Jana is a frugal DIY addict who is always testing fitness and work-from-home ideas as well as natural health tips for both humans and pets.
First, a word of caution: Recycling is something that will normally earn you a gold star, but in the case of sponges, recycling can give you or your family a serious bug. Well-known sterilization methods being touted out there—and which don't work—include boiling sponges in the dishwasher or soaking them in vinegar. So, why waste good vinegar? In addition, here's a scary fact: used sponges, when cleaned insufficiently, can harbor little monsters such as salmonella and E. Coli.
How to clean and disinfect an old sponge:
Should you truly prefer to use retired sponges then nuke one in the microwave. Only for a few minutes and make sure it's wet. A dry sponge plus intense heat equals a lovely fire.
Also, certain uses below are suggested for children, which requires a couple of further cautions. Make sure children are old enough to understand that sponges represent a choking hazard. The vet will also love you if the kids don't glue a sponge to the cat's face either. Crafts make for creative and happy offspring, especially if they get to spend time with a parent, but as with all else regarding children, a little supervision can prevent a trip to the emergency room/vet/fire department.
With the safety sermon done, let's explore one of the most fantastic frugal items you'll ever own.
1. Use a Sponge as a Soap Holder to Save Soap
What a happy marriage. Designed to be used with soap and especially dishwashing liquid, a kitchen sponge is perfectly absorbent and frothy. The absorbent part is heaven-sent for anyone who hates the muck that inevitably gathers inside a soap holder. Shudder no more. If you use a sponge as a soap holder, it will absorb any moisture and prevent a serious case of sud-slime. Every now and again, wash the sponge under the tap to clean it. Since it's packed with soap residue by now and probably frothing like mad, give the surrounding area a good wipe while you're at it. Once the bar gets worn down to the point where most people would throw the soap away, here's how to get some more mileage. Take a new sponge, remove the scrub side so only the soft yellow part is left. Make a slit in the one side and insert the used, rather flat bar of soap. Lather up under the tap and enjoy some bubbles.
2. Make an Ice Pack
One popular tip is to make ice packs using a kitchen sponge. Simply dunk them in water, place them in a plastic bag, seal the top and freeze like a regular ice pack. Very handy for those picnic coolers or when you need to put some ice on a bar fight bruise or sprained ankle.
3. Reduce Bad Smells in the Fridge
Fridge a bit smelly? Sprinkle baking soda on a sponge and put it inside the fridge to absorb any odors. Veggies will also last longer if their tray has a dry sponge or two to absorb any excess moisture.
4. Remove Nail Polish
One handy way to remove nail polish is to roll up a sponge and push it into a glass bottle. The bottle needs to be the right size to prevent the sponge from being too loose or tight. Once inserted, make sure the center of the roll faces the opening of the bottle so that you can easily stick your finger in there. But before you do, add some nail polish remover, screw the cap on and shake until the sponge is saturated. To remove nail polish, place your finger inside the center of the sponge and rub the nail against it.
5. Separate Your Toes for a Pedicure
Pedicures can be painful. Maybe your pedicurist hates toes and manhandles feet. But more often, it is the band used to separate your digits that can really hurt. Get a new beauty therapist and throw away those separators. When giving yourself some foot adoration, cut a sponge into thick wedges and experience the dreamy-soft option for keeping your tootsies apart.
6. Sprout Seeds
Kitchen sponges can help sprout seeds. Here you need to experiment with what works for you and what kinds of seeds respond. Many gardeners have successfully used this method, mainly in one of two ways. Some prefer to place seeds on top of the wet sponge, then place a cover over the sponge to provide a greenhouse environment.
A better option might be to place the sponge on its scrubber side, take a sharp knife and cut lines into the soft side. Place your seeds inside these rows and pour some water over your tiny sponge farm. Leave it in a location that won't cause it to dry out too fast or stay wet for too long. You don't want a harvest of mold or dead seedlings.
7. Wash Your Potted Plants
A healthy potted plant needs clean leaves and adequate watering. A quick wipe with a damp sponge will not only remove dust but also give leaves that sought-after shine. This is a neat trick for indoor pot plants.
8. Keep Potting Soil Moist
Also, the next time you place your favorite green thing into a new pot, place a sponge at the bottom. This acts like a tiny reservoir and you won't need to water it as often.
