I Tried These 100% Natural Sponges, and I’ll Never Go Back

published Mar 20, 2024
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His turn to wash up
Credit: LOUISE BEAUMONT / Getty Images

My neighbor texted me one morning notifying me that a vining plant from her thriving garden had gone rogue and was scaling a tree in my backyard. The acrobatic vegetable in question was the luffa squash, and it had climbed about 20 feet high unnoticed and out of reach. A couple of months later my uncle brought a bag of dried luffa squash from his garden to a family holiday party, and it changed my life forever. 

When harvested young, the luffa squash is a popular food item used in stir-fry dishes and stews across Asia. When the squash matures, it becomes extremely fibrous and is perfect for scrubbing dishes — it is the best nature-made sponge I’ve ever used.

What Is the Luffa Squash?

Luffa or loofah (botanically called Luffa aegyptiaca) is a vine-growing plant and is a member of the pumpkin, squash, and gourd family, Cucurbitaceae, according to the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Although the luffa squash has tropical origins, it can be grown in many climates. 

The squash is ready to eat when it’s six inches long, but letting it grow to at least a foot is best for sponges. When the squash begins to yellow, it’s ready to harvest. 

Credit: Patrick Matherly

How to Make a Luffa Squash Sponge

To cure the squash you peel the outer skin off and shake the seeds out. If you’re doing this at home, you can store these seeds in a cool dry place to be planted next year. The last step is leaving the luffa squash out in the sun to dry completely.

Whether you grow your own, or buy the luffa squash dried, you can customize the size of the sponge by cutting it. Due to the natural variation of diameter and placement of holes, it’s quick-drying and easy to keep clean (food particles wash right out). The fibrous texture gives you the scrubbing power of mass-produced sponges, without the worry of little blue pieces of plastic ending up in your fork or down the drain.

Although a luffa sponge can last for months, it will eventually begin to disintegrate and need replacement, which brings me to my favorite part. Because the luffa squash is simply a vegetable, at the end of its life you can just toss it in your compost bin, in your yard, or even bury it in a house plant. The last bit of usefulness will be squeezed out of the sponge by providing nutrients to your plants! 

Where Can I Get Luffa Squash?

Depending on the season, there’s a chance you can find luffa squash sponges at your local farmers markets. If you can’t find it locally, many online shops, including Amazon, sell the squash dried and uncut, which is essential for customizing. For the gardening-inclined, seeds are more cost-effective and an exciting addition to any garden.