The 7 Best Biodegradable Sponges of 2022

Our favorite biodegradable sponge is the Etee Loofie Scrubber.

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Most kitchen sponges are made from a combination of non-recyclable wood cellulose and petroleum-derived plastics, such as spun polypropylene fibers. They commonly contain microplastics that contaminate the ocean and linger in the environment, making a switch to biodegradable sponges one way to reduce microplastics in your home.

We evaluated compostable materials, scrubbing effectiveness, and the claims made by manufacturers to find the best fully biodegradable sponges. For more about our research and methodology, check out the What To Look For section following our product recommendations. Our favorite for most kitchen cleaning scenarios is the Etee Loofie Scrubber.

Here are the best biodegradable sponges.

Best Overall: Etee Loofie Scrubber

Etee Loofie Scrubbers

Etee

Etee Loofie Scrubber kitchen sponges have a soft side for wiping and a rough side for scrubbing. The cloth side is a spongy cellulose-cotton and wood cellulose dishcloth. The scrubbing side is made of fibrous loofah plant material that won’t scratch dishes. The two sides are sewn together using cotton thread (rather than commonly used polyester thread) which makes this sturdy sponge reusable and fully biodegradable. 

Sold individually or as a three-pack, Etee recommends replacing your scrubber sponge every three to five weeks, depending on how you use them. You can clean it regularly by adding it to the top rack of your dishwasher. It’s also fit for use in other parts of the house, including the bathroom.

Etee extends its no-plastic ethos to its packaging as well, shipping Loofie Scrubbrs in recycled cardboard, sealed with biodegradable cellulose tape. A portion of profits also go to socially-conscious initiatives including the Mississauga Food Bank (local to the Ontario manufacturer) and the WestCoast Children's Clinic.

When your Loofie Scrubber is worn out, it can be composted or even buried in your garden, where it will decompose within a month.

Best Budget: Blueland Scrub Sponge

Blueland Scrub Sponge

Blueland

Much like the Etee Loofie, the Blueland Scrub Sponge is double-sided, with a cellulose sponge on one side and a loofah on the other. Also hand sewn with cotton thread, this sponge can be washed on the top rack of your dishwasher and composted when it’s worn out.

These sponges are available in packs of three or six. When you buy six, they are only about $3 each—a better deal than a three-pack Etee scrubbers. Blueland is one of several companies whose focus is on reducing plastic waste and using biodegradable packaging whenever possible.

Blueland is a Certified B Corp and Cradle to Cradle Certified which means the product must exceed standards for material health and reuse, renewable energy and carbon management, water stewardship, and social fairness.

Best Cellulose: Zero Waste Club Biodegradable Plastic-Free Cellulose Sponges

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Zero Waste Club Biodegradable Plastic-Free Cellulose Sponges

Zero Waste Club

Cellulose is found in plant cell walls and extracted from wood pulp for use in paper and other products, including these biodegradable kitchen sponges from Zero Waste Club. While many other kitchen sponges combine cellulose with plastic fibers, these biodegradable, zero-waste sponges are made from 100% wood pulp.

Each Zero Waste Sponge can absorb up to ten times its weight in liquid, but also dry quickly to minimize bacteria growth. They can be washed in the dishwasher or microwaved to extend their usefulness, then composted or buried after a few weeks of use.

The Zero Waste Club sponges are sold in packs of two. Purchase contribute to environmental initiatives, including enviromental nonprofit 1% for the Planet.

Best Natural Loofah: Clean Planetware Mayan Loofah

Clean Planetware Mayan Loofah

Courtesy of Package Free

At first glance you might guess that natural loofah is made from a sea sponge or dried coral because of their coarse, spongy consistency and tubular shape. But they’re actually made from the fruit of the plant Luffa aegyptiaca, a vine-grown member of the squash family.

Clean Planetware Heirloom Mayan Loofahs are sourced from a single family farm in Guatemala, using Mayan heirloom variety seed. The growers don't use pesticides or herbicides, and the loofah sponges are unprocessed, resulting in a vegan loofah that's 100% plant fiber. As such, these Planetware loofahs are fully compostable, decomposing within 30 days when buried or added to a composting pile.

