By Erin Huffstetler | 01/19/2021 | No Comments
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Working towards a zero-waste kitchen? Here’s how to make reusable sponges, better known as unsponges, from things you have around the house.
Use these handy little homemade sponges to wipe up spills, wash dishes or do anything you’d normally do with a regular sponge. Then, toss them in the washing machine, or the top rack of your dishwasher, and use them again and again.
Since unsponges are all about eliminating waste, I challenged myself to make mine from stuff I had on hand. And I came up with so many great options I can’t wait to share with you.
When I was designing these, I knew I wanted to have a soft side and a scrubby side of the sponge. I also knew that the scrubby side needed to be non-abrasive, so it wouldn’t scratch pans or kitchen surfaces. And I felt it was important to stuff them with something that would dry quickly.
An old towel proved to be the perfect material for the soft side of the sponge. Since towels have a bit of texture, the material adds some scrubbing power. A single hand towel yielded enough material for 18 unsponges.
I used polyester stuffing to fill most of my sponges, but I also made a few sponges using batting scraps for the filling.
Choosing the scrubby material is where I got a bit creative.
I started with a base layer of flannel from my scrap bin. Then, I layered different scrubby materials over top.
At the last America Recycles Day event we participated in, a reader donated a couple big bolts of netting, so I experimented with that first, and I loved the results. This ended up being my favorite sponge material because it’s so darn durable.
But I realize most people don’t have a big bolt of netting at their disposable, so I experimented with lots of other options, including some that are probably going to surprise you.
Like this lace. Over the years, I’ve inherited several lace panels from people, and it occurred to me that they had a similar texture to the netting. So, I tried it on a few sponges, and it worked great. The lace I used was pretty heavy duty. I don’t recommend using anything delicate, and I’m definitely not suggesting you cut up your grandma’s handmade doilies, but if you have a couple lace curtain panels kicking around, this may be a way to put them to use. I absolutely love the look of these.
Several websites suggest making unsponges out of tulle fabric (the tutu stuff). I had a bunch on hand, so I tried that too. And while it works, I would say this is the least scrubby and long-lasting option of anything I experimented with.
Since I’m always looking for new ways to repurpose those net produce bags that apples and oranges often come in, I tested it on a few unsponges, and it performed beautifully. This is another solid option, and a great way to keep something out of the trash.
The towels I used were pretty nubby, so I made a couple sponges that just had toweling on one side and flannel on the other. Even without an extra “scrubby” layer, I thought these made nice sponges. I could see using these in the bath, or possibly even for makeup removal.
Since I had a big bin of batting scraps, I also made a couple sponges filled with batting instead of stuffing. These aren’t nearly as fluffy, but they still make a nice sponge. If you want to be able to compost your sponges when they wear out, just use natural fiber fabrics and cotton batting, and you’ll have a truly zero-waste sponge.
Okay, now that you’ve seen some of the possibilities, let me show you how easy it is to make an unsponge. This is quick and easy project, and it’s 100% beginner-friendly.
How to Sew an Unsponge
These instructions make a standard 3″ x 5″ sponge. Feel free to scale the size up or down to meet your needs.
What You’ll Need:
- An old towel
- Fabric scraps (something absorbent, like flannel or quilting cotton)
- A scrubby material (netting fabric, lace, a produce bag or tulle)
- Filling (polyester stuffing or batting)
- A ruler
- A sewing machine
What You Do:
Cut the fabric for your sponge. For each unsponge you will need:
- (1) 3.5 x 5.5″ piece of towel
- (1) 3.5″ x 5.5″ piece of absorbent fabric
- (1) 3.5″ x 5.5″ piece of scrubby material
If you’re using a produce bag or tulle for your scrubby layer, I recommend cutting it so that it sticks out further than the other layers. This will ensure that it’ll get captured, when you sew all the layers together later.
Place the absorbent fabric and the towel piece right-sides facing, with the scrubby layer sandwiched between them. Pin or clip the layers together.
Sew a quarter-inch seam along both of the long sides and one of the short sides.
Trim the excess from the corners; then turn your unsponge right-side out.
If you used a produce bag or tulle for your scrubby later, trim off the excess, but leave a bit extra along the open seam.
Stuff your sponge with polyester filling. You want it to be fluffy enough to be absorbent, but not so fluffy that it’ll be difficult to sew.
Then, tuck the open end in, and top-stitch a quarter-inch seam all the way around the edge of the sponge. I press down on the stuffing, while I’m sewing, so it fits better under the presser foot.
If you want to use batting scraps in your unsponges, instead of stuffing, the process is nearly the same. Just add two 3.5″ x 5.5″ pieces of batting to the top of your stack, before you start sewing.
Here’s what your unsponge will look like, if you make it with batting. Not as fluffy, but still awesome.
How to Clean Your Unsponges
Sponges breed bacteria, whether they’re homemade or store-bought, so I recommend starting with a fresh one every day. These can go in the top rack of your dishwasher, or the washing machine. If you used produce bags or tulle on your sponges, I’d stick them in the washing machine, and allow them to air dry. The dishwasher or dryer might melt the scrubby part.
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