Ditching Sponges


I don’t like buying sponges for doing the dishes. They seem high-priced for something you throw away, plus they are notorious playgrounds for bacteria to breed. While you can curb this last problem by washing the sponges in the washing machine or microwaving them, there’s always the risk that when you are cleaning with a sponge you are really spreading more bacteria on your plates and glasses.
But while I have long made scrubbies out of onion bags, I have never come up with a great alternative to the sponge. Then I was reading The Urban Homestead by Kelly Coyne and Erik Knutzen and came upon this passage:

We recommend you switch away from using cellulose sponges in the kitchen and use cotton dishclothes instead, changing out to a fresh one every couple of days. They don’t add too much to the laundry burden, and they’re a lot more sanitary than sponges. When they become stained and worn, they can be downgraded to cleaning rags. Best yet, it they are all-cotton, you can compost them at the end of their lives.

Good tip. I’m going to try it.

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8 thoughts on “Ditching Sponges”

  1. I have to admit surprise at this tip. Mainly because I don’t think anyone in my family has ever used a sponge for anything other than washing vehicles. I just assumed that everyone used cotton cloths to wash dishes…well, those who don’t have dishwashers. 😉
    We have a store in town that sells cheap towels by the dozen-last time I bought they were $4.99 a dozen, and they are roughly 16 x 19 in size. Then, I take some and cut them into 4 and hem them. Voila, I have cotton clothes for washing my dishes, and some extras for drying.

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  2. I think it was germ-phobia that motivated me to start using cotton cloths when my son was born two years ago.
    I don’t think I’ve actually bought any, but use any old cotton fabric pieces I find. I keep a whole pile of them in my kitchen drawer, within easy reach of the kitchen sink. I just toss them in the wash as I go – they really don’t add much bulk to my washing.
    I feel much happier using a clean cloth each time I wipe my dishes, counters or highchair.

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  3. Why would you think that using a cotton cloth is any more sanitary than a sponge? You wipe up a spill, rinse wipe, rinse…then either toss the sponge in the microwave or pull out a new cloth. With either method after the first time you’ve used it, it’s moving bacteria around. Also if your sponges are cellulose, then they’re compostable too. Just saying…

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  4. Thanks for the responses. I think I will cut up an old cotton shirt from the ragbag.
    Mermaid’sTears: Sponges are absorbent and hold moisture in their center, which allows for more bacteria to breed there. This is not the case for dishrags, which are thin and dry quickly. In fact, studies show that sponges commonly contain more bacteria than a toilet. As for whether cellulose is compostable, that is true if they are 100% vegetable and contain no antibacterial agents.

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  5. Better still, crochet your own… Cotton crochet thread makes for some really nice scrubbie bits, especially if you throw a couple bobbles into the pattern. I’ve never used sponges, always a dishcloth, and I love my hand made crocheted ones the most. 🙂

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  6. I knit dishcloths and love them but also like having my scrubby sponges. They are thin and I run them through the dishwasher and microwave them. I wash them in the clothes washer, too. I also change my dishcloths daily. I cannot imagine that changing cloths less than at least once a day cuts down on the germs spreading. At least, not in our humid climate. If I find a good sub for my scrubby sponges I will switch, until then I will enjoy them and keep after their germs. 🙂

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  7. Wow I had never thought of knitting/crocheting scrubbies or dish cloths. Great idea. Thanks for sharing.

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  8. I knit and crochet. I have tried using a dishcloth but I don’t like all that extra weight flopping around. I did just recently try a scrubby pattern that looks like this http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/1492986446
    That’s not mine I made since I use it too much to take a photo 😉 lol I only have two right now with a 3rd almost finished. I really love it though and don’t miss the germs or wasting money on store bought sponges!

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