You’ve probably heard of loofahs before – but did you know there are several different kinds? You might be wondering what to do with yours at the end of its life. It’s safe to say over time, your loofah accumulates a lot of dead skin, dirt and grime – which means it will need to be replaced. But do you trash it, recycle it, or compost it? Here’s how to dispose of loofahs (and the advantages of natural loofahs).
How to Dispose Natural and Plastic Loofahs – Table of Contents
- What is a Loofah?
- Are Loofahs Biodegradable?
- Benefits of Using Natural Loofahs
- What Can I Use Natural Loofahs For?
- How to Keep Loofahs Clean
- How to Dispose of Natural Loofahs
- How to Dispose of Plastic Loofahs
1. What is a Loofah?
First, what even is a loofah? Well, loofahs are popular shower and bath accessories often used in unison with body wash or soap. Loofahs are used to wash both the face and body.
However, natural loofahs also can be used for a variety of other things, like cleaning the sink, washing dishes, removing stuck-on grime, scrubbing your pet and general cleaning around the house. We’ll get more into the difference between natural and synthetic loofahs next.
Are loofahs plastic?
Lets talk about the different kinds of loofahs there are – both natural and synthetic. Most conventional loofahs you find in stores are made from plastic and other colorful synthetic material. They’re gathered into a mesh ball and usually have a tie of some kind so you can hold it or hang it easier.
Truth is, these synthetic loofahs aren’t really loofahs at all. They’re more like bath poufs.
Actual loofahs, aka natural loofahs or natural sponge loofahs, come from a plant called the Luffa (botanically Luffa aegyptiaca). This is a vine-grown member of the pumpkin, squash and gourd family.
Mature luffas resemble elongated cucumbers hanging from a vine. After a while (about 6 months), the luffa’s interior dries out and the exterior turns brown. Then, the skin is peeled off to reveal a loofah sponge underneath. The seeds are cleaned out and the sponge is left to dry. That’s how a natural loofah sponge is made!
2. Are Loofahs Biodegradable?
Natural loofah sponges are made from plant-matter, thus they’re biodegradable. But we should probably define what biodegradable means first: Biodegradable items refer to just any material that breaks down and decomposes in the environment.
Almost every material is biodegradable – even some plastic – but it may take these products centuries to break down properly (and in the meantime, they can cause serious harm and leech toxic chemicals).
Compostable products on the other hand break down and leave behind a single organic material called humus. Essentially, composting is the process of recycling organic waste for reuse. The humus it creates is nutrient-rich and helps create healthy soil.
For this reason, plastic loofahs sold in stores are biodegradable, but not compostable. They’re made from plastic and eventually they’ll break down into microplastics over the span of several hundred years.
As you can see, just because plastic loofahs are biodegradable, doesn’t mean they’re good.
In fact, plastic loofahs are not good at all for the environment due to not only the waste they lead to, but also the fact they’re a petroleum-based product (which is a fancy way of saying they’re made from crude oil, aka fossil fuels, and created in fossil fuel run factories).
It’s best to avoid plastic products whenever possible, as these products only fuel our reliance on fossil fuels and contribute to a more disposal-oriented society.
3. Benefits of Using Natural Loofahs
Natural loofahs are definitely a better choice for your overall health and the environment. Whether you’re looking to live a plastic-free life or practice holistic wellness, natural loofahs are the better choice.
We sell natural heirloom loofahs that are sourced from family farms in Guatemala. They’re grown using traditional methods which means no pesticides or herbicides – and they’re completely unprocessed.
Our loofahs come in a pack of 6 and they’re all compressed and flattened, but will expand when wet.
Here’s why you should consider using natural loofahs (specifically ours!):
- More durable and versatile than plastic loofahs (can be used for cleaning as well as skincare)
- Will last you longer than a plastic loofah
- Isn’t made from fossil fuels (which are contributing to the climate crisis)
- Not washing microplastics down the drain (plastic microfibers fall off from plastic loofahs!)
- Not grown with pesticides or herbicides
- Sourced from small family farms
- Wasn’t mass produced in a fossil fuel powered factory
- They’re biodegradable and compostable so they won’t end up polluting a landfill
- Good for dry skin and rough spots (like heels!) that need exfoliation
- Affordable, sustainable, cruelty-free and vegan
In short, natural loofahs are better for your overall health, as well as the planet.
