Scrub in Style With the Best Dish Sponges
Our top picks include sparkling stripes, fruit shapes, and more.
Published Mar 24, 2022 1:55 AM
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One of our favorite secrets to a sleek, clean kitchen is a well-organized under-sink, but there are a few tools worthy of your precious counter space that should be kept out in the open for all your guests to see. While a chic marble soap caddy might obviously make your display A-team, the very unexpected sink-side accessory we’re admiring these days are the best dish sponges.
Sponges are handy to have around, literally. Often viewed as a utilitarian tool, you can rely on them to scrub away at pretty much everything—your nonstick Dutch oven and pots and pans, your stainless steel sink, your sauce-splattered stovetop, and even your bathroom tile. From playful heart and fruit shapes to sparkling Lurex, all our options listed below have us (almost!) excited about washing dishes by hand, because the best dish sponges are the perfect combination of fashion and function.
- For more than just a smile: Scrub Daddy Scrubber
- For squeaky-clean shine: Hawkins New York Lurex Sponges
- For keeping things au naturel: First Hand Supply Sea Wool Sponge
- For dishes that need a little love: Hay Heart Sponge
- For gentle cleaning tasks: Dianoo Cute Fruit Style Sponges
- For tougher cleaning tasks: KonMari Kamenoko Tawashi Sponge
- For small spaces tight on storage: Williams Sonoma Pop-Up Sponge
For More Than Just a Smile: Scrub Daddy Scrubber
Material: Foam | Quantity: Varies | Size: 6-by-1 inches | Dishwasher safe: Yes
What we like:
- So many color choices
- Big in size; there’s a new smaller version for little hands, too!
- Resistant to mold, smells, and stains
- Likely contains polymers for its texture-changing innovation
Why we chose it: A viral design that will keep you smiling through your dreaded chores.
Scrub Daddy’s design does more than bring us joy—the void spaces that make up this sponge’s signature smile are for easier cleaning; you can stick in all sorts of servingware and eating utensils to clean every nook and cranny or just get a better grip. But the most revolutionary aspect of this cutie is the fact that its texture changes with water temperature. If you’re quickly doing the dishes, warm water will make it more malleable. If you need a scrubber that is stiff for tougher tasks like your floors or dried food, ice-cold water will keep the sponge rigid.
For Squeaky-Clean Shine: Hawkins New York Lurex Sponges
Material: Lurex and polyfill | Quantity: Pack of 3 | Size: 3-by-5 inches | Dishwasher safe: Yes
What we like:
- Choose among 3 multicolored packs (metallics, cools, and warms)
- $6 for 3 different-size sponges
- Cheer up your kitchen sink
- Made with synthetic materials
Why we chose it: Get your kitchen sparkling with shiny stripes and metallic colors.
No, seriously, the metallic luminosity of these Lurex sponges isn’t just for show (though we aren’t afraid to admit that we have considered hanging them from the ceiling like a disco ball). This colorful trio is long-lasting, dishwasher safe, and strong enough to tackle all sorts of caked-on messes, so don’t worry about having to turn on the elbow grease when scrubbing down a burnt sheet pan or glass loaf dish.
For Keeping Things Au Naturel: First Hand Supply Sea Wool Sponge
Material: Sea wool | Quantity: 1 | Size: Varies, but usually 5-by-5.5 inches | Dishwasher safe: No, but you can add to a cold cycle in your washing machine
What we like:
- Responsibly harvested in the Bahamas
- 30-day satisfaction guarantee
- Produces a rich lather
- Don’t wring it out (it will lose its shape; wool naturally shrinks)
Why we chose it: Hypoallergenic and 100 percent biodegradable, this is the most natural and environmentally friendly sponge on our list. You often find a sea sponge hanging in someone’s shower as a loofah alternative, but they’re equally great for kitchen cleaning tasks. They gently cleanse but naturally exfoliate, inhibit the buildup of bacteria, and are a durable product worth investing in—when properly looked after, these sponges can last months, even a whole year. Disinfecting is as easy as dowsing this cleaning buddy with 70 percent medicinal alcohol, or you can toss it in the wash with your next load of laundry (cold cycles only!). A little rough to the touch at first, sea sponges will soften up in texture once damp and lathered in soap.
