Did you know that most regular washing up sponges are made from synthetic and plastic fibres, and that each time you use a sponge those fibres are released straight into the water system?
What can we do about this issue?
As is often the case the natural world has an answer. This time it is in the form of the Luffa Cylindrica plant. This plant, which is part of the cucumber family and native to Asia, is also commonly known as a loofah plant or sponge gourd. Luffah fruits are edible when they are young and as they mature they become more fibrous and suitable for sponge production. When dried and peeled the luffah plant reveals a skeleton that is stiff with a wire like texture, which when hydrated makes for a perfect sponge.
Luffas are often sold in their long cylindrical form and can be found for sale in health food shops or eco living shops and also online. I am very lucky to have a lovely shop called Watts Trading on my local high-street that sells them for around £8-10 per luffa. I then chop it up into eight or so individual sponges, which is pretty good value for money in my opinion.
If you are used to nice soft sponges then the texture of the luffa sponge can take some getting used to, however their wire like quality makes them excellent for scrubbing without being too abrasive.
Once the luffah sponge has come to the end of its use, often because it has worn through, it can be composted in your home compost or popped in a food waste bin if you have that collected by your council or waste collection service. This is much better than disposing of a regular plastic sponge that would otherwise sit in landfill for hundreds of years.
I also recently experimented with washing my luffa sponge in the washing machine and I am pleased to say that it came out really well. My freshly washed luffa sponge is now still useful for wiping up spillages or other household cleaning jobs. I am also planning to try and grow my own luffa plant on my allotment so I will update you on how that goes in a few months. If you have grown luffa plants before and have any tips, please share them with me.
As you can probably tell I am a complete convert to the luffa sponge, and I highly recommend that you give one a try. Let me know if you do and what your thoughts are!