4 Eco Friendly Sponges Made From Plant-Based Goodness
Sponges are meant to be replaceable, but that doesn’t mean they need to be plastic.
Keeping your dishes and home clean can be done using biodegradable sponges, and I’ve found the best options for you to choose from.
Durability, absorption, and scrubbing power – all of these aspects have been considered and scrutinized over months of cleaning.
We’ll also be discussing naturally occuring sea sponges, and how they fit into the world of sustainable kitchen and bath products.
First, let’s go over the best sustainable sponges:
Eco Friendly Sponge Options
Tested & Reviewed Favorites
Blueland’s Scrub Sponges are my favorite plant-based sponges. If you’re looking for a reusable kitchen sponge that still has some powerful scrubbing action, you should definitely give these bad boys a try.
You’ll notice immediately that they have two sides, much like a traditional plastic sponge – an essential part of cleaning pots and pans or dishes. Softer sponges or scrubby loofahs are fantastic options too (which you’ll find below) but a sponge with both sides tends to be the go-to for most people around the house.
Made from 100% FSC Certified cellulose, Blueland’s compostable sponges are entirely plastic-free but don’t sacrifice any scrubbing power. I’ve been using these sponges for months now for cleaning dishes before they go in the dishwasher, tackling grime on my pots and pans, and even cleaning my countertops and sink as needed.
Depending on how often you’re cleaning, these sponges can last an extremely long time. I’ve been testing how long, and a single one of Blueland’s sponges has lasted me multiple months. Granted, after a few sessions in the dishwasher I’ve started using it for more general cleaning to avoid a buildup of bacteria, but my first sponge is still going strong as an oven and stove-top cleaner to this day.
You can also bundle these sponges with Blueland’s zero waste dish soap, another one of my favorite products.
Extra Blueland Info:
- Certified B Corp
- Leaping Bunny Member
- EWG Verified
- MADE SAFE Certified
- Certified Vegan
- Certified Climate Neutral
If you’re looking for pop up sponges without a scrubber side, Plantish Future’s is another one of my favorites around the kitchen. These are expanding sponges made from wood pulp cellulose – when you add water to them, they grow and expand into a soft, absorbent cleaning tool.
I’m a sucker for art, and Plantish’s lineup of pop up sponges all feature adorably illustrated plants and animals, many of which are highly vulnerable to climate-related changes across our world’s ecosystems.
Artwork aside, I tend to use these sponges for less-intensive cleaning compared to Blueland sponges. Wiping up spills, absorbing liquids, cleaning countertops – basically, anything that doesn’t need abrasive scrubbing action.
Due to how soft they are, I wouldn’t recommend using these for scrubbing out dirty pots and pans or anything of that nature. However, Plantish has a pretty varied selection of sponges in their shop, so if you’re looking for a natural dish scrubber you may want to check out some of their other sponge models!
Brush With Bamboo
One of the more unique sponge alternatives out there, Brush With Bamboo’s heirloom loofahs have served me well in more niche situations. If you’re curious about loofahs, keep reading below my recommendations – to summarize, loofahs are fruit grown on a vine which are then harvested, cleaned, and dried before they end up cleaning pots and pans.
Grown on small-scale Guatemalan farms, these loofahs are my go-to for the dirtiest and grimiest of cleaning tasks in the kitchen.
Left a food-caked oven dish or pan out for a few days? Loofah time. Need to clean your oven or microwave out? Try a loofah.
Where other eco sponges may shred or tear, loofahs tend to shine. I wouldn’t recommend using these on any non-stick surfaces or dishes you don’t want scratched, but for the dirtiest situations that require a little bit of elbow grease, you’ll find me reaching for the loofah.
These loofahs come in a pack of six, which should last you a pretty long while depending on how you use them. And they’ve got multiple uses – if you’re looking for an exfoliating shower scrubber these work pretty well for that too. I’ve even cut off smaller bits of them to use as a tile and grout scrubber in my bathroom, where in the past I was using old plastic toothbrushes.
Extra Brush With Bamboo Info:
- USDA Biobased Certified
- Green America Certified
- FSC Certified
- Plastic Pollution Coalition Member
Similar to Plantish Future, ZWS Essentials make a simple but effective wood-pulp based sponge without a scrubbing side. The major difference between these two (besides the artwork), is that these sponges are a bit larger.
