Probably one of the worst jobs in the home is having to attack the mound of dirty dishes and cookware at the side of the kitchen sink. Luckily, the humble kitchen sponge makes this task easier with its ability to scrub off baked on food and debris without damaging the surface of our plates or pans.There are different types of kitchen sponges and although many are multipurpose, others can be more specialist; such as those for cleaning grills and oven racks. In this article we look at the kitchen sponge in detail by comparing different types and looking at how they are manufactured. We also take a look at what we can do to try to keep sponges hygienic and choose what we think is the best kitchen sponge from a selection of sponges.
The Scrub Daddy Flex Texture scrubber is our scratch free best pick of the kitchen sponges with its temperature controlled softness and comfortable grip.
The Nano Sponge is our larger budget pick kitchen sponge which can be sanitized in the dishwasher or microwave.
Quick Comparison: Top 10 Best Kitchen Sponge Picks
1. Scrub Daddy - Scratch Free Color Sponge with Flex Texture
Designed to be held comfortably in your fingertips, the Scrub Daddy Flex Texture scrubber comes as a triple pack of different colors for easier color coded cleaning in the home. The Flex Texture is controlled by water temperature; when you use a sponge in warm water the sponge is softer and if placed in cool water, it stays firmer for coarser cleaning action. You can also dampen it and pop it in the fridge before using.These multipurpose sponges have been tested to ensure they are scratch free on more than a dozen different surfaces and they are microwave safe for one minute for sanitization. Depending on how often they are used, they can disintegrate faster than may be expected for the cost and when these sponges do disintegrate it is often in water which means it can be more difficult to collect the debris.
2. Nano Sponge by Life Miracle
Made with Nanolon™ fibers, the Nano Sponge has one side designed to use for scrubbing without scratching and the other side to absorb liquid, wipe away and polish. This sponge is free from any chemicals and as a larger 6" by 4" sponge, it is more suitable for cleaning larger areas. It can be washed in the dishwasher or sanitized in the microwave.As a larger sponge this is heavier when wet and it may not be as suitable for cleaning smaller items. It can also get damaged on the seams and may start to smell within a couple of weeks of use.
3. O-Cedar Scrunge Scrub Sponge
Coming as a pack of six, the O-Cedar Scrunge scrub sponge is an absorbent sponge with a scrubbing pad surface which will not scratch. The Scrunge is also endorsed by Teflon for use on Dupont Teflon coated cookware. These sponges also contain Rinse-fresh technology to minimize the risk of odors developing, although some buyers have still found they begin to smell quite quickly with use. This pack of sponges can also have quite a strong chemical smell on opening and as stiffer sponges they can be more awkward to grip if you have smaller hands.
4. Peachy Clean Silicone Scrubber
The triple pack of Peachy Clean silicone scrubbers are flexible scrubbers resistant to mildew and mold. Made in the US, these scrubbers also have antimicrobial odor protection along with a peach fragrance. They are also guaranteed by the manufacturer to resist bacterial odor for at least three months. They can be cleaned in the dishwasher, but you are advised not to use bleach or other harsh chemicals for cleaning them as it will shorten the lifespan.Although they are multipurpose, as silicone scrubbers, they are not as absorbent as other types of sponges which means they are not as suitable for tasks such as wiping countertops down. You may also need to use more detergent with them. Some buyers also consider they lack flexibility which can make it more awkward to clean smaller or more delicate items.
5. Scotch-Brite Non-Scratch Scrub Sponges
The Scotch-Brite non-scratch scrub sponges have a scouring pad surface for tougher cleaning and the sponge for gentler cleaning and wiping. These sponges will protect the non-stick properties of cookware and these are made from cellulose, a renewable material, rather than foam. They are also suitable for dishwasher sanitization.Some buyers have found that these sponges can come apart or begin to break down after little use and they may also start to smell soon after you have started to use them.
6. Scotch-Brite Dobie Original All-Purpose Cleaning Pads
The Scotch-Brite Dobie original all-purpose cleaning pads were invented in 1958. This triple pack of pads are easy to hold and suitable for a wide variety of cleaning tasks. The manufacturer appears to have changed the design of these pads recently and some buyers are not as keen on the newer product. They can also be prone to damage when cleaning items such as knives, and, like any kitchen sponge these will also deteriorate with use and time.
7. Lysol Multi-Purpose Scrub Sponge
Containing an antimicrobial treatment to inhibit bacteria, mildew or mold growth, the Lysol multi-purpose scrubber sponges are safe on most surfaces although you are advised to test first on an inconspicuous area. This four pack of sponges are also twice as durable as cellulose sponges and they are designed to keep their shape and not crack with use.These are constructed of a different material to other types of kitchen sponges and not all buyers are as keen on the material. They may also not stand up to as much heavy use as traditional cellulose or synthetic sponges.
8. Ultra Micro Fiber Miracle Sponge by Superior Performance Inc
The all-purpose Superio Miracle Brand sponge is chemical free and suitable for cleaning in the washing machine. It is also dryer safe. This comes as a triple pack of different colored sponges for easier color coded cleaning. Some buyers consider these are not as absorbent as other sponges and they can be a little too thick and large to hold comfortably in the hand. As these also lack the more abrasive surface often needed to remove baked on food debris they may not be as all-purpose as expected.
