Most of us have encountered, if not used, that bright and frilly ball of plastic that usually hangs by the shower, with the thought of it’s negative impact, perhaps never having crossed our minds. Known as the Loofah, despite the synthetic material used to mimic the natural loofah plant sponge, the irony is that while we are about to school you on sustainable loofah alternatives, it is essentially, or so, supposed to be, a plant derived product! However, over time coining all those cheap plastic imitators with the same name has taken away from the natural roots of this essential bathroom product.
What is a Loofah Made Of?
A loofah, otherwise known as that frilly plastic bath pouf that is simply it’s natural counterparts cheap imitation, is not only more readily available, but also available at a cheaper price. The reason behind this of course, is that they are made of micro plastics and nylon, along with other colourful synthetic materials.
Essentially, they are built up of dense layers of mesh that are pieced together in a loop formation, that ultimately form a fluffy ball. While they are not actually loofahs, quite like a natural loofah, they can still grow bacteria. However the difference with these plastic poufs is that once they are thrown away after bacteria has gathered up, due to their short shelf life, they end up lying in landfills for centuries!
Additionally, as these plastic micro fibres can also travel down your shower drains as they shed during use, they end up finding their place in our oceans. And so, the other irony being that, while they might temporarily clean our bodies, they most definitely will dirty our planet. Plastic pollution in the ocean is growing by the minute, and a simple sustainable switch in our bathroom routine, could reduce those numbers extensively.
Biodegradable Loofah Alternatives
Natural Loofah Plant
A loofah, or luffa aegyptiaca, is in fact a genus of the cucumber, gourd and pumpkin family, and grows in both tropical and subtropical regions. The fibrous sponge that lies in this plant, has in fact been used for centuries as a bath time scrubber, with the purpose of exfoliating and rejuvenating the skin.
While also benefiting the planet, they work as the perfect natural solution to dry and rough skin, due to being more strong and abrasive. Hence, better for the environment as well as for your body. A natural loofah, is in turn, affordable, sustainable and effective all round!
Sea sponge is an alternative to loofahs. Like loofahs, they don’t have any dyes, preservatives, or chemicals inside. Sea sponge has some naturally occurring enzymes that kill bacteria. Sea sponge will still need to be cleaned regularly, dried after your shower, and replaced frequently. Promising you a plastic free bathroom, this natural bath sponge also acts as the perfect, hygienic, ecological essential for your shower routine!
How to Make a Natural Loofah
How To Make A Natural Loofah
Loofah sponges are usually grown from luffa fruits that mature on vines until they turn yellow or brownish, and are then peeled to reveal the matrix of fibrous tissues that in fact, turn out to be wonderful natural sponges. While the loofah sponge can be used to clean the face and body, you can also use one for the dishes and the floor, while either way remaining non abrasive, yet tough on dirt. You can even make all-in-one luffa soap rounds with slices of dried sponge.
While in many other countries, flowers or very young fruit are often eaten as salads or in other particular dishes, when fruits mature too late before the cold frost strikes, you can in fact use this method to grow your very own sponges in your very own garden.
When it comes to looking for Loofah seeds to grow, you may be able to find them available locally at a nursery or garden centers, as well as finding and ordering the seeds online from various ecommerce sites.
Initially, sponges should be allowed to mature on the vines’ first fruits, and it is ideal to pick them when the green skin has turned dark yellow or brown and starts to separate from the fiber inside. Or in turn, they are also ready to pick when they begin to feel lightweight. However, while fruit should be left on the vine for as long as possible to allow the sponge fibers to develop, if they get hit by frost, it’s essential you remove them immediately! And of course, due to it being 100% natural, the compost becomes the best option to throw away any fruits that haven’t fully matured with enough fiber that is required to make a good sponge.
Taking the tough outer layer off first will reveal the sponge you’re looking for. In order to crack the skin, try gently squashing it until cracks start to appear, and pull at the torn edges of the skin to expand the cracks, and open it up. But of course, the skin may prove to be easier to remove if the fruit is soaked in water for a few minutes beforehand.
Then, remove the skin from the seeds and shake them out – if the seeds are plump however, you can spread some on a napkin and allow them to dry at room temperature for a few days, so that they can be planted the following year. Finally, wash the sponge thoroughly with water and a little dishwashing soap to ensure that there is no residual sap that remains! Finally, drying the sponges in the sun is also effective, just ensure to turn them regularly throughout this drying process. If you then simply place them into a fabric bag, not only will they prevent dust, your loofah sponges will also last for years!
Best Natural Loofah Brands
The EcoRoots natural loofah is both an effective and eco-conscious scrubber, that is not only made from natural plant fibers, but is plastic free, and 100% vegan, as well as a zero waste product. This sustainable loofah is also both 100% compostable and biodegradable. While it can be used for general cleaning purposes too, it is the perfect bathroom tool for smooth skin exfoliation!
You can use the EcoRoots sponge for roughly one to two months, and just when you’re done with it, put it into your compost, bury it, and it should decompose within the span of an additional single month! They also parcel plastic free, using only recyclable materials. Additionally, EcoRoots aims to combine both sustainability and affordability, and also provides eco conscious alternatives to your regular everyday products. While the brand makes products that help save the planet, a percentage of their sales are donated to the Ocean Conservancy!
Brush With Bamboo Loofah
Known as one of the most popular zero waste toothbrush brands, Brush With Bamboo also offers a vetiver – a root that is used commonly in Ayurveda, for regenerative purposes. Additionally, it also has anti microbial, anti inflammatory and anti fungal properties that constitutes the inside of the loofah. The exterior, exfoliator part of it in turn, is made up from 100% sisal fibre.
Unlike the typical plastic loofah, Brush with Bamboo’s eco friendly loofah alternative can last for months as the vetiver also prevents mould, as well as the loofah itself can be eventually composted. All of their products are 100% vegan, USDA, and Green America certified.
Package Free Shop Loofah
Package Free Shop offers a variety of plastic free biodegradable loofah alternatives that are Green America certified organisation Clean Planetware, such as their popular product, the natural Mayan loofah. Sourced from a Mayan family farm situated in Guatemala, these particular loofahs are grown organically, without the use of pesticides and herbicides.
Due to being made up of 100% plant fibre, this natural loofah can be composted once it’s lifespan comes to an end, and should decompose within 30 days. While the loofah is of course plastic free, it will additionally arrive directly to your door with zero plastic and wrapped up and shipped in 100% carbon offset and recyclable paper materials, such as, recycled tape, envelopes, and label. The Package Free Shop is also close to becoming a Certified B-Corp!
So, your perhaps more common understanding of that bright and frilly bathroom buddy, is not only assuming you believe that it is in fact it’s namesake, but it also causes harm to the environment due to it’s micro plastic composition! The unfortunate thing however is that while they might temporarily clean our bodies, they most definitely will dirty our planet!
While natural loofah sponges, on the other hand, don’t prove to be dangerous in any way, they do hold certain kinds of bacteria. However, the key prevention to the latter is that you must take care of them and make sure to maintain these sponges properly, so that the bacteria growth can simply be avoided.
Sadly, the truth is that plastic pollution in both our ocean and spread all over landfills, is growing by the minute; however, a simple sustainable switch in our bathroom routine, could reduce those numbers extensively. After all, if you love to lather and exfoliate in the shower, why not make the conscious choice to scrub efficiently, yet sustainably too?