When I was a little girl, my mother made me shower with an African sponge, this long, mesh-like material we would use like a pouf (or loofah) — a dense, mesh-like ball that creates a nice lather and exfoliates your skin in the shower.
I was the only kid in school using it, but now you can buy the exact same one from websites like Amazon and Etsy.
At sleepovers I would notice the different things my friends would use in the shower. Some used washcloths — which I truly didn’t understand — and others used poufs or loofahs. When I gained more autonomy over what I scrubbed with on a daily basis, I decided to go with a pouf.
I relied on a shower pouf for about 20 years until one day I had gone on vacation without it and had to resort to using the provided washcloth while taking a bath. It felt weird to shower with what was essentially a soaking wet towel. The washcloth didn’t lather or exfoliate like I was used to, and I felt like the soap just sat on my skin when applied with it.
It was easier to get into the nooks and crannies, though, and the size of the washcloth made it the perfect travel staple. From then on, I began using washcloths any time I showered while traveling, but I still had my reservations about the cleanliness it provided.
Keeping Clean: Should You Use a Bath Sponge, Shower Pouf or Washcloth?
After doing a bit of research, I found that washcloths are prone to bacteria buildup due to the warm, damp environment they live in.
“When used, germs [on a dirty washcloth] are then spread or reintroduced to the skin, which can cause irritation and even infection,” said board-certified dermatologist Dr. Hadley King in conversation with Marie Claire’s Chelsea Peng.
Much like washcloths, poufs are breeding grounds for bacteria due to the moist and warm conditions in which they are kept. According to a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, when you use your loofah every day — as one does — dead skin cells get stuck in the mesh.
Moreover, the study found that loofahs could contain a wide range of bacteria. This overgrowth can actually happen over the course of one day. If a germ-laden loofah is used to scrub over freshly shaved skin, this bacteria could cause skin irritation and even infection.
It seems as though these man-made cleansing tools can do more harm than good in the bathroom.
In light of these frightening facts, I decided to explore beyond the mesh pouf market. A trend I have been seeing lately is the shower sponge, a natural and eco-friendly pouf alternative made from sea sponge. I may be a bit late to the game, but it’s never too late to try something new.
Changing Bath Habits: Switching From Shower Pouf to Shower Sponge
Public Goods has an improved sea sponge that boasts antibacterial and antifungal properties. Our bath sponge is sustainably sourced from Greece, and they chose the “hardhead” variety of sponge. The sponge has a luxurious feel that is gentle enough to wash a baby but has an exfoliating power that will give you a good scrub.
The Mother Nature Network explains that sea sponges are some of the oldest and simplest multicellular animals that survive by circulating water and nutrients through their numerous pores and channels, which means they function almost like plants.
These sponges are harvested in one of two ways: they are either cut from the sea floor with knives or torn loose with long hooks. The sponge will regenerate if enough is left behind. Because they are basically plants, they are biodegradable and have natural enzymes that help prevent the growth of bacteria, mold and mildew.
The experience of using a sea sponge is so different than that of using a mesh pouf or a washcloth.
Nonetheless, the experience of washing and exfoliating with a shower sponge is so different than that of using a loofah or washcloth. When I received my Public Goods sponge, I was surprised by how small it was. The bath sponge was about the size of my palm and fit in my hand nicely. I still found it a bit difficult to hold onto in the shower.
As I proceeded to wash my body with the bath sponge, I had to work to keep it from falling to the floor of the shower. Being that the sponge softens when wet, it was incredibly pliable and was able to fit into every nook and cranny that needed cleaning.
Still, its softness caused the shower sponge to break apart a bit once I started to scrub my body. It lost its shape and split wide open after the first use. Like with a washcloth, I couldn’t get much of a lather with the shower sponge, but the ability to exfoliate was somewhere between the grit of the mesh loofah and the towel-like texture of the washcloth, a nice middle ground that made me feel clean.
The bath sponge looked at home in my tub compared to the mesh pouf that just looked like it was teeming with bacteria as it soaked up the moisture in the air. The difficulties of actually using it aside, the sea sponge did the job just as well as any other shower pouf or pouf alternative.
With all of the attention people are paying to what goes into and onto their bodies, I feel as though the pros far outweigh the cons of using a sponge. From its sustainability to its cleanliness, replacing your loofah or washcloth with a shower sponge may just make the world a better place (and your body much cleaner).
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