Is The Kitchen Sponge Environmentally Friendly?

Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

I was at the grocery store recently and noticed a package of sponges that advertised they were made from plant materials. I did a double take for a minute as I’d never really thought about how the standard kitchen sponge was made or what materials were used to make them. Down the rabbit hole I went to learn about this common item found it most households.

I’ve discovered that sponges are made from a variety of materials, and this especially depends on the type of the sponge. If you are simply using a sponge with no scouring pad on one side, you may be using a sponge made from cellulose. Cellulose is a natural material derived from plants that is biodegradable. Where things get tricky is if the sponge has the scouring pad. Typically, the scouring pad is made from polyurethane, which is a man-made material derived from oil. This means it’s not biodegradable and takes almost a lifetime to break down in a landfill. I got a sick feeling in my stomach when I started thinking about how many sponges I’ve thrown into the trash can in my life.

We’ve all heard reports of how the kitchen sponge is one of the dirtiest items in our homes. So, it might make sense to purchase the antibacterial sponges. Not so fast! Antibacterial sponges can be made with triclosan or other harmful chemicals. Research on triclosan has been shown that it may contribute to antibiotic resistance and can disrupt the endocrine system. In addition, its toxic for aquatic life and is generally bad for Mother Earth.  

At this point, I vowed to look for alternatives that are more eco-friendly. I strongly believe in making small changes that can have a positive impact on the environment. If every person made small changes, it would add up to big results. Here are a few of the alternatives that I’ve checked out.

Bamboo Brushes: I chose a natural bamboo brush with bristles made from palm fiber. It works well on scrubbing my pots and pans and its completely biodegradable. The only drawback is that I struggle to get into the small crevices, and it doesn’t work well on glassware. Here is a link to the scrubber brush from Mighty Nest, one of my favorite vendors for eco-friendly products.

Swedish Dish Cloths: These are made of cellulose and cotton with water-based inks. They can be thrown into the laundry for cleaning and once it’s met the end of its life, it is compostable and biodegradable. I really like these as an alternative to paper towels as they leave surfaces streak free and are super absorbent. These too can be purchased from Mighty Nest.

Natural Sponges: This might be my favorite option that I’ve discovered. Walnut Scrubber Sponges are made from natural cellulose that are free of BPA, triclosan and other chemicals. The scouring pad is made from walnut shells and is attached without glues. Another added benefit is that the packaging is also compostable. They hold up well and I throw mine into the dishwasher to disinfect it. I also feel good that when its time to throw it away, it will disintegrate over time. Yes, you can buy these from Mighty Nest as well.

Handmade Washable Sponges: I also discovered sponges that are handmade and can be thrown into the laundry. There are several great options on Etsy that are handmade with cotton and are plastic free. They are also packaged with compostable materials for complete zero-waste. Many of the designs are colorful and these make great housewarming gifts.

Whatever direction you choose, I urge you to become educated and to make small eco-friendly changes to help take care of our planet. Remember, there is no Planet B!

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