What makes sponges bad? Find out in this harrowing episode of your new favorite green living podcast, where our intrepid heroines dive into bacteria, dishwashing, and even baby washing.
As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. Some links below are paid links.
What we bought:
Scrub & Throw Loofah
Greenhive on Eco Friendly Sponges
Impactful Ninja: Are Sponges Eco-Friendly
Australian Marine Conservation Society on Sea Sponges
Council of Fashion Designers on Hemp
Common Objective on the Environmental Benchmark for Fibres
NY Magazine on Eco Friendly Alternatives to Sponges
Nature.com article on how gross kitchen sponges are
NPR on Can You Really Not Clean Your Kitchen Sponge
CNN on Your Dishwashing Sponge vs Brush
Time on How to Wash Dishes with a Sponge
Brightly on Dishwashing vs Handwashing
This week's episode as we could do, this is the second to last in the season is on reusable sponges. Right? This one isn't. I thought we're doing eight. Are we doing 10? I think we're doing 12 Shoot girl. Okay, shoot. We're halfway through them past the halfway mark as well. Yeah. Edit that out or just keep it because just keep it hashtag math Hello, Tiffany. Katherine. do love that we have full names with three syllables each. Yeah, that is funny. Your name shows up as Katherine Cox on the clock, some very, very British royalty. But I'm so glad you could join me this evening. I want to let you know that I did. So I have a closet in my office. And I was like, Oh, I'm gonna set it up for the podcast tonight. And I went in there and I put the my chair in there and I moved stuff around, I got my lamp going and my plugs. And then I couldn't hook the microphone properly to the table that I have in there because it's a cheap little side table. So I had to abort and go back to my Abort mission. But it's it's gonna it's gonna be a look in there and I will post pictures of it once I have the look. That's awesome. I love it. I saw something about it on Instagram. And I was like, Oh, she's making news. Literally. Yep. Yeah, I have. I have a closet it could use but it's right next to Charlie's bedroom, so I think she would be very angry with me. Yeah, that's just just you cackling Yeah, pretty much. So if anybody ever asks us why I don't generally listen to podcasts of young men and this is people are gonna be a you're a sexist, blah blah blah. But it's the cackling male comedians do for some reason when they're all laughing at their own jokes and it just drives me crazy. keeps me awake at night. Yeah, I can't handle the boy cackles. Girl cackles on the other hand, girl cackles fine boys. Can't do it. Gotcha. Something very non soothing about it. So funny. I never noticed that before. But now I probably will we cackle or like that was cackling. Just on cackle like a boy. I guess we should say, this is greeting up my egg. Yeah. Welcome. Welcome to our podcast. It's not about humor, or comedy or men cackling at all? No, no, but we do try to have some fun. We do try to have fun we do. And we try to make your lives better. Totally. Because we look at products that claim to be green or sustainable. And we figure out whether or not it's true. Because we are two marketing writers who have done our fair share of finding the words you can say even when they don't mean anything. Totally. Oh my god. It's so true. It hurts. But yeah, like trying to skate around really saying anything by saying nothing? Yeah, totally. Yep. So in this case, we call that green Hui? 100%. Yeah, we have a list of green Hui words that we know mean nothing. Yeah, like, Mike, can I think of any right? natural, natural, biodegradable, eco friendly green? Green? Yep. Even sustainable. Yeah. Anything. There's there unless it's certified by certain groups. It's just green hooey. Yep. Totally. Well, if you're ready, I will delve into tonight's topic. I'm ready. Oh, by the way, if you Oh, I do want to mention because we 100% keep forgetting to say this. Which is fine. We're learning but we have seasons. Oh, yeah. This is season one. We do have seasons. Yeah. We do. We have seasons. And I was considering editing something until like the first episode, mentioning it. But I think I'm tired. And I don't want to. We're just gonna fill people in as we go. And as we remember. Yeah. And then we can hype season two, and people will be like, Oh, yeah. Yeah. See? See you said, Yeah, because we're trying to start this off and make it a sustainable podcast, sustainable sustainability podcast. And we're gonna start with seasons and hopefully transition into full year round, but we're gonna take some time, like maybe a month or month ish in between each season. But this whole first season is about cleaning, household cleaning, specifically not corporate cleaning, which would be well, so Well, we didn't