20+ Eco-Friendly Sponges
Updated: Oct 13, 2022
Sponges have been used by us for thousands of years (the Ancient Greeks used them). Because they can absorb a lot of water, they are great for cleaning purposes whether to clean yourself or your dishes. Unfortunately, most sponges nowadays are of synthetic origin while a few decades ago sponges were completely natural. Luckily a lot of eco-friendly alternatives are available for sponges nowadays and below you found over 20 options to choose from.
What are sponges?
Originally a sponge is a type of animal more specifically a Porifera (meaning sponge). They lack tissue and organs like normal animals but they can have a skeletal system and produce sperm cells for reproduction. However, sponges don’t have a nervous (so they don’t feel), digestive or circulatory system. Sponges, mostly rely on constant water flow through their bodies to obtain food and oxygen and to remove their waste.
Sponge harvesting used to be not very eco-friendly but nowadays, sponges are harvested using sustainable methods that help the sponge population as a whole. Divers are trained to regularly and systematically rotate fishing areas, and sustainably harvest sponges by cutting the sponge so that the base is still intact. This allows the sponge to quickly regenerate. Rotating the harvesting or fishing grounds will ensure the sponges have sufficient time for healthy and productive regrowth, without impacting the natural habitat of the sea sponge colonies that are used for harvesting.
Are sponges biodegradable?
Whether or not a sponge is biodegradable depends on the material the sponge is made from.
Most sponges available in supermarkets nowadays are synthetic sponges. Synthetic sponges can be made of different types of plastic like polyester or polyurethane. Polyurethane is used in plastic sponges for its abrasive side. Making it great to clean stubborn dirt. Polyester sponges are common for dishwashing and are usually soft and with a bright color. The big downside of these types of sponges is that they will release tiny plastic particles (microplastics) into your dishwater when you use them. This, unfortunately, will result in the contamination of our groundwater with microplastics.
As plastic doesn’t biodegrade but just falls apart into smaller pieces of plastic it can not be considered biodegradable.
There are also sponges available that are plant-based. These types of sponges (can be found below) are made from plant fibers. These sponges are more used to clean our bodies.
However, not all plant-based sponges are the same. Some are indeed more eco-friendly compared to their plastic counterpart but have undergone intensive (not very eco-friendly) treatment to make the plant materials into a sponge. But, as these are completely plant-based they will slowly biodegrade.
Dish clothes are not new, however most of the time these are made from microfiber which is a synthetic material. This is not only not so eco-friendly to produce, but it also slowly releases microplastics when you use them. Luckily there are more sustainable options available like a Swedish dishcloth. These can absorb up to 15 times their weight in water and they are completely plant-based. They are made of 30% cotton and 70% cellulose and are completely compostable when their useful life is up. They are also quick-drying, and machine washable, so you can reuse these eco-friendly sponges over and over.
Cellulose dish sponge
These are similar to Swedish dishcloths but are 100% cellulose-based. They are not only very functional in the kitchen, but they can also double as household cleaning cloths and can mop up rather spills with little effort. They are completely free from harmful chemicals, plastics, and dyes. Full Circle, the production company, maintains a manufacturing process that includes waste reduction and resource preservation practices for a truly eco-friendly experience.
Etee Loofie Scrubber kitchen sponges have 2 sides. One side is soft for wiping spills and a rough side is for scrubbing dirt from dishes. The soft side is a spongy cellulose-cotton and wood cellulose mix while the scrubbing side is made of loofah plant material. This plant is very sturdy yet doesn’t scratch dishes. As cotton yarn is used to sew the 2 sides together, this sponge is completely biodegradable. For easy cleaning for your sponge, they recommend putting them on the top rack of your dishwasher. Even the packaging of your Etee sponge is eco-friendly as only recycled cardboard is used while the package is sealed with biodegradable cellulose tape. When the Loofie Scrubber is worn out, you can compost it or even buried in your garden, where it will decompose within a month.
The Skoy Scrub is a little different from other dishcloths or sponges because it's made of 100% cotton fibers. A non-toxic hardener is added to the fibers to make the sponge more sturdy, last much longer compared to regular kitchen sponges, and will do a better job cleaning. What is even better is that these eco-friendly scrubs are strong enough to clean stove tops while they will not scratch the surface. They are very convenient to use as they dry incredibly fast after use. If you find them too dirty because of frequent use you can just pop them into your washing machine and you can use them again so you won’t have to purchase a new one just yet.
