A Guide to Sustainable Kitchen Sponges
Every action you take makes a difference – no matter where you are in the spectrum of reducing your environmental footprint. This post is a guide to sustainable sponges, so you are more informed about your contribution to the landfill these days.
We begin in your kitchen.
How much do you know about your kitchen sponges and scrubbers?
How often do you dispose of them and where?
Why Conventional Sponges are Bad for the Planet
They are composed of plastics such as polyurethane. The brightly colored ones are dyed with a toxic chemical.
If that doesn’t convince you, wait, there’s more. Some of these toxic nightmares are treated with Triclosan, an antibacterial chemical that is harmful to the environment. It leaches into the water system destroying plant life. They’re also linked to liver and thyroid problems. Moreover, water treatment plants cannot remove it from their equipment.
Consider plastic sponges to be the vampires of household products. They cannot be recycled or composted. They are destined to live forever in the landfill infecting the earth for eternity. It sounds dramatic, but it’s true. Several sources argue that their afterlife can be 50,00 years, more or less.
Because sponges harbor bacteria, some people dispose of them once a week. That adds up.
The problem is worse because China is no longer accepting our plastic. Until we work out a solution to that, more plastic is headed for a landfill.
What Makes a Sponge Sustainable?
It must be 100 percent cellulose or a combination of cellulose or hemp, wood pulp, and cotton.
Forget any sponge that is 50, 60 0r 70 percent cellulose with other unknown materials. While doing research for this article, I learned that some brands mislead consumers by labeling sponges as natural, when they are not.
Sponges are only natural if they are biodegradable or compostable. It means they will decompose in the ground with no harmful effects to it.
I did the work for you
Below is a list of the sponges I purchased. These are truly biodegradable. And, as noted above, one is not. I list that sponge at the bottom of my post
3 Sponges that are Biodegradable or Compostable
Twist Scrub Sponge - $1.99 1 Pack
Scrubber one side, sponge on the other. I purchased this at Whole Foods, but it can also be purchased at Target (3-pack for $3.99) or Amazon. It is designed in Colorado, manufactured in Mexico. It is white, so it gets looks dirty quickly. The twist sponge is pretty tough. I've washed it in the dishwasher 3 times. How to dispose of? Compost. I have used this sponge for both cleaning dishes, pans and my countertops.
Casabella - $4.99 - 3 Pack
Scrubber one side, sponge on the other. Purchased at Whole Foods. It is produced in Canada. They come in pretty colors which made me wonder about its content. But, the company verified they are biodegradable and are made of 100% natural materials. These sponges are the toughest of all three. I've washed them in the dishwasher 3 times. And, used them for dishes and countertops. This product is my favorite for sponge/scrubber action.
Trader Joes Pop-Up Sponges - $6.99 - 12 Pack
Both sides are the same. They expand in water. Purchased at Trader Joes, Williams Sonoma sells an identical product for more money. Both companies verified that they are biodegradable. Made of 100% cellulose. Unfortunately, they are not as tough as the others. But, they are useful as makeup sponges, just cut them in half. They are perfect for the office, traveling, or cleaning the inside of a narrow cup or bottle.
The Best Way to Clean Your Sponges
There are three methods I recommend. After checking multiple sources and testing. I hate to admit that natural sponges attract bacteria more quickly. However, you can clean them. Or if you dispose of them they are not harmful to the planet.
- Dishwasher – The hot water and soap will sanitize them.
- Boiling water – The same effect as the above, just make sure to add soap.
- Hydrogen Peroxide – I swear by it. This product is a great natural solution for a myriad of household chores.
- Microwave (use with caution) – Several sources warn there is a fire risk.
One Sponge that Didn't Make the Cut
Natural Value Scrubber & Sponge - $1.99 - 1 Pack
Purchased at Whole Foods. Their packaging makes it look natural. The label and website say they are made with natural materials. However, a reply from the company President to my email confirmed they are not biodegradable and cannot be composted. It is the green sponge pictured in the photo at the top.