take that on first season. sounds horrible. Yeah, these are individual choices that you can make in your household to avoid products that could cause ecological damage, whether in their production or their usage throughout your house. as well as damage to your person or that of people in your house through I hate to say toxins because that is another green hooey word, but literally things that could cause cancer, reproductive issues, breathing disorders, you know, there are many products out there that can cause damage to human DNA or just, you know, in general carcinogens, etc, that are allowed to be on the market. So we're trying to minimize that effect inside your household and outside of your house, and also whether or not they can be reused, which is our number one ideal is to use less reuse. And then Yes, yep, yeah. And also a lot of the idea of like, toxins and chemicals and all this stuff is like, over blown. Yeah. Not a lot I would say. But some of it is misunderstood. Maybe Yeah, because it is true there are but it's not like I'm gonna get people are gonna throw eggs at my house for this, but your non organic apples are not probably toxic the way right. Certain cleaners are right, like lead paint toxic, generically grown. But it's also like eating lead paint chips. Yes. More toxic. Yeah. Having like walls. You're probably fine. Yeah. A lot of people do. I do. I'm sure I do. I as we have mentioned, our ancient rays that were bright, frantically painting over. Yeah. So we're trying to find the balance between, like being terrified of everything. And getting to the heart of what truly matters. Yeah, exactly. Or just living with stuff that will actually kill you. Right? Which is like very Victorian England. You know? Like, oh, yeah, of course. She did better when she went to the beach. Her house was full of lead and carbon monoxide. Right. Good. Weekend by the sea lady. You'll be breathing again in no time. Yes. So yeah, we're trying to make it so that we don't need a weekend in bath to recover from Jane Austen and later era diseases. So all that to say, we are talking about reasonable sponges. We are and I'm excited to hear all about them because I don't know much. Okay, I did the research. And just as a reminder, if you haven't heard episode two, which is after the intro episode this season was about on paper towels. Well guess what? There are unspun reusable sponges. It's It's such I mean that's marketing hooey right there green hui to like an x whatever it is. Oh, paper Paper. Totally. Yeah, just because it's reusable doesn't mean it's on. I mean, I get it is those quote unquote, paper towels are clearly not paper towels. But these are sponges. The sorry Buzzkill. But these are sponges, right? Okay. But first, our sources, I got a few sources on the eco friendliness of sponges and their alternatives. I got a lot from green hive.io, as well as the impactful ninja, which was really interesting. Um, he especially linked to the Australian Marine Conservation Society, on sea sponges. And then I got some info on him from the Council of Fashion Designers of America, and common objective. And then a really great article that we want to link to New York Magazine, the strategist had a whole thing to eco friendly sponge alternatives, which I really liked. Oh, nice. And I mentioned that they have just yet a list of really good ones. And then they did a lot of research on talking to actual, you know, renown, housekeeping bloggers and sustainability bloggers who really know what they're talking about. And then a turn that this took was how disgusting your kitchen sponges that's coming up. But I had some from NPR, there was a study in nature.com. About the sponges that the NPR article said a lot of people took out of context. But I also looked at CNN, where there was a nature.com article about sponges. Yeah. About how gross they are. And the NPR article deep dives in deep dives deep dives into into how sometimes the media just reported very lightly on what that study said. Really into the methods and Oh, nice. Okay, so the NPR article kind of relieves a little bit of the you gross don't use sponges aspects of that study. And then time.com had a well yeah, Time Magazine had a bit about the grossest of sponges and how to wash them, and how to wash dishes. And then finally, the last part of this that you're going to hear is about dishwashers. And I got that from brightly dot eco, the blog about dishwashing versus handwashing, which not to give it away, but you're gonna get schooled on that. Okay, so I might know a little bit I might have an idea about that because I took a pm Environmental science in high school possible. It's quite possible, you know more than I do. In fact, it's been 150 years. So gillers school a long time ago, didn't