9. Scotch-Brite Heavy Duty Scrub Sponges
Currently the number one selling sponge in the US, this 12 pack of Scotch-Brite heavy duty scrub sponges are for heavy duty tasks such as cleaning grills. These pads are not suitable for using on dishes, non-stick cookware, counter tops or showers as there is a chance that they will scratch the surface.There is some confusion around these sponges as they are available as rectangular and curved shape and a number of buyers prefer the rectangular product rather than the curved which is what they have received when ordering the rectangular product. They may also be too small for some tasks as they are only around 4" long.
10. Scotch-Brite Greener Clean Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge
The Scotch-Brite Greener Clean non-scratch scrub sponge is made from 100% plant -based fibers. The sponge has a scrubbing pad which is made from 50% agave plant and the sponge contains 23% recycled paper. These sponges are suitable for all-purpose tasks such as dishwashing and bathroom cleaning but are not heavy duty enough for jobs such as oven racks or grills. These sponges can be sanitized in the dishwasher.A number of buyers are disappointed that this 12 pack of sponges are all individually wrapped in non-recyclable plastic and also that the manufacturer does not disclose what the other natural ingredients are in these sponges.
Things to Consider Before Buying a Kitchen Sponge
In the kitchen, our main purpose for the kitchen sponge is usually removing baked on food from cookware, dishes and utensils and wiping down countertops. Kitchen sponges are also useful for a wide range of other tasks around the home such as scrubbing showers and bathroom tiles. They are also useful in the garden for cleaning the grill and spring cleaning the outdoor furniture.
They have a variety of other uses though, they are great for crafting with the kids or try adding some bicarbonate of soda to a damp sponge and placing it in the refrigerator to absorb odors.
Sponges can also have a new lease of life in the bottom of your plant pots – they are able to soak up excess liquid to stop roots from getting too waterlogged. You can even put a damp sponge on a plate and place some seeds on it to grow; just place a glass bowl over the top and leave it on a light windowsill.
What to Look for When Selecting A Kitchen Sponge
Kitchen sponges should be absorbent as this allows them to hold plenty of soapy water when dishwashing and when dry it means they can be used as a sponge to soak up any excess liquid before wiping the remainder of a spill away.
A sponge should be easy and comfortable to hold in the hand and should not need too much physical effort to remove debris when using it. Some sponges may also be suitable for cutting in half – not only can this reduce the cost of regular replacement, but a half sponge can be better for cleaning smaller and more delicate items.
Some sponges are not suitable for all household surfaces and may cause scratches as they are too abrasive. Manufacturers usually provide guidance as to which tasks or surfaces the sponge is best suited, so it can be helpful to follow this when selecting a sponge. Likewise, a soft kitchen sponge will be of little help when needing to clean down the oven racks.
The All-Purpose Sponge
Many all-purpose sponges are made from recycled wood pulp and cotton (cellulose) and these will degrade in landfill. Sponges can also be made of artificial polymers such as polyurethane and these all-purpose sponges are often inexpensive to buy regularly.
All-purpose sponges are often smaller, yet ideally sized to fit the hand well which makes them easy to use. These types of sponges are very porous to easily absorb liquid; however, they can also trap debris such as bits of food in them as well which contributes to bacterial build-up in the sponge.
As these often come in assorted colors it is easy to color code sponges to chores, such as pink for dish washing and blue for bathrooms.
Some sponges are two sided and come with an abrasive pad attached. This makes it easier for tougher scrubbing chores, although the abrasive side can cause cosmetic damage if used on surfaces such as non-stick cookware, fine china or glasses. Some manufacturers offer different abrasive levels, and these may be manufacturer color coded, so it is always worth checking how abrasive a sponge actually is before buying.
The two sided, or bi-functional kitchen sponge was originally patented as a car cleaning sponge by 3M. The abrasive side was to remove bugs from car exterior and the softer sponge was then used as the car washing sponge.
Some cellulose sponges are also available as pop-up sponges. These are vacuum packaged and when you open the pack and place the sponge into water it expands into a traditional cellulose sponge. Although these tend to cost more than other types of cellulose sponges, they are often free from any additives such as biocides or soap.
How Cellulose Sponges Are Made
Cellulose fiber sheets are soaked in chemicals to make them soft and pliable. The sheets are then added to a mixer alongside hemp fiber, dye and sodium sulfate crystals. The mixer rotates until these are thoroughly mixed together.
The mix is then added to a mold which has holes in its base, and heated. The heating causes the sodium sulfate crystals to move to the bottom where they are allowed to run off through the holes. The melting of the sodium sulfate in the mix is what creates the holes or pores in the sponge and the larger the crystals used, the larger the holes.
As the mix is allowed to cool it becomes a solid block which goes into a bleach vat to get rid of any impurities and dirt and also brighten the colors. The sponge is then washed. The more times it is washed, the more its texture will alter. The sponge is then left to dry.
