What is an unsponge? And why you will definitely want one

Unsponges are little reusable sponges made often from remnants of terry cloth and cotton. They can be home made or you can buy them off of Amazon.  They can be used on kitchen bench tops to wipe up spills, used to wash dishes and to clean sinks or stoves. Then, you just throw them in the washing machine and they are good to be used over and over again.

Unsponges in the kitchen

The kitchen can be a great place to start when looking to reduce waste and save money.  The unsponge might be the answer to replacing that one item everyone seems to have in their homes, the kitchen sponge with a more eco friendly option.  If you want to have an eco friendly home rethinking the kitchen sponge is an easy way to step towards a home that is gentler on the environment.

When we want to go eco friendly we often think about the cleaning products we use.  Most of us have thought about reducing the amount of chemicals we are using, opting for home made or eco friendly cleaners but have you thought about your kitchen sponge?

These synthetic sponges end up in landfill, they add to the growing waste problem that we have and yet they have an easy replacement.  The Unsponge could be your answer. 

More about unsponges

Let’s start at the beginning and discuss what an unsponge actually is.  After doing some research I found that these creative little sponges are actually a really great, environmentally friendlier version of an ordinary kitchen sponge.  You can find them on etsy or a great youTube tutorial (see video below) on how to make one at home.

They are essentially home made sponges made out of recycled materials. The youTube video shows a sponge made out of material off cuts as well as the bag for clementines.  I’m talking about those mesh bags that you get fruit in or sometimes onions at the supermarket. Sewing this together with material off cuts and stuffing it with a towel type material they are a great way to use up small material leftovers from other projects.

What is inside an unsponge?

Depending on how they are made or who makes them they can be filled with all types of material, there really is no standard.  Some were filled with foam, others may use other material off cuts.

If you make them at home, or follow the youTube tutorial, then you could stuff it with whatever you like.  You could try a towel type material, or fill it with more netting from fruit and vegetable bags or off cuts of netting from ballet tutus.  The reason that this netting material is good is that the water will easily drain out and the sponge won’t stay wet for extended periods. It is important that the sponge is allowed to dry between uses so that it doesn’t hold bacteria.  If a well draining material is used inside the unsponge then they will dry out quickly and stay cleaner for longer.

How do I look after my unsponge?

Like a normal kitchen sponge, rinsing them thoroughly and allowing them to dry on your dish rack between uses is essential.  Again, this will keep the sponges cleaner for longer. When you have used them a few times, or there is visible food or stains on the sponge, give them a good rinse under cold water and thrown them into your washing machine.

It is good to put them in with sheets or towels so that they can remain as clean as possible. In most cases I don’t recommend uses a hot wash cycle on your washing machine for environmental reasons.  See my previous article on ways to live green in your everyday life.  However in this case you may need to put them on a hot wash to clean off the food marks and stains and help to remove bacteria.

I have also read that some sponges can washed in the dishwasher.  You could give this a go however it would be essential to make sure you take them out after to completely dry off.  With regards to drying, pegging them on your line in the sun is a great way to get them dry without using power (eg. a dryer) and the sun also has the effect of killing off bacteria that might still be on the surface after washing.  If you buy one from Amazon, follow the advice of the maker for sponge care, it will depend on the materials they are made of.

Benefits of an unsponge

These sponges can be used many times over, how many times depends on what you use them for how hard you are on the sponge and how well they are made.  I plan to make one myself soon to see how long I can keep one going for.

Other benefits include the fact that they can be made out of a material that might otherwise be thrown out.  Unsponges can be home made using material off cuts that are too small for most projects. Rescuing the netting from the fruit and veg you bring home is also another great way unsponges can use up excess materials that would otherwise end up in landfill.

The other great thing about unsponges is the great colours that they come in.  Crafty people have used materials that look great in your kitchen. Looks definitely aren’t everything but if you can have it all, why not.

Another great benefit is that they are relatively cheap and because they can be used over and over again they will definitely be cheaper in the long run than continually buying new sponges. They could even be free if you make them from scrap materials.

The most important points I think about eco friendly sponges is that they are avoiding a throw away product, or at least reducing this as they can be used many times over.  When they are no longer good for the kitchen, use them to clean other areas of the house like bathroom or outdoor areas like the Barbeque. There are so many uses for these handy little sponges.

Other tricks and tips for using an unsponge

If you plan to use them in the bathroom as well as the kitchen, make sure you always use different sponges for different uses.  Even after washing it is best to keep your bathroom and kitchen unsponges separate. The best thing about these sponges is that they can be made in many different materials. That allows you to recognise the designated bathroom or kitchen unsponges keep kitchen and bathroom unsponges separate.

To keep them fresh they will definitely benefit from a hot wash in the dishwasher or washing machine,  Keeping them clean in between uses is key and removing any excess food pieces. This will keep them fresh and clean for longer.

Eco friendly sponge alternatives

So other than an unsponge, what are other eco friendly sponge alternatives?

A cellulose sponge  

Cellulose is a plant based material which can be used in replacement of you regular sponge.  They are great for dishes, cleaning down benches or really any other surface you would usually use a sponge for.  Cellulose is actually the substance that makes up a plant’s cell wall. They are generally made from wood fibres so more environmentally friendly than the plastic ones. They are a more natural alternative to the ordinary kitchen sponge.

A natural sea sponge

You could use a natural sponge.  This is actually a sea sponge which are harvested. Sea sponges are quite soft and durable.  They are perfect for delicate dishware because they won’t scratch. They also work well for general dishes and glasses.  Also if you use non-stick pans they are great because they won’t scratch the non-stick coating. Being natural, they are 100% biodegradable and do not contain chemicals.

So whether you choose to make an unsponge, to buy one, to choose a cellulose sponge or a natural sponge, all of these choices are friendlier on the environment than the run of the mill kitchen sponge.  Sponges are used so commonly this one change could make such a different in the amount of rubbish and chemicals heading into landfill. If many of us make the change the results are even bigger so spread the word, go eco friendly in the kitchen and try an unsponge.