we? Okay, so Tiffany, why our kitchen sponges bad? Well, I'm not you can guess I'm just going to tell you but you know, I want to I want to guess though, okay. Yes, I think because you throw them away all the time. That's a very good first guess. But the real reason that they're gross, well, that they're bad is because they're disgusting. Fair. So in that NPR article I was quoting from, they said, the study, folks said we found 362 different species of bacteria on sponges. And locally, the density of bacteria reached up to 45 billion per square centimeter. That was Marcus agar, a microbiologist at first Vanga in University in Germany, who led the study. That was very good pronunciation. Thank you. Thank you. I pretended to study my twin sister study German. So you know, I started amazing. You just how do i pronounce this? Yes. Just don't get the really hard name. But so in VR, said, the way you can compare this is there can be spots on your kitchen sponge with just as high concentrations of bacteria as in a toilet. Yummy. Yeah, you can sanitize sponges. Now, this was where the study got kind of funky. So the study said, there are two species of bacteria that showed significantly greater proportions in regularly sanitized sponges compared to unclean sponges, thereby questioning such sanitation methods and a long term perspective. So that was what most of the media sources that weren't NPR ran with, even like the New York Times did a whole piece of that we got to get rid of your dirty sponges. But NPR dug a little deeper, because their reporter was a biologist. And they said the study wasn't really that thorough regarding what sanitizing scent sponges meant. They really only had five, it was a self reported study, and they really only had five people who regularly clean their sponges and they didn't say how they did it. Oh, if you must use sponges, a few rules, keep them away from raw meat. Like if you're wiping your counters down, don't use your sponge to wipe up raw meat. Okay, that makes sense. Yep. You can. You can sanitize them by wetting them and putting them in the microwave for a minute, which actually gets rid of quite a lot of the bacteria according to the NPR article, especially the bacteria that will make you sick. So it's actually a good way to sanitize it. Just those two bacteria that showed up in regularly sanitized sponges aren't the ones that will totally kill you. Right. Okay. So this is just for just for one minute. One minute. Yep. Make sure it doesn't have metal on it. Don't put your metal scrubber in the dishwasher. Yeah, like your microwave. Yeah. You can also use bleach as we know that you use you have used green bleach on your sponges. Yeah, I did. Yeah. And did what to them, it leads them into bleach. A different color. But that's kind of what you expect with bleach. And they said to us like a solution of 99% Water 1% bleach kind of just okay. Although the green bleach I don't it's unclear whether or not it actually sanitizers. Yeah, but yeah, go listen to our last episode that episode six about green bleach and sun bleaching. I think maybe you could just throw them out in the yard. Yeah, you probably getting the lemon, you know, the grass, just in the grass. But the answer the job and some some places recommended also that you should run them through a dishwasher on high heat. That's another way to sanitize them. It gets I've heard that before. And I actually do that with my current sponge. But yeah, I'll yeah, I'm curious to hear about the good alternatives because I found one that I love, but Oh good. Who knows if it's good or not? Well, the MLS thing they recommended. And this is where we get into trouble is throw away your sponges every two weeks. Okay? And that is where we say Bad News Bears. Right? They again, like you're saying the worst thing about sponges is how often we just throw them away. And because they're disgusting, most hygienic, doctors and biologists would say Yeah, throw them away. We don't like to do that. Right? Because we're we want to reuse things and not contribute to landfill waste. Yes. So the other issue that's wrong with most of the sponges that you can get, you know like your Scott right? Sponges is that those green and yellow sponges you buy at the store, they're made of plastic nylon polyester or polyurethane, and none of these break down in landfills. So I know and also when you're washing up and they start to get raw and you know gritty you know when you when you're hand washing the cheese grater and you great you sponge. Yeah, it ends up that sponge part that you're washing down the sink turns in Oh microplastic which easily gets into our waterways and again, turtles ingest it, and then we'll get really unhappy. These sponges aren't recyclable, compostable, or biodegradable. Even