The 4 Best Kitchen Sponge Alternatives

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by Anne Loreto Cruz

Whether you’re looking to live more sustainably or minimize harmful bacteria in your home, there are plenty of good reasons to ditch your standard kitchen sponge and upgrade to an alternative. The best kitchen sponge alternatives are made with durable materials that are simple to wash and reuse, and they're designed to tackle both dishes and minor cleaning tasks with ease.

If your biggest priority is minimizing waste, you’ll want to reach for a sponge alternative that’s made from natural, compostable materials like cellulose, palm fiber, or luffa. Swedish dishcloths made of cellulose and cotton are another great option for light spills and dishwashing, though you may need the scrubbing power of luffas or palm fibers to tackle dried-on foods or greasy cleanup jobs. Even though many natural materials are compostable, it's always a good idea to double-check with your local composting facility to make sure they accept the specific material.

If you’re looking to use a nonabsorbent sponge alternative to minimize bacteria next to your sink, you'll want something that doesn't retain water. A nonporous silicone scrubber works well for this, since silicone is both heat-resistant and easier to sanitize than a traditional sponge. Some natural scrubbers also fit the bill and can be a little better at handling stuck-on food or greasy messes.

With all that in mind, here are five kitchen sponge alternatives that’ll keep your kitchen sparkling clean.

1. A Versatile Silicone Scrubber

If you’re looking for a sponge-alternative that’ll keep harmful germs and bacteria at bay, this nonporous silicone scrubber is perfect for everyday cleaning tasks. The soft silicone tips are great for gentle scrubbing, and the flexible material makes easy work of getting into the corners of pans where food can get stuck. You can also use these scrubbers to clean fruits and vegetables without bruising the skin, and there's a convenient hanging tab to allow for easy drip-drying after use.

This scrubber can be sanitized in a dishwasher or in hot water, and it's heat resistant up to 500 degrees Fahrenheit. The quick-drying and nonabsorbent material of this scrubber is better at resisting harmful bacteria growth than that of traditional sponges, and since silicone is easy to sanitize and lasts a long time, it's a more sustainable option, too.

One reviewer wrote: “I love that this sponge doesn't hold all the odors and bacteria. I'll never use a normal sponge again. This is very easy to use and very easy to clean off. Very durable and will help you scrub that pan clean. It doesn't smell even after using them for over a week. The new innovation for sponges and I love it”

2. These Swedish Dishcloths That Can Replace Paper Towels

These washable and compostable Swedish dishcloths have been a staple in my kitchen for years. They’re made with a blend of cellulose and cotton, so they’re both natural and compostable. They're rigid when dry, but are absorbent enough to wipe down surfaces — I use them to clean my stove and counters. They can also easily soak up spills or other daily messes: the brand claims that just one cloth can replace up to 15 rolls of paper towels. To sanitize these dishcloths, you can either toss them in the washing machine, or on the top rack of your dishwasher. Each cloth can withstand up to 100 washes before needing to be replaced, though I’ve had mine for two years and haven’t needed to retire any of them yet.

One reviewer wrote: “These hold up incredibly well, and my favorite part: They don't smell funky like traditional sponges and cloth rags often do after so many uses. They hold moisture and soap well, so they're great for cleaning up messes on counters or for washing dishes. They also don't disintegrate like some sponges do after too many uses. There were four in the pack, and I'm still using the same cloth several months after buying the product early this summer. A little more upfront cost compared to a traditional sponge, but well worth it.”

3. This Cult-Favorite Vegetable Scrubber

For a tough, cult-favorite option, these all-natural tawashi scrubbers have been raved about in publications like Bon Appetit, New York Magazine, and more. These palm-fiber scrubbers originated in Japan, and were intended to scrub produce clean and replace peeling veggies. However, they're also great for cleaning cast iron and getting stuck-on food off of dishes without leaving scratches. Once you’re done cleaning your kitchen with this scrubber, you can hang it to dry using its small metal loop. The waterproof palm fibers are nonabsorbent, so you don’t have to worry about it holding onto odors or grease over time.

One reviewer wrote: “I love it! A healthy way to scrub my dishes & utensils, without leaving microscopic plastic particles on them. Will not be contributing to persistent plastic pollution in the environment. Very well constructed nice stiff bristles, but soft to the hand. Highly recommend!”

4. These Compostable Luffa Scrubbers

These kitchen scrubbers are made from an all-natural mature luffa plants. The coarse fibers are excellent for tackling dried-on messes but are gentle enough to use on your most delicate dishes. The scrubbers arrive flat to save space on shipping but expand once soaked in water. The surface of the luffa scrubber is less porous than a traditional sponge, so it’s less likely to absorb grease or odors from your dishes while cleaning. Once you’re done using the scrubber, it also dries quickly, making it less susceptible to bacterial build up. Luffa scrubbers are also compostable, since they're made entirely from plant fibers.

One reviewer wrote: “So I've only used the first one but I already like it! It's sort of stiff and rigid at first but give it a few days of use and it gets better. Scrubs really good! No problems with cleaning pots and pans! Or grease. I think it stays cleaner than those plastic ones you buy at the store. My mom and dad were like whoa haha they were impressed. Dad wants one for him now. I'm pretty happy so far! I'll keep buying these for washing dishes when needed. It's great for zero-waste!”

Also Great: A Plant-Based Sponge

If you absolutely cannot let go of your kitchen sponges, Scotch-Brite also makes eco-friendly sponges. The scrubbing side is made with a blend of agave fibers and recycled plastic, and the soft sponge side is made from 100% natural cellulose and paper materials. The scrubbing side is tough enough to tackle stuck-on sauces, but is still soft enough to use on your more delicate dishes or cookware. The lifetime of these sponges can be extended by sanitizing them in your dishwasher, and the softer sponge portion can be composted if separated from the plastic-blend scrubber.

One reviewer wrote: “I'm still on my first sponge after 2 months! I wash it in the dishwasher when I run it to keep it fresh. Works great for cleaning in a non-abrasive manner.”