The finished sponge will be then cut and packaged at this facility or sold as sheets to what is known as a converter company who cut the sheets into sponges depending on customers’ requirements. Either way, the sponges are cut with an automatic cutter and if the sponge needs an abrasive or scouring pad attaching, this is done after the cutting through a process called laminating. This uses a special sponge glue to attach the pad to the sponge.
The sponges are then packaged and distributed. Manufacturing cellulose sponges does not produce harmful byproducts and very little waste as any off-cuts of sponge are usually ground up and added to the mixer for the next batch of sponge.
Other Types of Kitchen Sponge
A microfiber sponge is ideal for all surfaces as it is soft, however, this softness does stop it being useful when trying to remove baked on foods. Microfiber also dries quickly after use which can help reduce the quantity of bacteria found on it.
A natural sponge or a sea sponge grows on the floor of the ocean and ideal for jobs such as washing cars and windows as they are very soft. In the kitchen they can be less useful as they are too soft to remove all debris.
It can be harder to find natural sponge and they usually cost more to buy. As they do not tend to trap debris or food particles, they can last a lot longer than other types of kitchen sponge though. There are some environmental concerns with using natural sponge as they are over-harvested, which has a significant impact on other marine creatures which depend on sea sponges.
Rubber sponges are used dry and are ideal for surfaces such as fabric furnishings which cannot be allowed to get too wet. They are also useful for cleaning soot from surfaces. A rubber sponge is usually slightly damp and coated with soap when you open it. Once the end of the sponge is soiled, it can then be cut off and you can then start over with the remainder of the sponge. This type of sponge needs to be stored in a plastic bag to keep it damp.
After a sponge is used it should be thoroughly wrung out and left to dry out properly. Ideally it should be stored on the dishrack as this will help it dry out faster or you can even invest in a sponge holder which will keep the sponge upright and allow air to circulate around it as it dries out. You can also put it in through a ‘heated dry’ cycle in the dishwasher and if you do use a sponge every day, you should really look to dispose of it after one to two weeks of daily use.
You do not have to throw it out though – pop it through the washing machine on a hot cycle with bleach to remove some of the bacteria then cut one corner off to identify it and put it into use for cleaning garbage and recycling cans, wiping down walls and many other odd jobs around the home.
Try to avoid using a kitchen sponge for raw meat preparation, instead use paper towels which can be disposed of when you have finished. You can also use paper towels with a suitable sanitizer or even bleach wipes to clean down the surface after meat preparation, or indeed after any other food preparation as this will help prevent any bacterial cross-contamination from the sponge.
There has been some debate around the correct way to sanitize kitchen sponges to keep the bacteria levels down. Microwaving a sponge in a bowl of water (one minute for abrasive pads and two minutes for cellulose sponges) was thought to remove most of the bacteria, however, some research has shown that only some of the bacteria are killed, although microwaving can reduce the number of bacteria in the sponge by around a million-fold.
Some research in 2017 showed that kitchen sponges had a more diverse range of bacteria in them than was originally thought. The sponges used in the study were acquired from households which replaced them either weekly or monthly. One particular bacterium found on the sponges, Moraxella osloensis may be what causes sponges to smell as this bacterium is also associated with shower stall curtains, laundry hampers and changing rooms! The researchers also suggested that kitchen sponges be replaced ‘for example, on a weekly basis’.
If you do want to sanitize a sponge in the microwave you should always stay near to the microwave as you do it as there can be a very small risk of the sponge catching fire if left on for too long!
It is also worth noting that there are five key species of bacteria which cause over 90% of food-borne illness hospitalizations, and it can be quite rare to find these bacteria in kitchen sponges. However, once a sponge starts to develop an odor it should always be replaced as the odor is a sign that the bacteria in the sponge are really multiplying.
As well as microwaving or putting a sponge through the dishwasher you can also mix one part household bleach to one part water and soak the sponge in the solution for 30 seconds or so. If you make a jug of this bleach solution and store it somewhere safe, it means you have fresh solution to hand every day.
A solution of half a cup of white vinegar in one cup of hot water with three tablespoons of salt can also help clean a sponge, although it may not remove as much bacteria as bleaching would. The sponge should be left in a vinegar solution overnight and then rinsed and squeezed thoroughly to remove the excess solution.
Although some of you may disagree, kitchen sponges are no less hygienic than brushes or cloths in the kitchen – both need to be wrung out and allowed to air dry after every use and while sponges and brushes should be sanitized and replaced regularly, cloths will need putting through a hot cycle in the washing machine with whites or soaked in bleach before re-using.
In this article we have taken a look at how the kitchen sponge evolved, how it is made and some of the advantages and disadvantages of some of the main types. Kitchen sponges are prone to becoming breeding grounds for bacteria, mold and mildew though, so it is important to always dry them out properly, sanitize them frequently and be prepared to replace them on a regular basis.We trust that you have enjoyed our article on what makes a kitchen sponge the best kitchen sponge and that our reviews have been helpful; whether you just need a dishwashing sponge to clean that mound of dirty pots, or one which can tackle some of those heavy duty tasks around the home.