Types of Sponges

The word sponge comes from the Greek word spongos and originally referred to a completely natural product of the ocean: an invertebrate with a porous skeleton that is light, flexible, and absorbent. When dried and processed, these skeletons have been used since ancient times for cleaning, bathing, and drinking. They are irregularly shaped, and have a color ranging from light gray to a light, yellowish or rosy brown. While these sponges come from an animal, there is also another type of natural sponge (loofah) that comes from a plant.

Today, natural sponges are still used for a variety of purposes—faux painting, wall paper hanging, washing cars, bathing, and soaking up large spills—but there are also a wide variety of synthetic sponges with different properties to fit different purposes. Except for dry sponges and magic sponges (see below) and sponges meant to deliver a cleaning agent, all sponges should be washed before use to remove any processing residue.

Dry Sponges

Soot sponges (which also go by other names, like chemical sponge) are used for cleaning up after a fire, removing soot and smoke from surfaces that should not be wet, such as lamp shades, wallpaper, and walls. These sponges are made of rubber, and can also be used to remove pet hair and dry mold, dirt and dust. They are available in a variety of shapes, including wedges.

Compressed Sponges or Pop-up Sponges

Available as discs, pads, and rectangles, compressed sponges are easy to store and pull out when needed. They are available in round, oval, rectangular, and teardrop shapes and in a variety of pastel and beige colors, and have applications ranging from general kitchen use to makeup removal. They also make their appearance as party favors and bath toys, in which case they may have many novelty shapes (vehicles, animals, etc.), bright colors, and be contained in gelatin capsules that disintegrate in warm water.

“Magic” Sponges

home institute 1 Sometimes called magic erasers, these are special sponges made of melamine foam that clean difficult items like crayon, scuff marks, magic marker, grease, ink, and soap scum. Higher quality examples have a central core, so that both sides can be used (otherwise, they disintegrate rather easily).

Loofah Sponges

Also known as luffa, loofa, dishcloth gourd, and sponge gourd, loofah sponges are made from the mature fruit of a tropical vine plant. They are most commonly used in bathing and showering and for exfoliation, but can also be used on nonstick cookware, vehicles, and boats.

Bath Sponges

Loofah sponges and animal sponges (sometimes referred to as natural sponges in this context) are both sold specifically for bathing. Synthetic sponges specifically for body cleansing are also made, and are available in a variety of sizes and shapes (spherical, flat and oval, rounded box),

Tile and Grout Sponges

Tile and grout sponges, like tack sponges (for tack and saddlery oiling and polishing) are synthetic, finely pored sponges that can also be used for other applications. The difference resides in the shape, with tile and grout sponges being boxlike with rounded edges, and tack sponges being spherical.

Written by Mary Elizabeth