If you prefer a sponge that still looks like the colorful loofah you know and loves maybe a burlap loofah is for you. This one is made with 100% natural material so there is no risk of flushing microplastics down your drain. Burlap is a rather rough material which makes this loofah a great alternative to scrub your body with. They are also available in cotton, bamboo, or hemp for the ones among us who prefer a softer type so scrub in the shower. Let these natural loofahs completely dry between uses so you can enjoy them the longest.
Marley Monster is known for its handmade reusable products and this washable sponge is no different. They are made from cotton flannel with a polyester mesh for scrubbing stubborn dirt on your dishes. The middle of these sponges is made with mildew-resistant, washable, and hypoallergenic recycled materials. To make your eco-friendly sponge fresh again, you can just throw them in the dishwasher or washing machine to make sure your sponge is as new again.
Natural latex pad
Another natural material we don’t usually see in for cleaning is latex but latex has some amazing uses. Like this cleaning pad. This Natural Latex Scour Pad is made with a blend of coconut fiber and natural latex. It works great on your dishes and for reaching those hard-to-clean nooks and crannies in and around your home. At the end of its life, simply toss this eco-friendly sponge in your compost bin as this sponge is made with 100% natural materials.
This coconut fiber sponge is made from coconut husk fibers (usually a waste product after coconut production) pressed into a square mold to look like your regular sponge. Latex and cotton are used to bind the different materials together so you have one side for gentle cleaning and one side for scrubbing dishes. It is great for scrubbing your dishes while also being scratch safe for your pans and stovetop.
Wood pulp Sponge
These eco-friendly sponges are made of 100% wood pulp. These zero-waste kitchen sponges absorb up to 10 times their weight in liquid making them a great alternative to clean for both your kitchen and bathroom. Whether you need to do the dishes, clean countertops or bathe the kids, these eco-friendly, sustainable sponges are there to help you along the way.
Another natural material that can be used to make sponges is walnuts! This unique and powerful sponge is great to keep your kitchen squeaky clean. This is another double-sided sponge with one side being super absorbent while the other is rough for those dishes or other heavy-duty cleaning situations that usually take a lot of work.
This organic, eco-friendly sponge is great for daily dishes. They are hand-knitted and compostable as they are made from 100% natural materials. These sponges are a great alternative to those plastic or metal sponges that continue to pollute our planet. They are strong enough to clean your dishes but gently enough to not scratch your expensive pans and countertops. Hemp is amazing as it doesn’t absorb smell but if you ever feel like your hemp sponge needs a wash, just pop them into your washing machine to make them as good as new.
A loofah is my favorite eco-friendly sponge. Contrary to synthetic plant-based sponges, these sponges are not treated to turn them into a sponge. Loofah is a type of gourd with a very porous spongy interior. It looks and grows similar to cucumbers and multiple fruits can be harvested from a plant each season.
Loofah sponges are surprisingly sturdy and are great for both dishes as well as in the shower. I love to scrub my body with my loofah sponge. I scrub my legs twice a week with this sponge to prevent ingrown hairs and to keep them soft.
Recycled fishnet sponge
Fishnets are a big problem in our oceans as 80% of our ocean is polluted with plastic and a rather large part comes from the fishing industry. Fishnets are made from nylon and polyamide which are petroleum-derived materials. A great way to use these fishnets is to turn them into eco-friendly sponges for your dishes.
A (sea) sponge is an animal. They are just a few cells big and live on rocks in the ocean. These Captain Blankenship Sea Sponges are sustainably harvested from self-regenerating sponges in the Atlantic Ocean. Only the outermost portion of the sponge is harvested to make sure healthy and sustainable regrowth of the sponge. As a sponge is an animal, you might think that the harvesting of a sponge is harmful to them. This is not the case, as they have no nerve cells meaning it is similar to them what a haircut would be for us. These sponges are non-toxic, hypoallergenic, compostable, and contain natural enzymes that slow the growth of mold, bacteria, and mildew. Making them great to be used in both your kitchen as well as in the bathroom
A silk sponge is similar to a sea sponge with only a few small differences. Just like the sea sponge, the silk sponge is an animal and the sponge is harvested similarly. A silk sponge prefers a warmer climate. These silk sponges are hand-cut close to the Philippine coast. They have much more but much smaller pores compared to the sea sponge. This makes a silk sponge much softer compared to the regular sea sponge (hence the name silk sponge). A silk sponge is 100% organic, allergy-friendly, and resistant so it may serve you for many years. Keep in mind that sponges are natural so the size and shape you receive with your purchase may vary.
This is another double-sided sponge. In this case, one of the sides is made from recycled plastic bottles. This is the abrasive side of the sponge and can handle some serious heavy cleaning duties from your kitchen. This other side is much softer and is made from wood cellulose. This absorbent side is for more gentle cleaning after the abrasive side has done its job.