You must try these kitchen sponge alternatives. Why? Because kitchen sponges are absolutely disgusting! This 2019 study explains just how terrible they are. Sponges generally stay moist for long periods and so become comfy, cosy sanctuaries for mega levels of pathogenic bacteria.
Soap and dishwashing liquid don’t affect the stronger bacteria. And if you think microwaving sponges kills everything, think again. It may reduce the bacteria population. Yes, that’s true. But less bacteria just makes space for the stronger, more resistant pathogenic ones to multiply and thrive.
Ditch them for these kitchen sponge alternatives. They are cleaner and easier to maintain. Try them all and find the best fit for you.
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Kitchen Sponge Alternatives
1. Natural bristle brushes with wooden handles
I have a couple brushes with natural fiber bristles. They are lovely and, more importantly, are NOT PLASTIC. Handles are made from stainless steel or sustainable wood like bamboo or beechwood. Bristles are made from coconut, palm or union fibers.
The brushes dry fast and that’s exactly what you need to keep bacterial growth at bay. The brushes can also be boiled in hot water for a couple minutes to destroy pathogenic and odor-causing microbes too.
A good brush can last anywhere from three months to nine months. Compare that to a sponge which should be changed every week or two.
Try the Kuechenprofi classic dish brush. The handle is made with stainless steel and the brush head is wood and the bristles are natural fiber. Be sure to pick up the replacement brushes too and never buy a sponge for a year (maybe two years!). These brushes are perfect for those (like me) who are sensitive to dish soap.
Try this Redecker pot brush. I have one and I love it! It’s made with beech wood, and union fiber. And it’s perfectly safe to use in boiling water.
2. Tawashis are great kitchen sponge alternatives
Ever heard of a tawashi? It’s a Japanese term that’s used for scrubbing brushes. Sponges are called sponge tawashis in Japan. But more traditional tawashis are made with hemp palm or coconut palm fibers bound together by metal wire.
Much like natural bristle brushes, tawashis dry quickly so they won’t allow significant bacterial growth (when compared to sponges). But palm fibers – like coconut fibers – have an added benefit: they are antimicrobial!
There are a couple studies like this one from 2014 which looked into this benefit. The study found the fibers were effective against bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus and the yeast, Candida albicans. So anything with palm and coconut fibers are a must!
Try these tawashi brushes. You can pop it in the dishwasher to sanitize or place them in boiling water for a couple minutes. Oh and one can last for many, many months!
3. Silicone scrubbers
I swear by silicone scrubbers! Silicone is not porous so there is no place for water to stay or bacteria to hide. That makes these scrubbers very hygienic.
Sometimes, thin bacterial films can form on the surface of the scrubbers though, but they can easily be removed by adding the scrubbers to the dishwasher or boiling them.
Since they are non-porous, the scrubbers do not retain much soap or foaminess. So you may need to create your own foam if you like the sudsy feeling.
Silicone scrubbers also dry much, much faster than brushes with natural fibers, tawashis and regular sponges. That’s why they are more hygienic and why I love them so much!
Try these silicone dish washing gloves. They will protect your sensitive hands from dish soap while you clean your wares.
Hubby absolutely adores this silicone bottle brush. He uses it to wash glasses, bottles, and cups that he can’t get his hands into… and also all his insulated flasks (he’s got a lot of them!).
4. Loofah scrubbers
Loofahs are great dish scrubbers… and body scrubbers too. They resemble sponges but are 100% all natural and biodegradable.
Loofahs are a bit rigid when dry and a lot more malleable when wet. They can create foam and suds a lot better than silicone scrubbers and natural fiber bristle brushes. They also dry relatively fast.
Try these unprocessed and unbleached loofah scrubbers.
5. Swedish dish cloths
Swedish dish cloths are made with wood (or cellulose) fibers and cotton. They are crazy absorbent and act like all-natural, eco-friendly sponges. Oh and they are similar to microfiber cloths too. They absorb everything!
But these dish cloths… or should I say dish sponges… are actually compostable!
Try these cloths (I love teal!):
6. DIY kitchen sponge alternatives
Natural fibers and silicone are not the only materials you can use to scrub your pots and pans. Consider reusing old clothes. Anything that’s worn or torn or stained will do the trick.
I like this Youtube video from Permacrafters. It shows you how to make an easy dish scrubber from old stockings.
You can also crotchet scrubbers or try macramé.
Bonus: Coconut fiber
My mom makes coconut oil ever so often. Sometimes, she’ll get brown coconuts with the husk still attached. When that happens, she would strip the fibers and use it to wash her dishes.
One coconut gives her enough fiber to last many months. To clean the fibers, she rinses and air dries them. She also pops them in boiling water. And when they’re really worn, she adds them to the garden. They are great and, if you remember the study mentioned with the tawashi scrubber, coconut fibers have antimicrobial properties!
What kitchen sponge alternatives do you use? What’s your favorite?
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For other low waste ideas, check out: 100 Ways to Reduce Food Waste.