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By Karen B. Gibbs

When was the last time you cleaned your kitchen sponge? If it wasn't in the last 24 hours, listen up.

Daily essentials like sponges and brushes are often way past due for a good washing. Keep these items looking fresh and lasting longer by following these easy cleaning tips.

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Hairbrushes

The cardinal rule for hairbrush care it to remove hair from the bristles after every use. This keeps bristles from matting down over time. A comb is a quick way to sweep out those extra strands. Then, once a month, wash the brush to remove build-up of hair products, dirt, hair oil and bacteria. For best results, wet brush in warm water then scrub between bristles with a toothbrush and a few drops of shampoo. Rinse well and dry overnight, bristles down, on a towel.

Makeup brushes

Dirty make-up brushes spread on more than just old makeup — think germs, dead skin cells and body oils. To keep your makeup brushes fresh, wash them every month using a solution of warm, soapy water. Rinse well. Remove excess water by gently blotting with a towel. To speed up drying, use a hair dryer on low, fanning the bristles with your fingers while drying.

Kitchen sponges

As handy as they are for cleaning, kitchen sponges harbor bacteria such as E.coli, salmonella, yeast and mold. To reduce these germs, clean the sponge daily in hot, soapy water, then microwave wet for two minutes.

No microwave? Simply wash the sponge then run it through the dishwasher (top rack) with the drying cycle on, or soak the sponge for one minute in a solution of ½ teaspoon of concentrated bleach to 1 quart of warm water.

Caveat: These techniques reduce germs, but none totally eliminate them. That’s why it’s important to replace sponges every week or so, or whenever they become slimy or hold an odor—whichever comes first.

Washable silk scarves

Depending on use, silk scarves should be cleaned every month or two. This not only keeps scarves looking fresh, it rids them of the germs and grime that come with everyday wear. Depending on use, silk scarves should be cleaned every month or two. Duane Schumann, specialist at Treasured Garment Restoration in Stillwater, Minnesota offers these simple steps for cleaning washable silk scarves.

First, make sure your silk scarf is washable. Next, place the scarf into a mixture of lukewarm water, a few drops of dish detergent and ½ teaspoon of salt. (The salt usually reduces the loss of color.) Gently squeeze water through the scarf, taking care not to rub. Rinse under cool water. To remove any soap residue, place scarf into a mixture of one tablespoon of distilled white vinegar and two quarts of cool water. Squeeze solution through scarf then rinse under cool water until all trace of vinegar and soap is gone. Roll scarf in a towel to remove excess water, then spread flat on a clean towel to dry.