting fires in their microwaves because they did not wet the sponges prior to the decontamination!
Wait you say! This might very well happen if specific instructions were not given. When we read the press release we see:
Bitton said the UF researchers soaked sponges and scrubbing pads in raw wastewater containing a witch?s brew of fecal bacteria, viruses, protozoan parasites and bacterial spores, including Bacillus cereus spores.
The researchers used an off-the-shelf microwave oven to zap the sponges and scrub pads for varying lengths of time, wringing them out and determining the microbial load of the water for each test.
Bitton said the heat, rather than the microwave radiation, likely is what proves fatal to the pathogens. Because the microwave works by exciting water molecules, it is better to microwave wet rather than dry sponges or scrub pads, he said.
Of course now UF has added a note of caution to the press release (McDonald's coffee anyone?):
PLEASE NOTE: To guard against the risk of fire, people who wish to sterilize their sponges at home must ensure the sponge is completely wet. Two minutes of microwaving is sufficient for most sterilization. Sponges should also have no metallic content. Last, people should be careful when removing the sponge from the microwave as it will be hot.