though we know that biodegradable is a green Hui concept. Yes. So you don't want just the sponge, the three pack of sponges that you get that you just throw away every two weeks, not a good choice. So what are the other options? Now? Most of these I got from impactful ninja. Okay. I love that first name. Yeah. And across the board the places that I looked recommended see sponges. Wow, okay, I'm shocked. Okay, I've have a feeling I know why you're shocked. But why are you shocked? Because I would think if we all use a sea sponge, they're not going to be enough sea sponges in the world. Okay. Yes, that is the cons. They are technically an animal. So they're not vegan. Right. And there is some concern that they could be over harvested now. There are certifiably sustainably harvested sea sponges. Okay, so like Sisa sea sponge farms. Yeah. And the Australian Marine Conservation Society that link was linked in this article says that sewage, scallop dredging and other human interference are way more of a threat than over harvesting. Okay, so they are regrettable. The other pros to them is that they are natural quote, unquote. I know that's green hooey. But they're not if they're not plastic, you know, they're not processed. Plastic. They're not dyed. Yeah, they're not giving off. microplastics. Yeah. Interesting. Yeah, they're biodegradable. Yeah. Uh huh. Yeah. Do you have one by chance? I've used them in the past. Okay, because I never had until I heard somebody say, Oh, they're really good for kids. Like, yeah, babies. Exactly. Charlie, and I am obsessed with it. We've had it for two years now. It does not smell. Yep. It's so soft. And it works. So damn, well. Yeah, I want to get some from my own. But I actually thought that I was like, I don't think it can't be good. Because it's there probably be okay. Well, I actually have one that I used to use on my face just as an exfoliator. It was great. It just hung in the shower. And it dried and it turned into a rock when it dried. But then it yes, that's off to get in the shower and was great. And they're they're durable. They're soft, like you were saying hypoallergenic. And as long as they're not dyed or bleached again, they're non toxic. Wow. And you can throw them in the compost bin when you're done with them. Oh, my goodness. So I am so happy to hear this. Yes. So exciting. So another option that's similar to sea sponges, but vegan is a loofa. So did you know loofahs or plants? No. Okay. Well, I know everyone's like, Oh, they're like sea coral. No, I they're girls. I'm thinking okay, I'm thinking of the plant. Oh, no, not plastic. viously that's, I know not what you mean. Yes. They're named after that. Those little plastic ones that you can buy in the store. You know, men have gray and black loofahs for men. These Okay, so these loofahs Actually, I didn't I didn't realize they were there. I think they're they're of Asian origin and in China. They're gourds. They're like cucumbers. When I had a roommate that grown a vine I had a roommate grew someone summer white. You can grow your own loofahs why? Yes. And they just dry out, go to Home Depot and get some. I don't think he ordered them online. But he grew them in Albuquerque, New Mexico, which is not known for its water production. So Wow. Yeah. They're again biodegradable, you can just throw them in the compost when you're done with them. They're very durable. Again, hypoallergenic non toxic, you can grow them at home. The con with a loofa is that they're very harsh. They're not particularly absorbent either. Unlike sea sponges, and even when they're wet, they can be really scrubby so they might be able to kind of scrub, you know your hard pans and things. Okay, okay. So interesting. Yeah, actually, because the sea sponge would probably be too soft for a lot of scrubbing, but I also have this like scraper that I use. So yeah, that's an option too. And I will say, you know, that's well and we'll get back to this and we're going to do a whole season on personal products, but you people use the sponges as tampons. They're absorbent. Yep. Just blew my mind. Gum. So those are like the most natural sponges that you can go for. Just plain picked off the vine picked off the seafloor sponges. Next up and we encountered this with on paper towels, we have bamboo. So we went over this before. It's not like they just take the bamboo and make a sponge out of it. They convert it into synthetic nylon or rayon and that process is pretty bad for the environment and bad for the people who are making it and then possibly bad for your home. Again, when you wash the those rounds and nylons. They give off microplastics. So, bamboo sponges. I consider those to be green hooey. I would say those are not. Okay. Not a sustainable option. Yeah, cuz there's not