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To Loofah or Not To Loofah

To Loofah or Not To Loofah

Most people give some consideration to the body soap they use, but have you ever stopped to think about what you’re using to put the soap on your body? Lots of people use bath poufs or loofahs as they are sometimes called- you know the ones- the large, round plastic mesh balls that look so fun and inviting in stores. 

If that’s what you’re using, you might want to rethink it. First of all, bath poufs are made of synthetic materials which means they will likely end up in landfills for hundreds of years. Additionally, they further damage the environment when microplastics from poufs are washed down the drain and end up in the ocean. 

Synthetic bath poufs are a prime example of a product that brings toxins into the home and then into the body. They are used to scrub dirt and dead skin cells from bodies and then hung up wet for the next use. Wet dead skin cells hanging in a humid shower–that’s a breeding ground for bacteria and infection! Imagine having a cut or open wound on your skin and then bathing with a bacteria ridden pouf.  Ewww!

Good news! There are cleaner, healthier, biodegradable and eco-friendly options- natural loofah sponges or sea sponges, and to clarify, they are not the same thing. 


Most people think natural loofah sponges come from the ocean. It might surprise you to know that they actually come from a plant in the gourd family (think cucumber, squash, pumpkin). It is believed that the plant originated in Asia or Africa and that the first cultivation began in India. Early European settlers brought the crop to North America. 


Luffa aegyptiaca, the “sponge gourd,” and luffa acutangula can be easily grown in home gardens. They are vining plants that like to climb and thrive in hot weather. They are grown, harvested and left to dry for up to 6 months. They are then soaked in water, peeled and deseeded to create the natural loofahs. One plant may yield 4-6 sponges. When they are grown in home gardens, pesticides are rarely needed for a healthy crop- another win! 


If you don’t want to go to the trouble of growing your own loofahs, it is easy to find them for purchase. And because there is zero waste, there is no shame in swapping them out more often to keep them clean and safe.

Bathing with the natural loofah is just one use for it. Think about all of the places you could use it throughout the home to clean. You could use it in the kitchen to scrub greasy pots and pans, in the bathroom to clean grout in tile or in the laundry room to clean and polish dirty shoes. 

Another softer eco-friendly option is the sea sponge. As the name implies, this one actually does come from the ocean. Like natural loofah sponges, sea sponges have a long history. They predate the dinosaurs by about 400 million years. They were used by ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks. Fun fact: in ancient Greece, sea sponge harvesting was actually an Olympic event. Homer even references sea sponges in both “The Iliad,” and “The Odyssey.”  


This simple multicellular organism is classified as an animal but doesn’t have organs, and it actually functions more like a plant in that it reproduces and grows like plants do. Divers go into the ocean and carefully cut the sponges making sure to leave enough of the base for it to grow back. If harvested correctly, they regrow bigger and healthier than before. Sea sponges also have an enzyme that makes them naturally antibacterial and anti-fungal.

Because they are soft, sea sponges are an excellent choice for bathing babies (and adults, too!). They can easily be used on the face to cleanse and apply lotions and/or makeup. They provide a less abrasive cleaning option from the natural loofah, and because of this, they can be used for other household chores like washing cars or painting.   

It sounds crazy, but the processes to produce natural loofah sponges and sea sponges are actually that simple. There are no chemicals, dyes or synthetics involved. Once you are finished using the natural loofah sponge or sea sponge, you can compost it and produce zero waste.

A healthy, happy lifestyle is the sum of many small decisions made over time. When we think about small steps that we can all take to make our bodies, our homes, our families and our environment healthier, this one seems easy.

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