Eco Friendly Sponges: Try These Sponge Alternatives


Switching to eco friendly sponges is a great step towards lowering your plastic waste.

Use eco friendly sponges are made from natural fibers like:

  • coconut
  • hemp
  • wood
  • loofah
  • cotton
  • jute
  • agave (sisal)
  • sea sponges.

These are all compostable and sustainable.

Eco friendly sponges

Why use an eco friendly sponge?

Soft sponges today are made from polyester. More abrasive ones are made from polyurethane.

Both are types of plastic.

Quite frankly, we don’t need more plastic in our landfills and our environment to break down into smaller pieces of microplastics. They don’t degrade and we’re not exactly sure about the true damage they can do to our health.

So, it’s important to switch to biodegradable sponges.

What to look for when buying eco friendly sponges?

#1 Sponge material

Sponges should be made from natural materials and fibers that can biodegrade in compost bins.

The materials should also be:

  • soft on hands
  • able to absorb water and soap suds
  • able to dry quickly between each use

#2 Other materials used

The materials used to hold the sponge fibers together (if applicable) should also be made from compostable, recyclable or reusable materials like metal and wood.

#3 Packaging

The sponges should come in sustainable and recyclable packaging like paper or cardboard.

How to look after your sponge alternatives?

Studies like this one show when sponges (like the plastic ones) stay wet for many hours, they become perfect hosts for bacteria, yeast, and mold.

Popping them in the microwave will kill some of these microbes; but not all! The resilient ones survive and they can get you sick.

The best way to look after your sponge is to keep them dry between each use. Without water, the microbes won’t be able to reproduce.

So, squeeze the sponges as much as you can and hang them over the sink to dry. You can also alternate between two or more sponges, giving each one time to dry properly and stay dry.

Boiling the sponges is another effective way to disinfect them.

Cleaning and sanitizing your eco friendly sponges often will ensure they last longer than the plastic ones.

Best Eco Friendly Sponges

My favorite compostable sponge is simple coconut fiber. But it isn’t the only option. Here are all my recommendations.

1. Coconut Fiber

Brown nuts are surrounded by thick layers of the fiber. So, if you can get your hands on a fresh unshelled coconut, take it. It’ll make enough eco friendly sponges for a year.

My parents and grandparents have washed their dishes with these fibers for many decades. The fibers work! Here’s a look at some I have.

zero waste sponge: coconut fiber

Pros:

  • free (if you can find a coconut tree nearby)
  • organic
  • biodegradable
  • soft on hands
  • package-free
  • extracts of coconut fibers are antibacterial and anti-fungal, according to this study

Cons:

  • the fibers break up over time (you can see bits of fiber in the photo [left])

What to do at the end of its life:

  • rinse and add them to the garden. Coconut fibers are used as natural potting mix.
  • grow orchids in them (my mom does this)

Get on Amazon:

  • Safix pad: looks like a traditional scrub pad (this one looks exactly like the plastic ones,except it’s better!)
  • Green Roots pad: stiffer scrubber

2. Tawashis

Tawashis are the Japanese term for scrubbers. Traditional ones are made with coconut or hemp fibers tied tightly together with wire. Newer versions can be made with fabric like repurposed socks.

Eco friendly sponge - coconut tawashi

Pros:

  • low cost
  • biodegradable or recyclable materials used
  • if coconut fibers are used, they are antimicrobial
  • soft on hands

Cons:

  • may come in plastic packaging

What to do at the end of its life:

  • for traditional tawashis, remove and reuse the metal wire. Compost the fibers.
  • for cloth tawashis, repurpose or compost the fabric

Get on Amazon: 3 traditional tawashis (these are really cheap and perfect to get your started)

Or make your own: See Madame Minima’s Youtube tutorial

3. Sea Sponges

Sea sponges were popular before the plastic ones took over. Even the ancient Greeks and Romans used them.

Sea sponges are actually classed as animals but they don’t have tissue, organs or nerve sensors. There is some debate about the sponges being vegan or not. My thoughts are they are animals and so are not vegan.

The sponges are harvested by breaking the tops off – the lower parts reproduce and regenerate. Since, they don’t have any senses, I consider sponge harvesting cruelty-free.

Constantia Beauty Store eco friendly sponges

Pros:

  • compostable
  • soft on hands

Cons:

  • not vegan
  • animal harvesting
  • possible plastic packaging
  • proper disinfection is necessary

What to do at the end of its life:

  • rinse and add to compost bin

Gar on Amazon: Set of different sized sponges

4. Loofah Scrubbers

My family had a few plants and, ever so often, we’d harvest and cut them into scrubber pieces. The pieces can feel a little rigid when dry. But, trust me, add water and they become so soft and sponge like.

Eplanita loofahs

Pros:

  • low cost
  • biodegradable materials used
  • soft on hands when wet
  • dries quickly

What to do at the end of its life:

  • disinfect and reuse as a skin exfoliator
  • add to compost bin

Get on Amazon: Eplanita’s loofahs (these are really soft!)

5. Cotton Scrubbers

Natural, biodegradable fabrics also make great eco friendly sponges for dishes and general cleaning.

Toockies cotton scrubbers

Pros:

Cons:

  • takes longer to dry than coconut fiber

What to do at the end of its life:

  • add to compost bin

Get on Amazon: Toockies cotton scrubbers. (these are soft on your hands)

6. Jute DIY Scrubbers

Jute is a natural fiber that is used to make string and burlap.

Tenn Well Natural Jute Twine, 500 Feet Long Brown Twine

Pros:

  • low cost
  • jute is compostable
  • soft

What to do at the end of its life:

  • reuse as string
  • compost

Get on Amazon: Tenn Well natural jute twine (get the twine and have your kids make their own scrubbers)

Make your own:

Fairyland Cottage has the best video for making a jute macramé that you can use as an eco friendly scrubber. It’s a great craft activity for the kids too.

7. Natural Brushes

I have a few natural brushes for washing my dishes. They’re really nice, sturdy and not made with plastic.

Bamboo brushes

Pros:

  • wooden handles made from natural bamboo or beechwood
  • handles protect your hands from the soap
  • bristles are made from natural fibers like sisal which is derived from a type of agave plant.

Cons:

  • wooden handles may split if left soaking in water
  • some bristles may fall off

What to do at the end of its life:

  • compost

Get on Amazon:

Other Eco Friendly Options

Swedish dishcloths can be used to scrub dishes. Sure! But, it works better as a microfiber replacement. They are so absorbent.

These cloths from Superscandi are made with compostable, natural materials like cotton and cellulose wood pulp. Even the packaging is plant-based and biodegradable.

Superscandi swedish dish cloth

They are certainly about that zero waste life!

Those are the eco friendly sponges that can help you stay zero waste – or at least low waste.

Which ones have you tried before?

I would absolutely love to hear about your experiences.

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