4. What Can I Use Natural Loofahs For?
There are so many uses for natural loofahs, but here are a few ideas that stick out. FYI, make sure to add your natural loofah to water so it can expand – this will help you use it better.
- Use in place of a plastic sponge (you can apply soap directly on it and scrub the dishes!)
- Scrub your kitchen sink clean (try sprinkling baking soda in the sink, letting it sit for a few minutes, then using your loofah to scrub it clean)
- Wipe down kitchen islands, countertops, stovetops, pots and pans, or fridge shelves
- Exfoliate your skin in the shower
- Use it to wash your skin with your favorite liquid body wash or soap bar (just add some onto the loofah then go to town)
- Clean bathtubs, sinks, or shower grout with your loofah (for cleaning the shower grout, you can make a baking soda paste that will help remove grime and accelerate the scrubbing process – just make sure to apply it to the shower walls and let it sit for a while before using the loofah to scrub it off)
5. How to Keep Loofahs Clean
To make sure your loofah lasts as long as possible, we recommend washing it out with soap and water after you’re done using it for dishes or cleaning the kitchen. Then make sure to let it air dry.
If you’re using a loofah for skincare, you’ll likely be keeping it in the bathroom – which can get a little tricky. The moisture and humidity from the shower coupled with dead skin cells that accumulate on your loofah make prime habitat for bacteria.
That said, if you wash your loofah with soap and water, then let it air dry after every use, you’ll help prolong its life. Consider opening a window or turning on a fan in the bathroom to help dehumidify it too.
6. How to Dispose of Natural Loofahs
If you have a natural loofah that’s made from the luffa plant, good news! Natural loofahs are fully compostable. That means you can add them straight to your compost bin – they’ll break down and add nutrients to the soil. There’s no waste involved!
Interested in learning how to compost? You can easily compost no matter how limited your space is by investing in a compost pail.
You add all your food scraps to it (except meat and fish), along with dry materials (like paper, natural loofahs, etc.) then you can donate the scraps to a local farmers market or community garden.
Usually these places accept food scraps and turn it into compost, but double check they’re accepting food scraps first before heading over. You can also use ShareWaste to find neighbors who are willing to accept your food scraps and turn it into compost! Both these methods are entirely hands off.
Don’t have access to compost? Simply bury your loofahs in your garden. Loofahs will decompose in 30 days.
We recommend changing your loofah every four to six weeks, depending on how often you use it and how well it’s holding up. Even natural loofahs can harbor bacteria and dirt after a while, so it’s important to stay on top of it. The good part is you can count on your loofah being 100% compostable at the end of its life.
7. How to Dispose of Plastic Loofahs
Unfortunately because they’re made out of plastic, these loofahs are not compostable. They’re also hard to recycle due to the fact you can’t always tell what type of plastic it’s made from. However, most plastic loofahs are made from plastic #4 – aka LDPE (low density polyethylene).
LDPE is often used to make softer plastic, which is typically hard to recycle. Soft plastics tend to get classified as tanglers at recycling plants, aka most likely to get caught in the gears.
The best way to tell if your loofah can be recycled is to see what your local recycling laws are. Check out your local .gov to find out information on this and see for yourself what they say about loofah recycling, if anything.
Recycling is different from state to state, and sometimes even from town to town.
Recycling can get pretty confusing, but overall just remember this: Plastic #1 and #2 are the easiest plastics to recycle (and they’re rigid, not soft). So keep that in mind as a general rule of thumb!
Ultimately, what kind of loofah you use is entirely up to you. But we think natural loofahs are the better choice for your wallet, health and the planet. Natural loofahs are completely compostable, whereas plastic loofahs may or may not be accepted for recycling (and will likely end up in a landfill somewhere).
Be sure to check out our natural heirloom loofahs – they come in a 6 pack so they’re bound to last you a while! They’re vegan, cruelty-free and 100% compostable – even the paper label can be composted, or recycled.
Did this answer your questions about how to dispose of loofahs? Let us know in the comments!
About the Author:
Ariana Palmieri is the founder of Greenify-Me, a blog dedicated to zero waste living and sustainability. Her work has been featured on Going Zero Waste, Mother Earth Living, Green Matters and several other publications. Get her free e-book “10 Ways to Reduce Trash” by signing up to her newsletter and learn how to reduce your waste today.