Friday, March 16, 2007


Most of the French people I know (and I know quite a few of them) use a lot of sponges (this is a good thing - this is a sound ecological practice) unlike many Americans who have the habit of grabbing a wad of paper towel to solve every cleaning situation. Guilty as charged.

BUT... I have an issue. Sponges are great big succulent sources of bacteria. And I cringe every time I see that sponge wipe across the table after a meal and get tossed into the sink. Repeat the process. Repeat the process. Repeat...

In my house the French adult is a complete clean freak. Two showers a day, wear it once and into the clothes bin, vacuum, dust, bleach, mop the floor,... sans arrĂȘt (constantly). But that sponge swings its way across the table top, the counter-top, the chair seat, and plop, back into the sink.

Since the French can be sensitive about any criticism, and since I love the French, and I don’t want them to feel I am criticizing anything, I have a personal quest. I try to keep it under wraps, but I think I can divulge it in an English language venue without too much danger of reprisal.

I go around popping sponges in the microwave. Shhhhh. Like my mother went around straightening pictures. Even in other people’s homes. No, not in the homes of complete strangers or casual acquaintances. But in the homes of other family members and close friends. OK, I don’t do it a lot. I’m too afraid of getting caught. But...

The odd thing is I have never run into anyone else who uses the microwave to sterilize something in this fashion. I also do it to wooden kitchen spoons and forks. Soak them in water and then into the micro they go. So I’m beginning to think I am the weird one. Doesn’t it seem logical that the microwave is going to kill any bacteria as it super-heats any water in the object, be it sponge, spoon, or anything else non-metallic and non-pet-like in appearance? Do I need to check myself into a clinic for improper microwave usage?

I know not to ask my son that question. He has learned to be skeptical of Papa and the microwave. No, regardless of how bacteria ridden he may be, I have never tried to stuff him into the microwave - I’ve read all the wet poodle stories - and I know better than to heat a bottle of milk in the microwave and then pop it into his mouth.

Are we ready for the cute kid story?

Ok, at the risk of “you had to be there”...

All French kids have a doudou. A doudou is a stuffed thingy, maybe a representation of a well known character, maybe an animal, or just a soft blob of fabric covered stuffing. The doudou is a BIG deal. I’m not really up to date on this practice with American kids although I know that I had a blanket that I kept as close as possible for as long as possible. But in France the child rearing experts insist the doudou is a completely necessary and vital element in the child’s early development.

So anyone halfway conscious gives their children a doudou right off the bat. If they are conscious and smart, they buy multiple copies of the same doudou from the very beginning so it can be washed and or replaced if, godforbid, you should loose it or destroy it in some unseemly fashion.

Being the progeny of model parents, my miniature Franco-Americans naturally have their doudous. Now passing the 2-1/2 year mark, the doudous can sometimes stay in a back-pack or even be left at home if everyone agrees that the outing is not likely to result in any sort of personal crises which requires the comfort of one’s doudou. Nevertheless when bedtime comes around, the doudou is in high demand. You never want to know what the consequences are of being without the doudou when it is absolutely in demand.

Background complete. On with the story.

So some months ago, when the twins both decided all of a sudden to ditch the pacifier, the boy started chewing on the ears of his doudou. My guess is he didn’t really want to ditch the pacifier, he was just putting out a dare to his sister and when she took the bait, he had no choice but to follow through. Backtracking is not an option - it’s a guy thing, even little bitty guys.

He chewed so vigorously that he would stuff an entire ear, and half the head in his mouth, which resulted in a doudou which was at the end of the day very wet and very disgusting.

Round about one bedtime, Dad realizes, yikes, the spare doudou is not in the house, the drying machine is way too slow and noisy, and the doudou is at its dripping, disgusting worst. Of course, you know what is coming... the microwave. No metal, no problem. Ninety seconds in the microwave = no bacteria, at least for a while.

I probably don’t even need to finish the story.

This is also at the peak of the still current period when the miniatures are very concerned about things being hot. You don’t touch the stove, you blow on your food. “C’est trop chaud!” It may have icicles forming on it, but you need to blow on it because it is too hot.

In the meantime the doudou has passed his 90 seconds in the microwave and is waiting patiently in bed next to the pillow.

Enter boy child, who climbs into bed and picks up his doudou ready for a good night hug. Only mildly alarmed, but with big round concerned eyes, and clearly expecting some sort of remedy, “uh, papa, my doudou, he's still a little hot.”

Papa is useless, he can’t blow on the doudou because he is crumpled on the floor, holding his stomach, tears streaming down his cheeks.

Oh hell, like I said, you had to be there.
End with sheepish grin.


Reb said...

Yes, yes. There is someone reading your blog.
That story made me laugh - I'll keep it in mind next time my daughter drops her doudou.

And you are right on target about the sponges - I am constantly saying to my French half, "did you at least rinse the sponge after you used it?"

We have so much to tech them...

GoGo said...

I get the sponge thing.

As for the...crap already lost the spelling for the kids toys...anyway the story was funny.

Thanks for randomly bumping into me in Blogsville. Hope to see you around.

claude said...

Brilliant idea, the microwave! Just one question. Do sponges with green backs, you know, the ones that scratch, contain metal?

Pauline said...

"The microwave can also disinfect other kitchen items. Sterilizing dry cellulose sponges took a mere 30 seconds, while wet sponges took 1 minute. Cotton dishrags required 30 seconds when dry but 3 minutes when wet." This from

Thanks for your kind comments on my site. I am half French but living in the U.S.

Pardon My French said...

Oh, dear -- I have to show your post to my husband so he will at least believe me. He doesn't believe me that the microwave will kill the bacteria in sponges and we had a somewhat "heated" (sorry) discussion last month about whether I was right or just going through another surge of pregnancy hormones. And the conversation also included our wooden cutting board, which is unfortunately too large to fit in the microwave or I would do the same with it.

The doudou story is very sweet, although it hadn't yet occurred to me that I could disinfect one in the microwave. Hmmm...

Ken Broadhurst said...

The microwave works as a sterilizer but you can get burned if you're not careful. I think it's also OK to put the green-backed scrubber sponges in the microwave too -- no metal in them.

Another disinfectant is household bleach. But it has its dangers too.

Other people's sponges and dishrags -- eeewwwww! Mine are fine though, IMHO.

Samantha said...

OMG, I totally do that too. And I hate touching sponges at other people's homes - they're always so nasty and you can practically SEE the germs festering on them!

Pumpkin said...

It is so true about the French and sponges! When I first arrived in France I was disgusted by the sponge my inlaws used over and over and over. I'll have to use the microwave like you do to make them germ free. :)

I use the microwave to boil water in a cup and drop pacifers into it to disinfect them for my little stinkers.

santi said...

Hi Ben ... I just love your stories .. never lived in France yet, but live with a French husband and two half French kids.