If I’m going for a more “spongy” sponge without an abrasive side, I tend to go with Plantish Future, but ZWS Essential’s products in general are known to be high-quality, biodegradable, and entirely plastic-free.
You can find their zero waste sponge in a two pack or four pack, and they come packaged in a simple cardboard box – both the sponge and box are compostable.
If you’re looking for a brand that makes a wide range of sustainable products, ZWS Essentials is one of the better options; you can find all kinds of personal care and household products under one label, which does make ordering and organizing your home a bit easier.
Why do eco friendly sponges matter?
While natural sponges have been used by humans dating back to ancient Greece, it wasn’t until the early 20th century that polyester and polyurethane foam sponges became commonplace in most of our households.
With around 130 million households, the US alone produces an insane amount of plastic sponge waste every single day – after all, nobody wants to continue using a stinky, months-old sponge once it’s served its purpose.
However, there are a few major issues with modern day sponges – mostly revolving around plastic, but not entirely limited to that. In a nutshell:
- Sponges are usually made from non-biodegradable plastic
- Using sponges causes microplastics and nanoplastics to shed
The other major issue with synthetic sponges is the addition of preservatives and biocides like Triclosan to the polymers themselves. Meaning, some kinds of sponges are made with plastic coated in antimicrobial chemicals known to be both ecotoxic and harmful to your health.
If our goal is to eliminate the use of plastic sponges, we’re left with a few options. Plant-based sponges made from cellulose and naturally occurring sea sponges are the two most common options – so let’s talk about those.
What makes a sponge sustainable?
For the reasons mentioned above, finding a sponge made from truly sustainable, biodegradable materials will be essential moving forward. Plastic is out, and naturally harvested sea sponges are a bit of a gray area due to our rapidly changing oceans (see below) – so what’s left?
Cellulose, also known as plant fiber, offers us a much more sustainable solution. The great thing about cellulose-based sponges is that they can be sourced from a variety of different materials, all of which are eco friendly.
For example, while all of our recommendations above are cellulose-based, they’re each produced from different materials including things like wood pulp and loofah sponge gourds. That’s right – loofahs are actually a type of fruit grown from a vine!
Check out how they’re grown and harvested in this video:
So, are cellulose sponges biodegradable? You’ll be glad to discover that, yes – they are. In fact, all of my above recommendations can be tossed into your backyard compost bin or commercial green can when you’re done using them!
Cellulose-based sponges aren’t the only option, however, as sea sponges do also play a huge role in the industry. The main goal should be to use a sponge that’s compostable – made from similar materials to other compostable products like biodegradable garbage bags!
Are natural sea sponges sustainable?
Sea sponges, which are actually animals, are incredibly important filter feeders who live within most oceanic ecosystems including coral reefs. These sponges fulfill their duties by working alongside a team of symbiotic microbes that help them absorb nutrients, grow, and even protect them from predators.
Microbes can’t protect sponges from heatwaves, however, and changes to our world’s climate have begun to push many communities of sponges to the brink. In places like New Zealand, this delicate symbiotic relationship between sponge and microbe has already started to decay due to rising ocean temperatures.
Marine sea sponge aquaculture is popular for another reason, too – these animals contain a staggering amount of bioactive molecules useful to us in a variety of ways. In other words, sea sponges are an essential part of pharmaceutical research and many sponge-derived drugs are already in use in anticancer and antiviral treatments.
Regardless of the science involved, sea sponge farming is a booming business. It’s pretty interesting too, as some sponges are capable of regeneration once they’ve been harvested – if you’re interested in the process you should watch this short video:
A combination of over-harvesting and changes to our climate means an uncertain future for these animals and the sea sponge industry itself; for now, plant-based cellulose sponges seem like the best option for those looking to end their reliance on plastic.
Finding a sustainable dish scrubber or plastic-free sponge should be one of the first steps you take when swapping out kitchen products.
Cellulose-based sponges are on the rise, and many sustainable brands are coming up with new and creative ways to clean our homes and dishes without the use of plastic.
What’s your favorite type of plastic-free sponge alternative?