Welcome back to our Materials Matter series, where we explore why the materials used in the making of our plant sponges, scrubbers, and dish brushes are better for you and the planet. We’ve covered some of our favorite sustainable materials, like bamboo and wood pulp, and why they're earth-friendly and inspiring.
Next up! We’re sharing all things luffa—what it is, how it’s made, and what makes it the best natural material for sponges.
What is Luffa?
If you've never heard of luffa before, it's probably because most "loofahs" today are synthetic. The colorful bath pouf found in supermarkets? Inspired by luffa — but made with plastic. Many companies sell “luffa sponges” that actually have zero luffa in them. They’re plastic sponges made to resemble luffa 🙅🏻 A natural luffa sponge is made with only luffa or other plant-based, natural ingredients. It's not only better for you and the environment, but it works better, too.
So what is luffa, exactly?
Natural luffa (aka loofah) is a tropical gourd in the same family as pumpkins, squash, and zucchini. When fresh, it looks like a giant cucumber from the outside but is fibrous on the inside, which gives it its spongy texture.
Luffa has been a household staple since the days of Cleopatra. Ancient Egyptians were thought to have used luffa for cleaning and bathing. Its fibrous texture makes it ideal for washing and scrubbing. When processed with industrial materials, luffa can be used for everything from engine filters to building insulation and rechargeable batteries.
How Are Luffa Sponges Made?
As an organic crop, luffa is widely grown and used around the world. Originating in Asia and Africa, it was first cultivated in India and brought to the Americas 9,000+ years ago. Due to its versatility, heartiness, and vigorous growth, luffa was one of the first crops early European settlers domesticated and farmed in the New World centuries ago.
The process of turning a luffa gourd into a sponge is simple. After the luffa has fully matured, it’s harvested, and the skin is peeled off. Then, the seeds are removed, and the fibrous part of the luffa is left to dry. A 100% luffa sponge is simply the dried fiber from the gourd. When the dried fibers of a luffa sponge are wet, they puff up and curl to return to their natural form.
What Makes Luffa Eco-Friendly?
Unlike plastic poufs and scrubbers made with petrochemicals, luffa sponges are the most environmentally friendly. A natural luffa sponge (like ours ✌🏼) is renewable, plant-based, and compostable.
During its long growing season, sustainable luffa is planted, cultivated, harvested, and replanted for renewable growth. It can be grown in tropical or subtropical conditions without pesticides, making it an easy vine to grow in your home garden, too!
While arguably the best, luffa sponges aren't the only natural sponges. Sea sponges are also natural, biodegradable, and compostable, but believe it or not—they’re not plants. Sea sponges are actually animals, and "over-fishing" these sea creatures damages oceanic habitats and disrupts marine life.
The best part about luffa is it's compostable — the reason why so many eco-minded homes and zero-wasters switch to using luffa sponges. Instead of going to a landfill, luffa can be easily composted to create soil and circularity 🌿
Why Choose Luffa Sponges?
Before plastic was invented, mother nature had perfected the sponge with luffa. While plastic has become the cheaper, easier-to-manufacture, synthetic material for sponges, there are many reasons to choose luffa sponges or sponges made from natural materials instead (we love a good wood pulp sponge too!)
With use, all sponges break down over time. Plastic sponges release toxins as they break down and slowly become microplastics that pollute our water, land, and air. Natural sponges are non-toxic and can be safely disposed of or composted—simply add them to a municipal or home compost pile—then mother nature takes care of the rest.
Beware tho’ ⚠️ Many companies claim to sell luffa sponges, but they’re actually uncompostable plastic. Or they add glues and plasticizers that make the luffa non-compostable. Before purchasing, check that the luffa sponge is natural without dyes, glues, plastics, or synthetic materials.
Here are a few other practical reasons why natural luffa sponges are the best option for your home and body:
Luffa sponges last longer than plastic sponges.
According to the CDC, the average life of a plastic sponge is 1-2 weeks 😱 Depending on how often you use it, a natural sponge can last 4-6 weeks. Taking good care of your natural sponges is essential for helping them last longer. You can read all about the do's and don'ts of sponge care in our care guide.
Luffa sponges harbor less bacteria than plastic sponges.
Since they're natural, you can clean luffa sponges more regularly than plastic ones by placing them on the top rack of your dishwasher, boiling them in hot water for five minutes, or microwaving them (just make sure they're a little wet). Cleaning plastic sponges the same way releases toxins and sheds microplastics, which not only increases exposure to germs but also compromises our immune systems.
Luffa sponges are more versatile than plastic sponges.
They're multipurpose and can handle dishes, counters, and even dry skin 😌 Luffa scrub sponges can tackle any job around the house or serve as a self-care sidekick.
Sqwishful's Luffa Scrub Sponges
At Sqwishful, we think the perfect sponge should be plant-based, plastic-free, and compostable. We started with these fundamental ideas and chose luffa for its sustainability. To source the best one, we went to China, where it's native and has been cultivated for centuries.
Today, we work with suppliers who share our vision of a perfect sponge. They practice managed agriculture for renewable growth. They maintain ISO 14001 certification and are committed to environmental standards. Plus, they actively work to reduce crop waste and energy and water consumption.
Together, we’ve taken one of the best natural materials for sponges and created a 100% luffa sponge our customers love.
It lasts forever, yet naturally biodegrades. It’s hand-sewn with no glues and is safe for composting. It’s gentle on non-stick surfaces, yet tough enough to scrub even the stickiest stains.
And we don’t like to brag, but it also won Tree Hugger’s Best of Green Cleaning award.
When we say Sqwishful products clean and leave the world cleaner—we mean it. But don’t take it from us, here’s what our customers are saying.
“So I’m a fan of the scrubby sponge as a substitute to the average loofa most people use in the shower. I love the way this feels on my skin and how my soap lathers up on it too. I hope this is the preview to expanding Sqwishful into other places of cleaning — like my bath!” - Geraldine M.
Call it Sqwishful Thinking, but we’re here to change the cleaning industry. We’re proud to use sustainably sourced materials like 100% luffa to make our inspiring, plant-based, luffa scrub sponges. And to shine a light on the ways our materials are re-imagining zero-waste cleaning essentials for the future.