An absorbent kitchen sponge is a mess-battling product you’ll find in almost every kitchen. This super efficient kitchen item only needs a swish of a hand to rid the offensive mess from the counter, sink, cooking area etc. But the cost of this little ‘swishing object’ goes far beyond the price you pay for it, think environment damage.
Firstly, kitchen sponges are mostly oil-based plastic, crafted using polyurethane (a petroleum based ingredient). To add to that, if they happen to be anti-bacterial/anti-fungal or odour fighters, they tend to contain Triclosan – another hugely researched chemical, responsible for multiple health issues like skin irritation and liver toxicity. Triclosan that gets mixed with water can’t be cleansed out of the waste water, resulting in toxic chemicals which in turn affect marine life. To add to that, using a sponge regularly for cleaning all the surfaces only aids in transferring bacteria around from one surface to the other.
Being vigilant about hygiene with these sponges(for example: keep them clean by washing them with hot water regularly) is crucial, as is replacing them frequently, which is an absolute necessity. But every time your disfigured piece of overused, germ infested sponge goes into the trash, it contributes to waste that doesn’t decompose easily. Also, if every urban household in India – taken as roughly 8 crore (assuming a rough figure of 5 members per household) was to change their cleaning sponge even once in two months, the total number of sponges i.e. plastic material going into landfills is a number scary enough to even calculate.
If you want to make a difference, to begin with replace your sponge with a more Eco friendly option. Make your own kitchen scrubby/ scouring pads using old plastic meshes from fruits and veggies. You can find the instructions, here. Alternately use rags from old t-shirts or towels.
If you do continue to use a sponge, well, try not to trash it. You can sure put it to some good use and make interesting things with it. Listed below are 8 such ideas. Just make sure you thoroughly clean the sponge prior to use (hot water, microwave – look it up on the web).
- DIY Bottlebrushes: It’s always a challenge to clean those tall glasses and bottles. The bottlebrushes are either too short, or the bristles aren’t long enough. Replace your woes with a DIY bottlebrush from old sponges. All you need is a chopstick (or any other study long stick made of plastic or wood), old sponge, and a small cork (to work as a stopper – the piece of sponge may slip off your chopstick otherwise). For instructions on making one, click here.
Image Courtesy: http://www.everynothingwonderful.com/2011/01/creative-re-use-cork-sponge.html
- Plant hydrators: If you’ve got travel plans or if you are one of those who slips on watering your greens, worry not! Your old scrubbing pads here to your rescue. All you need to do is place a piece of sponge at the bottom of the plant. This keeps the moisture intact and keeps the plants hydrated.
- Ice pack: Dip an old sponge in water and freeze it overnight, pack it in a ziplock and put it in your lunch box to keep the beverage/sandwich cold. Once the sponge de-freezes, it will reabsorb the excess water from the ice melting.
- Soap coaster: None of us like a slimy, slippery bar of soap. Keep that soap from melting by storing it on a soap coaster i.e. an old sponge. The sponge absorbs excess moisture off the soap bar and ensures the soap’s dry for your next use.
- Lint remover: Have a pet at home? Sure, there’s enough pet fur, that’s difficult to get rid off, especially from the furniture, clothes etc. So the next time, use an old wrung out sponge to wipe off the surface and just roll off the lint from damp sponge once done.
- Fragile item safe-keeper: Stick a small piece of sponge at the back of / base of those decorative items to keep them from damaging the surface.
- Sponge Stamps for kids: Make stamps for kids – cut them in different shapes and sizes and let your kids have some fun stamping around. Get them to decorate gift-wrapping papers/ make cards. All you need to do is: cut the sponge out in a shape – butterflies, hearts, etc., dip it into a non-toxic paint preferably, and let them go about stamping :).
- Swimming pool scrabble: Cut out old sponges into halves and label them with alphabets. Use this as a game with kids (works well with younger ones) – throw them into the pool and depending on your child’s age – decide on a game. Get them to either get alphabets that make up for his/her name or certain words etc. When the sponge has soaked in enough and starts to sink, use it instead for a treasure hunt.
Have more ideas for recycling them or replacing them in your household altogether? Please do share, we’d love to hear.