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9. As Kids' Toys
When it comes to Team Junior, sponge toys are very popular. Kids love their squishy feel, rainbow range of colors, and multi functionality. What youngster doesn't love building blocks? Actually, the bigger and more varied the set, the more they'll love it. Include different shades and lengths and cut some geometric shapes. Gather a stack of the stuff and watch them get creative with it. The same goes for bath toys. Some kitchen sponges can be bought extra flat or extra large. A determined parent with scissors can whip up a great set of two-dimensional fish, boats and ducks. Just make sure that you air-dry them properly after bath time, otherwise they might get a little musty.
10. In Craft Projects
If your child loves art, then consider making paint stamps. Create a theme according to the things your child loves. Do you have a budding nature lover? Make some simple flowers, leaves, horses and birds. They don't have to be perfect. The idea is to make small, recognizable shapes, rub them in paint and watch your kid arrange a story on paper. The best sponges for this are flatter-than-normal ones. Just remove the scrubber layer, carefully draw your design with a marker, and start snipping.
11. As a Pincushion
Some people balk at the idea of taking their kitchen sponge into a snazzy corporate environment, which is fine. However, the home office can still benefit since there's no boss looking at you like you are crazy because you stick all your spare tacks into a sponge. True, they do make fantastic pincushions. That's why most needle jars are sold with a sponge-covered lid but they don't always hold needles as steadily as they should. This is mainly because the layer of sponge is too thin. There's no such problem with a kitchen sponge. Needles enter as deeply as needed to remain stable and also exit easily.
11. Apply Glue
If you are into paper crafts that require glue, use this useful tip. Instead of applying it directly to the back of your item, smear a layer of glue on the sponge. Rub the item lightly against your "glue pad" and see how cleanly it will apply to the card or album page. This method applies the correct amount, preventing project-ruining bulges of ooze from underneath the sides when you stick something down and you've added a little too much glue.
Need to send out a stack of old school invitations? Your days of licking 300 envelopes in a row are over. Wet the yellow part of a sponge, not too heavily though. Run the moist side against the flap's glue strip and close it. It's neat and a super fast way to get through a large number of envelopes.
13. Clean a Fan
Let's start with one particularly annoying chore. Many cooling fans have wire coverings to prevent fingers from getting fin-chopped. Muck accumulates on the bars inside, and nobody wants to take a tissue and wipe each one. Here's how to deep-clean the entire thing in no time. Using a sharp knife, cut lines into the sponge but not entirely through to the green base. Next, cut across the lines so that you end up with square-shaped columns. Simply push the squares through the wires and wipe.
14. Clean Windows
Horizontal glass panes can also be a nightmare. One trick is perfect for windows with rectangular panes arranged like horizontal shutters. Take two sponges, make a slit in the bottom of each and slide them over the ends of one of those tongs you turn barbecue sausages with. Clamp the glass pane between the sponges and wipe. You can add your favorite detergent for a window so sparkly it will sunburn the neighbors.
The Best Way to Use a Sponge
The adjustable nature of a sponge under pressure is perfect for cleaning a single surface with different depths. Statues, patterned furniture, and even QWERTY keyboards are notoriously difficult to clean fully. A moist sponge is required for most such chores, but avoid a sopping wet affair when cleaning any keyboards—for obvious reasons. It's really just a matter of wiggling the sponge into the hard-to-reach places until the surface is good as new.
The green scrubber layer shouldn't be overlooked. Sometimes it can go where no sponge has gone before. Or ever will, for that matter, like down a garden hose. There are those unfortunate times when algae clogs the inside of a hose, which a nifty maintenance routine will cure. However, don't do this if your outside tap's water pressure is weak. Pick any scrubber, old or new. Mind you, a thoroughly used one might be the better choice since it will be flatter and easier to pass through the hose. Once removed from the rest of the sponge, roll it up and insert into the end of the hose (tap side). Open it at full blast. The scrubber will wash out the other side together with any algae plague.
Finally, stainless steel tools used in the garage and for gardening, even the dog's bowl, can be coated with a little mud and then lightly scrubbed. Rinse and the metal will regain that brand-new shine.
Share your best kitchen sponge tip in the comment section below!
© 2017 Jana Louise Smit
Jana Louise Smit (author) from South Africa on July 22, 2020:
Hi Abby. That tip actually came from my grandparents who bought soap that came sealed inside a lemon-shaped sponge. I haven't seen it since but this is a great makeshift alternative! It produces a lovely foam with any soap. :)
Abby Slutsky from America on July 18, 2020:
Wow. You have come up with some great suggestions. Love the one of sneaking that little bit of soap into the sponge.