For Dishes That Need a Little Love: Hay Heart Sponge
Material: Polyurethane and foam | Quantity: 1 | Size: 4.5-by-4 inches | Dishwasher safe: No
What we like:
- Smaller size
- Loop to hang
- Handwoven look and feel
- Spot-clean only
Why we chose it: Embroidered for fun, this contemporary, heart-shaped sponge injects some love into your cleaning ritual.
Who doesn’t love the novelty of cute shapes and colors? We’d honestly expect nothing less from Scandi powerhouse Hay, already known for elevating the simple with its pared-down palettes. On this heart-shaped sponge variety, we love the addition of a red hoop for hanging, which means you can put this scrubber on display like any objet d’art. Keep in mind, while this sponge is designed to remove sticky sauces and slime, it can stain, so thoroughly rinsing off food first is recommended to elongate its elegance.
For Gentle Cleaning Tasks: Dianoo Cute Fruit Style Sponges
Material: Microfiber | Quantity: Pack of 4 | Size: Varies, generally 5-by-4 inches | Dishwasher safe: No
What we like:
- Cute fruit shapes
- Three layers of sponge
- Absorbent, foams up easily
- Colors sent are random
- Not fit for tough scrubbing
Why we chose it: Freshen up with a cute four-pack of fruitlike sponges that are quick to foam.
A strawberry, orange, melon, and mango—these large-size sponges (bigger than the average hand!) are guaranteed to make cleaning more fun. You’ll just want to limit them to easier tasks, such as removing extra olive oil left behind on your nonstick pan or cleaning out your water glasses.You won’t need a lot of dish soap either to get these sudsed up, as they foam easily. Once done, simply hang them up or put them aside to air-dry in minutes.
For Tougher Cleaning Tasks: KonMari Kamenoko Tawashi Sponge
Material: Palm | Quantity: 1 | Size: 4-inch diameter | Dishwasher safe: No
What we like:
- Durable, will last for years
- Sleek, utilitarian design (embodiment of wabi-sabi)
- Tough enough to remove stubborn debris without scratching soft surfaces (and versatile enough to take out of the kitchen, too!)
- Not safe for crystal or high-end glass
Why we chose it: A resilient cleaning classic in Japan you can rely on to wash everything from cookware to vegetables.
Has organization and cleaning queen Marie Kondo ever steered us wrong, especially when it comes to kitchen pantry organization? This doughnut-shaped scrubber is a series of thin (yet strong!) palm fibers—though tawashi sponges can be made from all sorts of natural fibers like jute or hemp—wrapped around an inner wire that’s ideal for dish washing but dually easy to hang from anywhere. It’s a style that has survived centuries, so clearly it works. Keeping it clean just requires a couple of baths in hot water and vinegar to use it week after week without worry.
For Small Spaces Tight on Storage: Williams Sonoma Pop-Up Sponge
Material: Cellulose | Quantity: Pack of 6 | Size: 5.5-by-3.5 inches | Dishwasher safe: Yes
What we like:
- Fun, multicolored options
- Compact style
- Exclusive to Williams Sonoma
Why we chose it: Stackable and slim, you can stock up without wasting space.
Like a fun science experiment in your home (if you have kids, it might even entice them to help out with the dishes!), watch these superslim slices of sponge quickly grow to a near-2-inch thickness once fully immersed in water. While there are plenty of sponges just like these available on the market—and perhaps for a few dollars less—we couldn’t resist the vibrant pack of colors. We love that these come in a bright green, sky blue, and hot pink as opposed to the standard yellow-orange for a sink-side statement.
Seriously Sustainable Scrubbers
How We Chose These Products
To narrow down our list of the best dish sponges, we made sure each passed a litmus test of good design (a blend of comfort and cuteness) and scrubbing power, and we prioritized materials that will last longer than a week (under the pretense that you clean them, too, every few days). We also looked to incorporate natural materials over plastic-based ones. You won’t find a garish yellow and green combo here; all our sponges are either colorful, sparkling, or feature fun patterns and shapes (seriously, some are hearts and fruits), but, most important, they are reliable. Lastly, an easily sanitized sponge is always a top priority, so we chose low-maintenance options that you could swiftly throw in the wash.
Our Shopping Checklist
So what exactly is a sponge, you ask? Originally, it was almost always made from harvested sea sponges—a once living, breathing creature—but today’s kitchen accessories are often synthetic. However, they don’t have to be. Our list includes a lot of naturally found materials, whether it’s walnut, all-vegetable cellulose, or sea wool.