like, there's no way to turn bamboo into fabric that's not like harmful or releases chemicals that are bad for the streams and stuff, right? Like there's no or is there as far as I know. No, I'm cute. Yeah, I don't. I hadn't heard of it. But I don't know maybe. Yeah. And people may argue that because it takes less water to grow the bamboo that's less harmful in cotton. Yeah. But at that time, yeah, I remember while I was researching the on paper towels, I learned that bamboo, the bamboo industry is unregulated. So it's kind of a whole Wild West of green shoots. Yes. Yep. Well, and that leads me to the next recommendation that they had, which were hemp hemp sponges, okay. Are these in order of good or is it just I think kimchi and bamboo may be similar. Okay, I just wasn't sure if like sea sponge was number one. I think if you're not vegan, I would say sea sponge just because of its softness. It's the most I mean, it's what all other sponges are named for and wrangled after it's the OG sponge. So yes, gotcha. So then hemp, again is another it's the plant of the cannabis plant. Not it doesn't get you high. won't have a really good time doing dishes other than Yeah, just like Whoo. It uses a lot less water than other fibers and makes a lot more fiber from the plant more than cotton more than flax that produces. So that was the one from the CFDA that I was reading about when you look at environmental rating. So the made by environmental benchmark for fibers is a rating system that they have and they gave organic hemp an A rating, because untreated hemp, which is usually organic breaks down and it doesn't use pesticides, etc. It breaks down more easily and doesn't have any harmful dyes or chemicals in it. Uh huh. But the issue is processing. Hemp again, similar to bamboo, they use a process called rutting reading our E TT ing. That's where you soak the plant to separate the fibers. And it can have bad ecological impacts. So there's like three types of reading water reading, you force water into it, and that uses a lot of water and energy, chemical reading can cause damage to waterways through improper disposal of the chemicals. Okay, which usually happens, we guess, inevitably. And then there's a process called do reading, which is basically using water that's already there. So you're not like forcing water and it could you could use a pond or something. But it takes a lot more time. And that would make the product kind of unsustainably expensive. Okay, so hemp, hemp has awesome and then there's also processes to make camp, softer or colorful, wrinkle resistant, and those take a lot of harmful chemicals. That's really interesting because I feel like hemp is such a hippie dippie Oh, it is, Eric. Well, it is because again, doesn't need many pesticides doesn't need much water, it's a weed, right? We just literally called weed because it just grows on the side of the road. Again, hemp though, because of its relationship to cannabis is really highly regulated. And kind of, there's a lot of regulation kind of keeping it from being used in certain states and certain areas. So that also makes it hard to get to. And the last thing about it is that it's really labor intensive. So similar to like, there's a lot of hand picking that needs to be done. And that can set you up in a bad processes that are harmful for workers. Right, like a lot of exploitation, which I don't think is something we've talked a lot about in terms of sustainability. Now we've talked about how the chemicals can harm workers, but unfair labor practices are also a huge part of sustainability. Yeah, totally. So hemp, hemp can. You need to look for Fairtrade certified organic hemp, basically, which might blow your bank account out of the water. Right? That's that's the thing that's so hard about all of this, like everybody, not everybody, I guess some people don't care. But people who do care want to make the right choices. But then like whole yeah, there's this whole matrix of things you have to consider. Yeah, it's so hard. Yeah. So I mean, it might be worth it to spend the extra money on certified organic, Fairtrade hemp sponges. Although I think sea sponges are probably a better option. Yeah, I was gonna say if a sea sponges, at least one that comes from somewhere that's sustainably harvested. Yeah. Then I kind of feel like you just go that route. But yeah, well, now there's a couple more routes that I'm going to take you down. Okay. Dishwashing, I'm mostly thinking of sponges for dishwashing. Yeah. Then we get into eco friendly cloths. There's a product called a Swedish dish cloth, which is made from wood he talked about that. Yep. It's not made of plastic. It's composed So at the end of its life, it dries fast, so you don't get bacteria on it the way that your sponges