Available singly, or in packs of five, the flattened loofahs come in recycled and recyclable packaging. Clean Planetware is a Green America certified business, which sets standards for social justice practices, environmental sustainability, and transparency.

Best for Heavy Scrubbing: Zero Waste Club Biodegradable Coconut Kitchen Scourers

Zero Waste Club Biodegradable Coconut Kitchen Scourers

Zero Waste Club

Tough cleaning jobs, like burned on food or hardened grease require a tough dish sponge that can hold up to multiple uses. The Zero Waste Club Coconut Dish Scrubber replaces steel wool or nylon scrub pads with a scourer made from the fibrous "coir" that makes up the husk around the inner shells of a coconut. The upcycled coir fibers are sourced from coconut farm in India and bound together with rubber latex instead of plastic (those with a latex allergy should avoid). The result is an abrasive and durable scrubber that won't scratch your cookware.

Packaged in a 100% recycled and recyclable unbleached box, with soy ink printing, the Coconut Dish Scrubber is sold in packs of five. Plus, Zero Waste Club plants a tree for each product sold.

Best for Facial Cleansing: No Tox Life LUNA Charcoal Sponge

No Tox Life LUNA Charcoal Sponge

No Tox Life

This cleansing sponge is made from the roots of the Konjac plant. Its roots are spun into a round puff that retains water. When soaked with warm water, it becomes an excellent scrubber, that gently exfoliates skin in combination with infused charcoal, which absorbs surface oils. The sponge is gentle enough for daily use, including for those with sensitive and acne-prone skin.

After its first use, which involves a 10-15 minute soak, the No Tox Life LUNA Charcoal Sponge will swell up with warm in about two minutes for daily cleaning. It can be used alone, or in combination with your preferred facial cleanser. When finished, simply rinse, squeeze out excess moisture, and hang dry using the built-in loop.

The LUNA Charcoal Sponge lasts for about three months, though boiling or microwave sanitizing can double its lifespan. Once you're done with it, the 100% plant-based sponge can be composted.

Best for Makeup: EcoTools BioBlender Makeup Sponge

EcoTools Bioblender Biodegradable Makeup Sponge

Amazon

The EcoTools BioBlender is a vegan makeup sponge which has a unique shape designed to provide three different edge types for versatile makeup application, including a flat top edge to use under eyes. It's also been certified as cruelty-free by the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

The BioBlender is made from just five ingredients, including corn and a proprietary ingredient called bionanopol. Described by EcoTools as the "secret ingredient" behind the product's biodegradability, bionanopol is a biodegradable foam that's been certified as a biobased product by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, meaning it is made from renewable, natural materials. It's been further certified compostable by the American Society of Testing and Materials International, using a testing protocol specific to plastics. While the exact nature of the bionanopol is secret, it might be part of a category of materials known as bioplastic, which has some environmental downsides.

Sold individually or as a two-pack, the EcoTools BioBlender packaging is printed with soy ink and certified biodegradable by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) Certified, which ensures that wood and paper products come from responsibly managed forests. Unlike disposable makeup songes, the BioBlender can be used for 30 days.

Final Verdict

The Etee Loofie Scrubber (view at Amazon) is our favorite all-around sponge. It’s plant-based, manufactured by an environmentally-conscious company, and double-sided, with enough scrubbing power for most cleaning situations. You can also introduce biodegradable products to your beauty regimen with the No Tox Life LUNA Charcoal Facial Sponge (view at No Tox Life). It’s a charcoal-infused, plant-based face scrubber that’s gentle enough for sensitive skin and made from plant roots.

What to Look for in Biodegradable Sponges

Materials

To be biodegradable, a product must be made from materials that can be broken down by microorganisms, decomposing back into the environment without human intervention. Minimally-processed plant materials, including cotton, cellulose, and loofah, will biodegrade naturally over time without spreading pollutants or bioaccumulating in the food chain.

