When it comes to washing dishes, most eco friendly tips focus on using less water. But if you want your scrubbing to be even more sustainable, it’s time to start using a zero waste dish sponge.
Washing dishes by hand is a necessary (and often tedious) part of life. It’s my least favorite household chore. However, I do take some pleasure in the fact that I’m doing my part to help the planet while I’m wiping old food off my pots and pans.
Ditching disposable sponges in favor of reusable dish sponge alternatives is a simple step towards a zero waste life.
Your kitchen sponge may not be the greatest contributor to your household’s waste output or your overall carbon footprint. But the little things add up, and today’s baby step can become tomorrow’s landslide of positive change.
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Why Use Zero Waste Dish Sponges and Sponge Alternatives?
For many households, a disposable, plastic-based dish sponge is one of those everyday products you use and throw away without much thought. The US sends 400 million sponges to landfills every year, where they take decades to break down.
With popular housekeeping advice suggesting you throw out your sponges every week, it’s scary to think how many of these plastic polymer scrubbers are slowly rotting away beneath the ground.
Landfill space aside, there’s the pesky problem of microplastics as well.
Every time you use a standard disposable sponge to wash up, you’re sending tiny bits of plastic down the drain and into the water supply. Not to mention the residual microplastics that stay on your dishes even after rinsing and drying, which end up mingling with your meal.
Unlike their polyurethane counterparts, the best zero waste dish sponges are 100% compostable and plastic-free. You can toss them in the compost bin or even bury them in the ground at the end of their life.
And if washing your dishes with a sponge isn’t for you, that’s okay! There are dish sponge alternatives like plant fiber scrubbers and fully compostable cloths that can clean your kitchenware without creating plastic waste.
Doing your dishes in an eco friendly way–be it with a zero waste sponge or a reusable cloth–will save thousands of sponges from the landfill in your lifetime.
Best Zero Waste Dish Sponges
ENEY Eco-Friendly Natural Kitchen Washing Up Sponge
I love the simplicity of ENEY’s eco friendly dish sponge.
The production process for these sponges is very basic–natural, unbleached loofah is harvested, dried and compressed. That’s it!
All you need to do after opening the package is soak the sponge water for 1-2 minutes to let it expand, and you’re ready to wash.
The compression allows ENEY to greatly reduce the carbon footprint of shipping their sponges. And after 6-8 weeks of use, your plastic free dish sponge can be fully composted and reintegrated into the natural cycle of the world.
Brush with Bamboo Heirloom Mayan Loofah Scrubbers
Brush with Bamboo’s amazing zero waste dish sponge is actually grown on a farm by a Mayan family in Guatemala.
Yes, you read that correctly! These Heirloom Mayan loofahs are grown in the ground just like tomatoes or sunflowers.
That means absolutely no toxic chemical fumes from its creation. And, of course, each sponge is free of herbicides and pesticides.
Because the loofahs are made from 100% plant fiber, they’re also 100% compostable and biodegradable. When you are finished with this reusable dish sponge, put it in the compost and it will decompose within a month. If you don’t have any compost, you can also bury it.
The paper packaging can also be composted or recycled, making these some of the best zero waste dish sponge options available.
They’re even soft enough to be used in the shower.
Ecordinary Eco-Friendly Natural Sponge
This family-owned eco friendly business makes fully organic kitchen products with an environmental message.
Each Ecordinary zero waste dish sponge has a loofah side for hard yet scratch-free scrubbing, and a softer cellulose side. They are bound together by cotton thread, making them 100% plant based and therefore 100% compostable.
Even the packaging is made from natural materials, with each delivery coming wrapped in recycled paper for a lower environmental impact. Also, no bleaching or other treatments are involved during the manufacturing process.
With care, each eco friendly dish sponge can last for months at a time, especially if you treat them with a weekly soaking in hot water.
AIRNEX Biodegradable Natural Kitchen Sponge
Like the Ecordinary option above, AIRNEX’s biodegradable dish sponge combines a soft cellulose side with a scrubbing side. However, this version uses coconut fiber rather than natural loofah for the scrubber.
