Welcome to our series Materials Matter, where we explore why the materials used in our plant sponges, scrubbers, and dish brushes are better for you and the planet. We’re excited to share more about what makes these materials earth-friendly, sustainably sourced, and simply inspiring.
To launch our series, we're sharing all things wood pulp—what it is, how it's made, and what makes it the best natural material for sponges.
What Is Wood Pulp?
Wood pulp is a fiber made from separating cellulose or the outer cell wall of plants from wood. Thirty-three percent of all plants are cellulose, making it the most abundant organic material on Earth.
Wood pulp cellulose is produced from trees and is used in everyday paper products like napkins, paper towels, and toilet paper.
Most wood pulp comes from softwood coniferous trees like spruce and pine, but it can also be made from hardwood trees like eucalyptus and oak.
How Is Wood Pulp Made?
Pulping for paper-making dates back to the 2nd century Han dynasty in China, when paper was first invented using hemp. Later in the Song dynasty, the boiled bark of mulberry trees created higher-quality paper that would replace hemp as one of the earliest examples of wood pulping.
Today, there are a few ways to produce commercial wood pulp. They all start with chipping, softening, and rinsing trees. From there, the pulp is typically made by a mechanical or chemical process. In the mechanical process, pulping is done by macerating wood chips using machines or stone-grounding.
In the chemical process, also known as “the kraft process,” wood chips are heated to separate the cellulose from lignin, resulting in a pulp mix.
The wood pulp from these processes can then be used to make paper products and textiles, bio-fuel, LCD screens, and—your favorite plant sponges.
Is Wood Pulp Sustainable?
Wood pulp is highly renewable, biodegradable, and compostable—making it a staple natural material the world over. These essential qualities give wood pulp a sustainable win over other materials, like plastic.
Sustainably sourced wood pulp comes from well-managed forests regulated to control and fight deforestation—the second leading cause of climate change. To protect old-growth forests from being cut down and endangering the biodiversity they support, tree farms are cultivated, harvested, and reforested to ensure their regrowth and the conservation of their surrounding wilderness.
Unlike plastic that litters roadsides, harms wildlife, is rarely recycled, and doesn’t biodegrade, wood pulp naturally biodegrades, minimizing its environmental impact. Compared to a plastic cup that takes 450 years to disintegrate, a paper cup only takes 2-6 weeks to fully biodegrade.
Not only can many wood pulp products be recycled in curbside paper recycling streams, but they can also be composted to create nutrient-rich soil. Compost used to plant trees or grow new crops reduces waste and creates circular systems—one of our missions at Sqwishful.
As with every natural resource, wood pulp production, too, impacts the environment. Chemically processed wood pulp can pollute the air and nearby water sources. An important reason to look for certifications like FSC and ISO 14001 that help guarantee that measures are in place to minimize these harmful effects.
Why Choose Wood Pulp Sponges?
Before plastic was invented, wood pulp sponges were the gold standard. While plastic has become the cheaper, easier-to-manufacture, synthetic material for sponges, there are many reasons to choose wood pulp sponges or sponges made from natural materials instead (we love a good luffa sponge too!)
With daily 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—add them to a municipal or home compost pile—then let mother nature do the rest.
Wood pulp sponges can also be used in more ways than dishwashing, cleaning countertops, and soaking up spills. They can germinate seeds, keep houseplants well-watered, or even plug a drafty or leaky window. Other natural sponges, like our luffa scrub sponges, are even great in the shower…talk about multitasking!
Compared with plastic sponges, wood pulp sponges are more eco-friendly, versatile, and historically proven to get the job done.
Sqwishful’s Wood Pulp Pop Up Sponges
At Sqwishful, the perfect sponge is plant-based, plastic-free, and compostable. We started with these fundamental ideas and chose wood pulp for its sustainability. To source the best one, we tested different wood pulp sponges from around the world for effectiveness and durability to see how well they lathered, rinsed, and composted.
Of all the wood pulps we tested, we found that North American wood pulp from Pacific Northwest pine outperformed other pulps (and plastic) in every way.
Today, we work with suppliers who share our vision of a perfect sponge. They practice managed reforestation for renewable growth. They maintain ISO 14001 certification and are committed to environmental standards. And they actively work to reduce energy and water consumption and work with local businesses to upcycle sponge waste.
We’ve taken one of the best natural materials for sponges and created a 100% wood pulp sponge our customers love.
It lasts forever yet naturally biodegrades. It’s quick-drying and never smells but is super absorbent. It’s gentle on non-stick surfaces yet tough enough to clean even the stickiest stains.
And while we don’t like to brag, it's 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:
“Grocery store sponges get stinky after a while, especially in summer, but these little gems stay fresh smelling until the end, when they finally fall apart from endless scrubbing. I love the shape which make them good at reaching corners. I’ve been buying them for several years already. They really last.” – Marsha
Call it Sqwishful Thinking, but we’re here to change the cleaning industry. We’re proud to use sustainably-sourced materials like 100% wood pulp to make our inspiring, plant-based sponges. And to shine a light on the ways our materials are re-imagining zero-waste cleaning essentials for the future.