are. And if you're thinking about doing this route, instead of buying new ones, just use your unpaper towels or reusable rags are already using to wash your dishes and throw them in the washing machine. Right? That way, you you know, reduce use, you're using multiple, you know, one product for multiple reasons, and you don't get a gross like a sponge by your sink. Yes. So that's a possibility. So once again, we want to reiterate with natural sponges. If you're just throwing them in the trash with all your other garbage, it doesn't matter if they're biodegradable, or compostable, and you just throw them in the trash, it's going to end up in a landfill. And it's not going to it's most likely won't break down for 100 years. Right. And it's gonna be surrounded by plastic. Yeah. And also do you know, at least shade is leach aid, leach aid Lea, ch 80. I should make sure this is from my ninth grade science class. And I just realized that right now, I haven't I don't have it in my notes here. But I was just thinking about it. It's water that has percolated through a solid and leached out some of the constituents. So if you throw anything wet into the garbage, it becomes leech aid in the landfill. And what that means is it's just liquid like when you dump your coffee in the Starbucks, when you dump the extra coffee out to add cream into the garbage. You're making leech eight hole when you throw a wet sponge or a wet paper towel, or you haven't emptied your cup of you know, whatever out before you throw it in the trash. You're creating the cheat and what it is, is this toxic fluid in our landfills, that as things are breaking down, it's just soaking into the groundwater. So don't throw wet stuff in the trash. Whoa, I literally have never heard of that before, or would have never. I do think about it. But I don't think about it. Because of that. I'm more thinking about it. Because of the poor guys coming down my street with. I mean, it's also gross for anyone who has to deal with your trash, right? liquids in the trash. But it doesn't matter resources coffee, it's gonna get mixed with whatever else microplastics I mean, especially if it's hot, it's gonna break down, you know? Yeah, whoa. So at the end of your movie at the movie theater, I will if I have like, I don't buy sodas at the movies anymore. But if I did buy a drink of soda, I will pour out what's left in the sink and then throw it away. That is so smart. Also, because I used to work at a movie theater and there's nothing grosser than 12 full bag of soda. I think about that at the airport. People dump out their entire water bottles or whatever liquids, and there's just a bag of liquid just fluid for stock or TSA agent to have to deal a janitor, janitorial staff. Yeah, it's yeah. So anyway, be mindful. You know, if you're not going to waste water, that's one way to do it. Make sure that you control your liquids before you throw them in the trash. So wow, that's really helpful to throw a wet sponge in the trash. But again, if you've got natural sponges and you're not composting them, it's just as bad as the plastic ones. Right? So get the compostable ones. Either start a compound compost in your back yard or use your city compost, you know, that's worth it. If you're going to be using these natural sponges, make sure you do that. Yeah. And listen to our compost pile trash bags episode before, before you went to compost, realize that it's gonna take about 30 years. They're not they don't because they would dissolve if you threw coffee in them. So that's wild. So okay, do you have any other options? Because I was oh my gosh, I do. Yeah, good. Brushes. Okay, this was the big one that they recommended at the MBR. Well, I know at the time, Time magazine article, brushes dry more quickly, right? Because there's more surface area that dries more quickly. They aren't porous, so they don't hold on to bacteria. Okay, you can also run them through the dishwasher. Right? Yeah, clean them. I do that. Okay. But the issue is that most of them are plastic or silicone, which have their own problems with production, etc. But you will use them longer than sponges. Yes. My brushes are plastic, and I've had them for probably two years. Yeah, me too. I use and they get down to the bottoms of things and they're better at scrubbing. Yeah. So yeah, they must make ones that aren't plastic. But well, yeah, I'm about to go in and out. My goodness you read you can get natural discovers made of wood. And like fibers like Tampico, which is a cactus from Mexico. There's a shop called earthling.co or Earthlink company, and they have $8 ones. And again, it's wood in Tampico. You can you you have to hand wash it and let it air dry. But it's still going to be less sturdy than a sponge and it's compostable when you're done Know