About a month ago, I picked up a silicone sponge from Sur La Table. I was intrigued by its claim of drying quickly, not harboring germs, and lasting much longer than your typical sponge. A typical foam sponge lasts how long? I can’t say I’ve been keeping track, but I throw them out when they start to look gross. I hand wash all my dishes so I probably go through at least one a month, probably more.
Sure, you can sanitize them so that they last longer. The best way to do so, according to this story in SELF, is with bleach and water. (I admit to being too lazy for that.) Then there’s the ever popular microwaving method, which I was a fan of until this New York Times story said it could be making things worse. The strong bacteria survive microwaving and multiply. Ewww.
So I decided to give the silicone sponge a try. I’ve been using it for about a month.
The sponge has two different surfaces. One side has stubby triangular bumps with the tips of the triangles sticking up. The other side has softer, flexible bristles. It’s safe for non-stick cookware and for the dishwasher, too.
For doing dishes, it’s OK, but I can’t say I’m impressed. I’m not sure that the bumps and bristles on the silicone sponge are as effective at cleaning dishes as a regular foam sponge with a scrubby side. There’s also the problem of it not holding on to soap that well. I felt like I was using more soap than I normally would. Keeping a bowl of soapy water to dip the silicone sponge into helped. But it’s hard to get the silicone sponge to generate suds. That stock photo (from Sur La Table) at the top of this post is misleading! What can I say? I like a good sudsy action.
Next, I tried it on some surfaces. Something had spilled and dried into a crusty layer onto the bottom of my fridge. I used the bumpy side of the silicone sponge with just a bit of soap and water and it was a champ at scrubbing it all off. It also performed well on my bathroom sink.
One advantage of this sponge is that it dries quickly. Even with a sponge drying rack, typical sponges take a while to dry. They’re moist homes to germ parties. The silicone sponge clearly has an advantage in this area. It’s supposed to be mildew and mold resistant, and in in my month of use, it seems like this is true. It also doesn’t smell. So far so good.
At $8 a piece, a silicone sponge costs more per unit than your typical disposable Scotch Brite sponge. Those tend to go for about a buck and some change. The silicone sponge is designed to be more durable. Given that I go through 12 to 18 dish sponges a year — and assuming that the silicone sponge lasts a year — the silicone sponge is cheaper. However, it does use more soap, so maybe not.
Perhaps it’s just a matter of me getting used to it. I’m going to keep trying it with the dishes, though I have a feeling that it’s not going to replace my usual kitchen sponges. I prefer the performance of a scrubby foam sponge. But I like the fact that the silicone sponge is not home to a germ city. I’m also trying to produce less waste.
I do think it’s great for the bathroom. A germ-resisting sponge in the bathroom sounds like a good idea since it’s a room that gets damp and is mildew-prone.
If you want to try one for yourself, you can find the dual action silicone sponge at Sur La Table, which also sells it on Amazon. There’s also a version that’s got the bristles on both sides, made by Kuhn Rikon, a Swiss brand, which you can find on Amazon, Crate & Barrel, Sur La Table, and other retailers. I like having the option of the different textured sides, though. Both sponges are made in China.