Forget Plastic Kitchen Sponges—Natural Ones Work Just as Well

And they'll biodegrade without polluting the environment with microplastics.

Free the Ocean plastic-free sponges
A few of the plastic sponge alternatives available at Free the Ocean.

Treehugger + Free the Ocean

There's something about a sponge that makes any kitchen feel properly equipped. You need that impressive absorbency, that squishy flexibility, that quick-squeeze dryness for certain cleaning jobs that just cannot be replicated by a dishcloth.

Unfortunately, the colorful synthetic sponges that most people have next to their sinks cause environmental harm long after their useful life spans have ended. The first problem is with the sheer number that are discarded every year—an estimated 400 million in the United States alone. 

Sponges are designed to do messy cleaning jobs, which causes them to fill up with germs quickly. That's why many experts advise tossing the stinkers weekly—a recommendation that may help us in terms of hygiene, but leads to a staggering amount of plastic trash that cannot be recycled. Once in landfill, it could take millions of years for them to break down.

Another problem is that, because the majority of these kitchen sponges are made from plastic, they wear out by shedding tiny bits of plastic down the drain. These microplastics are too small to be filtered out by wastewater treatment facilities, so they enter waterways, lakes, and oceans.

Go Natural Instead

With this environmental nightmare in mind, it's a good idea to look for alternatives. Natural, biodegradable cleaning sponges do exist, and they're a fantastic substitute, able to absorb up to ten times their weight in water. They are environmentally friendly, reusable, and made from wood pulp or plant cellulose, which guarantees they'll break down fully in a reasonable amount of time. Here are some of our favorite affordable options, available from the Free the Ocean plastic-free shop.

Treehugger spoke to Mimi Ausland, co-founder of Free the Ocean, who said, "These plastic-free sponges perform the exact same job as your typical kitchen sponge. (I think they work even better.) Instead of your sponges ending up as part of our growing plastic waste problem, you can feel good knowing this alternative is made from wood pulp and is 100% biodegradable!"

Free the Ocean's sponges come with rave reviews from many happy customers. 

"These are THE BEST sponges I’ve ever used, and will only use these from now on. They are comfortable in your hand, too!"—Marina B.

"Wow! So surprised how absorbent they are and knowing I’m helping the environment is a double plus!"—Ruth P.

"These sponges are wonderful!!! Not only are they safe for the environment, but they also last a long time and absorb an incredible amount of liquid. I LOVE THEM!"—Fawn 

Give natural sponges a try and you won't be disappointed. In fact, you’re more likely to be pleasantly surprised—and wonder why you didn’t make the switch earlier. Your kitchen and dishes will be as squeaky clean as ever, and all you have to do is toss the sponge in the compost bin when you're done with it.

To purchase and for more information, visit Free the Ocean.

View Article Sources
  1. Marotta, Stefania Maria, et al. "Study on Microbial Communities in Domestic Kitchen Sponges: Evidence of Cronobacter Sakazakii and Extended Spectrum Beta Lactamase (ESBL) Producing Bacteria." Italian Journal of Food Safety, vol. 7, no. 4, 2019, doi:10.4081/ijfs.2018.7672