Synthetic sponges – friend or foe?

I recently read an article that recommends you replace your synthetic kitchen sponge every week to avoid spreading harmful bacteria growing in the pores of the sponge. Should one follow this advice that means 48 disposable sponges, that take roughly 58 years each to decompose, end up in landfill sites every year. It seems to me the problem with disposable products made from oil-based materials like plastic and polyfoam is that we do not use them long enough to warrant the resources used to make them, the environmental damage caused and the time they take to decompose. For someone that does not diligently replace my kitchen sponge every week I was excited to find ‘anti-bacterial’ sponges, until I did a little research on these sponges. To produce ‘anti-bacterial’ sponges toxic anti-fungal, anti-bacterial agents like triclosan are used. Triclosan does not biodegrade in our water systems and is known to be harmful to aquatic life. Studies are yet to show what effect agents like triclosan have on humans.

Looking to replace my synthetic sponges with Eco-friendlier alternatives I came across some great products and alternatives.

The Tawashi

The Tawashi from does not look like a sponge, but it works exactly the same. The name comes from a Japanese style scrubbing brush. Spaza’s Tawashi is made from Jute, a plant fiber that is naturally anti-bacterial, bio-degradable, and long lasting. According to Spaza, Jute is a plant that is widely grown in parts of South Asia and requires no pesticides, is good for soil health, and nontoxic when burnt.

I must admit I was a little skeptical at first, but it works very well.  I have been using my Tawashi for over a year now and it is still going strong. Being naturally anti-bacterial, the Tawashi refreshes fully in a shallow bath of kettle water and vinegar, or a run through the dishwasher every few days.

What I love about the Tawashi is that it is hand-crocheted by women working from homes in and around Cape Town. Because many of these women are caregivers to children and the elderly, buying from Spaza is not only good for the planet but also helps families.

Natural dish brushes & pot scrubbers

Natural cleaning brushes are a great alternative to kitchen sponges. The handles are generally made from sustainably sourced wood, while bristles are made from natural fibres like coconut and sisal.

I bought a bamboo pot scrubber more than a year ago and it is showing no signs of having to be replaced. It is great to know that when that time comes, I can pop it into our compost heap or in the fireplace. has a great variety of dish brushes and pot scrubbers available.

Linen dishrags

Why not give your towels, sheets and clothing a second life? Cut them up to replace those nasty kitchen sponges. They are machine washable and long lasting which is great for the planet and for your pocket.

By replacing our kitchen sponge with one of these alternatives we will be keeping all those nasty synthetic kitchen sponges out or our landfills and waterways.


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