- Cellulose: Many of the plant-based sponges we’re eyeing are made with cellulose fibers, which are typically dried plant fibers like wood pulp, palm, and cork. Besides being more eco-friendly, there’s a plethora of other benefits to gain by going this route: affordability, great absorbency, and versatility.
- Polyester: The most popular material of sponges is man-made; polyester is the same sort of material you find in carpets and rugs, even your clothing. Surprise! It’s also found in everyday sponges. While we generally prefer to steer clear of polyester, it can at times be unavoidable, as it’s often added to up the durability of a product.
- Lurex: We love the sparkly shine and luminosity of Lurex, a patented, aluminum-coated yarn that’s also pretty tough on grease and grime and is similar to copper (another material you can spot in sponges, such as the ever-popular Andrée Jardin Parisian-style sponges.)
- Wool: If you’re willing to splurge on a sponge made from wool, know it will last far beyond the week—potentially a year, especially if it’s free of any dyes or preservatives. Sea wool in particular is a natural, reusable product that’s typically 100 percent biodegradable. When wet, this material loses its rough exterior and becomes soft and comfortable to use, though people prefer to use it with body soap rather than dish detergent.
Sponges are designed to clean—they’re a tool for scrubbing and scouring all sorts of surface areas, whether it’s the dishes in your sink or the sink itself, even your countertops and appliances. That’s why most sponges on the market are dual-sided. In other words, a combination of two materials in one; often a rougher, abrasive top for tougher messes (this material is usually plastic derived) that can really wear away at dried, baked-on food, and a softer, spongier bottom for a gentler clean so you don’t have to worry about your nonstick cookware scratching.
Comfort and Shape
Most sponges on the market are round or rectangular, but our list includes a few playful silhouettes, like hearts, fruits, and more. That said, no matter the shape, a sponge should fit comfortably in your hand and offer enough of a flat surface for easy dish washing.
Q: How often should I replace my dish sponge?
We know, dish sponges have a dirty little secret—billions of bacteria. A 2017 study from Scientific Reports previously revealed that there are 45 billion microbes hiding per square centimeter. But that doesn’t mean you have to stop using this tool altogether. If tossing them out after a week isn’t justifiable for you, we get it; it’s actually pretty easy to disinfect these germ hoarders. Whether you put your sponge in the dishwasher or laundry machine, dampen and then place it in the microwave (but for no longer than a minute, please; it can catch on fire), or soak it in bleach and water for a while, do know that eventually you’ll have to throw it away, so try to prioritize eco-friendly materials that are biodegradable whenever possible.
Q: Can I expect to keep my dish sponges longer than a week, though?
If you’re curious as to how long you can keep your sponge around before eventually placing it in the trash, keep an eye on its overall integrity. Of course, routine cleaning here is key! But if your sink sidekick is starting to look a little misshapen, smells odd, or is falling apart (i.e., pilling or shedding), you’re definitely in need of a replacement. An actual timeline is hard to say and will depend on how often you’re using your sponge and for what tasks (scrubbing down your shower tile or just for daily dishes) and the material—natural sponges, for instance, are designed to be more durable. But in general, if this is a tool consistently tapped for thick food grime, its life span will be shorter, so for safety reasons, best that it stick around for about two weeks.
Q: Do I really need two sides on a dish sponge?
You may have noticed that a lot of sponges feature two different materials for its front and back (thanks to Scotch-Brite for the definitive color difference between yellow and green). This is often to provide you with the benefits of both worlds. A dual-sided sponge is often a combination of soft and rough surfaces; the latter is for tougher, grease-banishing tasks, and the softer side is for more delicate tasks such as washing nonstick pans (you don’t want to wear off that special coating). But it isn’t the universal sponge design. Most sponges on our list are one material or come in a pack of abrasive and nonabrasive. It isn’t necessary to go with a dual-sided sponge, but it doesn’t hurt either. This all comes down to preference and how you use your sponge most.
The Last Word
If you think about it, nothing brings down a high-glam sink like ugly, old sponges, right? Dish-scrubbing vessels might not be the first place you’d think to tease personality in the kitchen—but with the right care, a design-forward pick can be an easy (and affordable) accent that is the cherry on top of your kitchenscape.