It also has a more ergonomic s-shape for easier holding.
AIRNEX’s sponges come in a pack of 12, which saves on shipping and packaging waste. Plus the sponges come in a 100% recyclable and compostable box.
I particularly love that the company plants a tree with every purchase!
Marasol Coconut Scrub Pad and Soap Saver
I’m all about multi-use products, and this coconut scrub pad can do multiple jobs in the kitchen.
First, it’s great for cleaning up pots and pans with baked-on messes, but gentle enough to use on enameled cookware (like my beloved Le Creuset Dutch oven).
It also functions as a soap saver, making it the perfect partner for your zero waste dish soap block.
Finally, the tight coconut fibers work well as vegetable brushes, so you can use them to clean off your potatoes and other root veggies before cooking.
To top it off, Marasol’s 100% plant-based scrubbers aren’t bleached, dyed, or chemically processed in any way, making them one of the best zero waste dish sponges on the market.
Best Dish Sponge Alternatives
Full Circle Organic Cotton Dishcloth
Growing up, my mom always used dishcloths to wash dishes. If you’re like her and worry about bacteria building up on brushes and sponges, these organic cotton dishcloths are an excellent kitchen sponge alternative.
Full Circle’s plastic-free cloths are machine washable and 100% compostable once they reach the end of their life. They’re versatile enough to be used as napkins, too!
Full Circle is a B Corp Certified Company and a partner of Plastic Bank to reduce, reuse, and offset the plastics used in their products and packaging, making them plastic neutral.
If you want something with a bit more scrubbing action, they also make zero waste scrubby cloths!
FEBU – Swedish Dishcloths for Kitchen
FEBU reusable dishcloths are made from a combination of 70% wood pulp and 30% waste cotton, and each one replaces on average 15 rolls of disposable paper towels. They’re an excellent dish sponge alternative, as they can be used and reused for up to a year.
Once each cloth has been used enough it can be fully composted, where it will disintegrate within 6-8 weeks. As well as this, they come in plastic-free, 100% recyclable packaging and are sent via carbon neutral shipping for an overall zero impact on the environment.
They’re also machine washable, and can be cleansed with 40 seconds of microwaving when wet to freshen them up.
Mioeco Reusable Paper Towels
Reusable paper towels are taking the zero waste world by storm.
These kitchen sponge alternatives are the product of carbon neutral manufacturing in a solar powered plant in India. Because of this, they come 100% GOTS certified (Global Organic Textile Standard), an internationally recognized and very thorough examination of every aspect of the production of textile products.
The reusable paper towels are made from a mixture of bamboo and organic cotton. The cotton itself is thick, strong and very soft, they are good for cleaning dishes, surfaces and even young children’s faces (if they happen to be messy eaters), and the towels are machine washable.
There is no bleaching involved in the creation of these cloths. In order to continue keeping them chemical-free, try washing them with one of the best zero waste laundry detergent options.
ECOLULU Natural Bamboo Dish Brush
I’ve talked about this kind of brush in my roundup of zero waste swaps.
ECOLULU dish brushes are made from 100% natural materials. The ergonomic bamboo handle is designed to fit comfortably into your hand, and gives a good grip for scrubbing your dishes.
This is a versatile dish sponge alternative. They come with the option of light or dark bristles: light plant-based sisal bristles for regular dishes and kitchenware, or dark tampico bristles for tougher items such as cast iron pots and pans or barbecue grills.
With either choice, the bristles are flexible, heat resistant and fully vegan.
Tips for How to Wash Dishes Zero Waste
Once you’ve ditched disposable sponges for an eco friendly alternative, try using some of these tips for how to wash dishes zero waste:
- Swap out plastic bottles of liquid soap for zero waste dish soap
- Washing with cool–rather than scalding hot–water will lower your energy use
- Only run the water when you’re actively rinsing dishes
- Use your dishwasher to clean as much of your kitchenware as possible–modern dishwashers use far less water than hand washing
- Remember to compost your sponges and cloths at the end of their life, as they won’t break down naturally in a landfill
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