Sponge Loofah or Washcloth - Which is best?

Sponge, Loofah or Washcloth – Which is Best?

Sponge, Loofah or Washcloth – Which Is Best?

Most would agree that exfoliation is an integral part of practicing daily hygiene, whether it be in the shower or in the bathtub. The question remains whether to use a sponge, loofah or washcloth to get the job done.

There are many products to choose from these days. I’ll be discussing a few of them below.

Sea Sponges

If you are looking for a natural product, it’s hard to beat the sea sponge (Porifera). It is classified as an animal that eat small particles as they pump water through their bodies. There are thousands of varieties, but only a handful are harvested for use in the bath and body industry. We have been doing this for over 100thousands of years. One popular variety is the wool sea sponge, which can be purchased at places like the Acme Sponge Company, based in Florida. A few reasons for choosing the sea sponge:

  • They become soft when wet and are suitable for young children
  • They contain natural enzymes that help prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew.
  • They are sustainably harvested by leaving the stalk attached so that it can regrow. If not harvested, they have a lifespan of about 10 years.
  • Sea sponges tend to last longer than synthetic ones.
  • Sea sponges are biodegradable, minimally processed and do not contain added chemicals.

Loofah Gourds

Unlike sea sponges, loofahs are easily grown from seed in warm, sunny climates. They are part of the gourd family and have many uses. Young loofah gourds are actually edible. If grown for sponges, they are allowed to mature (turn brown), and their skin removed to reveal the fibrous portion. A few reasons to use them:

  • Their versatility. They can be grown for food as well as for bath and body use. They need a long growing season (about 200 days).
  • They may appeal to those who would prefer to use plant rather than animal material.
  • They are biodegradable, compostable and fairly inexpensive. They can be purchased online at The Luffa Farm, based in California. Their low cost makes it easy for you to replace them often.
  • They come in various shapes and sizes, including bath mitts.


The humble washcloth has been a staple in homes and hotel rooms throughout the U.S. since the dawn of the towel. In other countries they are known by other names; in England, they’re called “flannel” or “face flannel.” In Europe, they have “face cloths” and wouldn’t think to use them on their bodies. These are over-generalizations, of course, the point being that different cultures give different names to this small towel that is used with soap or shower gel. The material also evolved, from small flannel squares to the more common terry cloth. There are, however, handmade versions of this bath item – crocheted, like our own Cotton Washcloth, or knitted. These are great loofah alternatives that provide the exfoliation you seek without too much effort. Reasons to use them include:

  • Their earth-friendliness. Our washcloth, for example, is made from 100% organic cotton in the U.S.A.
    This makes it biodegradable, long-lasting and almost endlessly reusable.
  • They do not contain any added chemicals, dyes or other questionable additives, as do some commercially-available synthetic poofs.
  • Their versatility. They can be used in the bath, the kitchen, and to clean floors and pets.
  • They can be easily disinfected by microwaving or by tossing them in the washer/dryer.
  • They can get into places where the sponge or loofah might not, and are useful for generating lather.

Believe it or not, there are many other options for personal cleansing. One worth mentioning is the synthetic poof or sponge. They are usually made from nylon and come in many sizes and colors. I would shy away from these, however, for the following reasons:

  • Nylon is a man-made plastic polymer derived primarily from coal or petroleum, and as such is not at all earth-friendly. There are eight types of nylon – Nylon 6 does not biodegrade, but Nylon 4 is more biodegradable. However, its manufacture releases much greenhouse gas and uses a lot of water.
  • Synthetic poofs contain artificial dyes and other additives that you may not want in your bath.
  • Synthetic poofs are not as durable as the natural alternatives mentioned above.

Which cleaning product you use (or none at all) is a very personal choice. I hope that this makes it easier for you to choose one that is safe, durable, and does the job without harming the planet.


Wikipedia’s Sea Sponge information page
Are sea sponges greener than synthetic shower poofs?
All About Nylon

What is lurking in your yoga mat?

What Is Lurking In Your Yoga Mat?

The question of what is lurking in your yoga mat may not have come across your mind recently. After all, yogis are into their practice, and give only a passing thought to what they are sitting on. As a woman who tends to perspire profusely during and after a workout, I tend to want to keep my mat (and other equipment) as clean as possible without  adding to my body’s burden of chemicals. And a recent article published in Environmental Health Perspectives demonstrating a link between the use of flame retardants in plastic yoga mats and fertility outcomes raised some concerns. Another study found pathogenic bacteria in large quantities on yoga mats that were not regularly cleaned. Considering how many times my face and hands touch my mat, this gave me pause. So what’s a practitioner to do? Let’s begin by looking at the types of mats out there.

Types of Yoga Mats

  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)  – PVC mats often had plasticizers added, which increased the number of chemicals (namely lead, dioxin, and phthalates) employed in their manufacture. All of these chemicals are of known toxicity. These mats are not earth-friendly or biodegradable. Some mats may also contain latex, which some are allergic to.
  • Thermoplastic Elastomer (TPE), which is a more environmental and health friendly  alternative. TPE is a combination of rubber and plastic and is said to be biodegradable and recyclable.
  • Ethylene Vinyl Acetate (EVA), thinner than PVC and TPE, considered less toxic than PVC. Its manufacture does not require the use of a plasticizer like PVC, and is BPA-free. It is acceptable for use in baby products like teethers and in shoe soles.
  • Natural Latex Rubber – A naturally derived product extracted from rubber trees. It tends to be thicker and heavier than the other materials, and can take longer to dry when washed. It also contains latex, so those who are allergic to this material should avoid it. It is a more biodegradable and chemical-free alternative to synthetic materials. Just remember that it can degrade in sunlight or with the use of certain essential oils.
  • Nitrile Butadiene Rubber (NBR) – A synthetic rubber-like compound (what nitrile gloves are made of).
  • Natural Cork – While sustainably sourced, they may not be as “sticky” when dry, necessitating spraying before use. They look beautiful and are a little more expensive.
  • Organic cotton/jute – The most natural and earth-friendly alternative. They can be a little scratchy, but provide sufficient friction. Some can be put in the wash. These can also be more expensive.

Given all of the alternatives out there, it behooves us to ask the right questions and find out how companies manufacture their mats if you want to avoid harmful out-gassing of chemicals from your yoga mat.

Cleaning your Yoga Mat

Specific yoga mat cleaners are available, but it’s really easy to make one yourself from 3 parts water and 1 part vinegar to which a few drops of essential oil are added. (This is less drying than rubbing alcohol.) Tea Tree, Lavender and Eucalyptus are favorites. Let dry in a well-ventilated area.

Let’s find out what’s lurking in our yoga mats and take steps to stay healthy and buy earth-friendly products. Namaste!

Article in Gymgearinfo.com about PVC and TPE mats
Article in TypeAYoga.com re: what you need to know