Plastics should be especially avoided when shopping for biodegradable products, since the petroleum-based material can take decades or even hundreds of years to break down in the environment.

Lifetime

Some sponges are meant to be replaced each month while others are considered useful for six months or more. This means that a very affordable sponge may be more expensive to use over the long-term if it’s meant to be discarded quickly, compared to a more expensive sponge that will last for several months or more.

It’s also important to clearly understand the term “compostable” on a product label. Although there is a connection between biodegradable and compostable, they aren’t the same thing. While objects can naturally biodegrade over time, the process of composting involves human intervention. Some products can be labeled compostable even if they require the high heat and pressure found in a municipal compost facility.  

Typical synthetic sponges can persist for 20 to 40 years in even favorable biodegrading conditions, which means they could take hundreds of years to break down in the anaerobic conditions commonly found in landfills.

But most of our recommended sponges can be safely buried in your garden and “disappear” within 30 to 90 days, depending on the local climate and season. They can also be tossed in with municipal yard waste and compost for curbside pick up in participating communities. Check with your local recycling for information on any composting programs.

Company Ethics

Responsible manufacturers not only use environmentally-friendly materials, but also pay workers a living wage, provide safe working environments, and give back to the communities that helped it succeed. Third party organizations independently verify and certify fair trade practices. Look for seals from organizations like Fair For Life on manufacturer websites, which will often advertise sustainable and fair trade certifications on their "About" page.

FAQs

Are sea sponges eco-friendly?

Sea sponges are stationary marine animals that filter nutrients from the water. A vital part of the marine food chain, sea sponges are a food source for fish, starfish, sea urchins and sea turtles including the endangered hawksbill sea turtle.

Their porous bodies allow water to circulate through them, which allow them to absorb nutrients, remove waste, and obtain oxygen without a circulatory, nervous, or digestive system. When harvested without disturbing the base, sponges are capable of growing back over several years, making them a potentially renewable source of highly-absorbent and natural sponges.

But while ocean sponges may seem like an eco-friendly alternative, organizations like the International Union for Conservation of Nature have decried overharvesting, which has put several species at risk. While some of the existing demand for sea sponges can be met by sustainable aquaculture techniques, populations of the porous animals—particularly in the Mediterranean—would be put in further danger if presented as a full alternative to plastic sponges.

While certain sponges found for sale may be harvested sustainably, plant-derived sponges like loofah or wood cellulose choices are usually the more eco-friendly pick.

Are biodegradable sponges sanitary?

All sponges, whether they are synthetic or biodegradable, will harbor bacteria and viruses because of their regular contact with water and organic matter. But there are easy steps you can take to keep your biodegradable sponge sanitary.

Wash dishes with soap and hot water, then rinse your sponge thoroughly and allow it to dry fully between uses. Sunlight can further cut back bacterial growth. But while basic maintenance steps significantly reduce the presence of bacteria, molds, and potential pathogens, you will also want to periodically clean your sponge in the dishwasher or microwave. The U.S. Department of Agriculture found that microwaving a wet sponge for one minute eliminated 99.99999% of bacteria. Including your sponge in a dishwasher load is similarly effective.

Why Trust Treehugger?

Lorraine Wilde has washed more dishes than she’d like to admit over the last 40 years. She has used every variety of sponge, dish cloths, and brushes to tackle jobs around her home. She maintains the highest standards for anything that touches her family’s skin or has the potential to pollute sensitive bodies of water.

Lorraine also holds a Master’s degree in environmental science and is a firm believer that consumers can make healthy, informed and environmentally-conscious choices to protect their families and our planet.

View Article Sources
  1. Bell, James et al. Global conservation status of sponges. Conservation Biology, vol 20, issue 1, 2015. Society for Conservation Biology. doi:10.1111/cobi.12447

  2. Durham, Sharon. “Best Ways to Clean Kitchen Sponges.USDA Agricultural Research Services, USDA, 23 Apr. 2007.