What Are Sponges Made Of? Scrutinizing The Soft 'Spongy' Substance

Joan Agie
Oct 17, 2023 By Joan Agie
Originally Published on Oct 23, 2021
Three sea sponges with foam on white background.
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Age: 3-18
Read time: 5.8 Min

Natural sponges are used to clean a large type of surface in a 100% completely harmless way.

Sponges can be as hard as glass yet remain soft as they are an open-cell foam. We know that sponges are found in oceans.

They belong to the phylum Porifera, but what are sponges made of? Actually, they have a very soft body as their skeleton is made up of a soft element called spongin and the texture of their body is porous.

But these sponges are not used to clean any surface. For dishwashing and kitchen use, basic cellulose and fiber are used to create different types of sponges.

A good sponge is important for kitchen use. To select a good one, you need to check how much it can absorb and its scrubbing ability.

The more they are able to hold soap water, the less time it requires to do the work. Several types of sponges are available like the microfiber sponge, the cellulose sponge, and the natural sponge for everyday usage.

If you are interested in knowing more about sponges and their origin, then do read about are sponges animals and how do sponges reproduce.

Are sponges made of sea sponges?

There is a vast variety in the availability of these eco-friendly sponges. They are most commonly used as loofah bathroom sponges.  Honeycomb sponges, wood wool sponges, and grass sea sponges are mainly used in making a natural sponge.

These natural sponges are good for skincare because they do not have any parabens or sulfate or acidic substances in them, that may cause any allergic reaction and be harmful to the skin. People who want their skin to glow, want to stay hydrated, and have healthy skin should use these natural bathing sponges.

These are used for car cleaning, cosmetics, and artwork too.

Harvesting Sea Sponges

Sponges are commonly harvested from the lowest levels of the sea with the help of divers.

These divers use both a particularly designed hook or knife to do the harvesting. The divers reduce approximately two-third of the sponge off and use it for harvesting.

They cut them into thin slices and leave the remaining part of the sponge to regrow. The divers then squeeze the gurry out of the harvested sponge and take them to the boat. On the boat, the sponges are thoroughly cleaned and left inside a burlap sack under the sun.

Are the sponges we use alive?

The herbal sponges we use in our baths are animal skeletons. Bath sponges include a tremendously porous cluster of fibers crafted from a collagen protein referred to as spongin. The skeletons are created by slicing the developing sponges and soaking the reduced quantities in water until the flesh rots away.

Their bodies include skeletons fabricated from a gentle cloth referred to as spongin. They have a leathery texture body that consists of several pores. The sponge absorbs seawater. They filter microscopic plants from it and expel the extra water via one of the greater big holes referred to as oscula.

Are all sponges made from animals?

Some sponges are made from animal products, but they are least desired in the kitchen. They are multicellular organisms found in water. They are harvested because they are used in some cleaning, home decor, or bathing products and harvesting sea sponges helps in growing new ones and removing the older ones.

Synthetic sponges are made from three primary ingredients. These are cellulose derived from timber pulp, sodium sulfate, and hemp fiber. Other substances like chemical softeners are used to decompose the cellulose down into the right consistency, bleach, and dye.

Four synthetic colourful sponges useful for washing dishes.

Are natural sponges ethical?

Sponges are widely used for cleaning and washing using liquid cleaners such as dish cleaning soaps. Sponges are typically so porous that air can freely pass through the pores.

Natural sponges are far more ethical than synthetic sponges. They are eco-friendly and easily degradable. Synthetic sponges require almost 200 years to decompose, and they decompose only into plastic microfibers which are harmful to the environment.

The harvesting process of natural sponges does not include any use of chemicals or by-products that damage the environment or add to global warming.

The Eco-Friendly Alternatives To Sponges

Most kitchen sponges are the product of cellulose and polyester which is non-degradable and non-recyclable. These materials are harmful to the environment and contribute to global warming. However, there are other types available.

Here are some eco-friendly alternatives. These include the use of copper scour, linen dish rags, and cleaning brushes. You can also use a cotton sponge which is reusable, a plant-based loofah, a walnut sponge, scouring pads, and even coconut scrubs.

The manufacturing process of sponges starts with sheets of cellulose fibers being soaked in chemicals by workers, to give them a pliable and soft texture. The sheets and hemp fibers with sodium sulphate crystals are then placed in large rotating containers.

In that container, the ingredients are blended. We find the finished product, the sponges, when pores and gaps are left from the melted crystal.

Many regular sponges are derived from polyurethane, which is a petroleum-primarily based ingredient and is similar to different artificial materials. Essentially, traditional sponges are crafted primarily from oil-based plastic.

Some sponges have antibacterial and odor-removing benefits in them, but they are the most harmful ones. Toxic chemicals like triclosan and pesticides are loaded in them. They can cause cancer, toxication, and even skin troubles.

Cellulose, also known as a herbal fiber, is the main component for kitchen sponges. The sponge contains a scrubby texture which is made from polyester or nylon which are synthetic products. They cannot be recycled or degraded. The sponges also contain oil and gas which are additionally non-renewable.

Vegetal cellulose sponges are manufactured from wood pulp. They are mainly used for bathing and skin cleaning. They are generally harder and more steeply-priced than kitchen sponges. They are taken into consideration that they are far better than kitchen sponges as they're biodegradable and manufactured from herbal materials and don't harm the environment.

Research has proven that sponges are crafted from cellulose and plant assets. They can be recycled. The cellulose contains plastic, which can also be recycled and used to make different plastic materials.

A German scientist, Otto Bayer in 1937, first discovered polyurethane foam, which is used in making kitchen sponges. He accidentally discovered that foam. Nowadays it is used in the making of sponges.

Cellulose makes up the maximum of a plant's cellular walls. Since the natural compound is created through plants, it might be the maximum considerable one on the planet.

The maximum sponges available in the market are made from this plant cellulose. Cellulose sponges are cut from timber fibers, and despite the fact that they are man-made, they undergo a much less poisonous production system and that they biodegrade in landfills.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for what are sponges made of then why not take a look at facts about coral reefs, or Atlantic Oceans animals?

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Written by Joan Agie

Bachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

Joan Agie picture

Joan AgieBachelor of Science specializing in Human Anatomy

With 3+ years of research and content writing experience across several niches, especially on education, technology, and business topics. Joan holds a Bachelor’s degree in Human Anatomy from the Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria, and has worked as a researcher and writer for organizations across Nigeria, the US, the UK, and Germany. Joan enjoys meditation, watching movies, and learning new languages in her free time.

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