The difference between sponges and loofahs

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By Andrea Tomkins

It’s quite possible that I’m betraying my own ignorance of the natural world but I have only recently learned where loofahs came from. I’ve always assumed loofahs were aquatic creatures that came from the ocean, like sponges. Spoiler alert: they are not.


Before I get into loofahs (also spelled luffas) let’s dive in to a bit of biology 101! Many people think that sponges are sea plants, but they’re actually living creatures, albeit without internal organs, a nervous system, or circulatory system. Because of their soft and porous texture, sea sponges have been used for cleaning and hygiene since the days of the ancient Greeks. Possibly even earlier!


According to Wikipedia, sponges are mentioned in many ancient texts. The competitors of the original Olympic games bathed themselves with sea sponges soaked in olive oil or perfume before competing. Aristotle and Plato mentioned sea sponges in scientific and historic contexts. In Homer’s Odyssey, the god Hephaestus cleans his hands, face, and chest with a sea sponge and the servants in the Odysseus palace used them to clean the tables after meals. Fun fact! Ancient Greeks tied sea sponges to sticks and used them as one would toilet paper, and washed them with sea water.  (I do not recommend doing this.)


It may be worth mentioning that terra20 does not sell sea sponges. If you’re shopping for a sponge for home use, cosmetics, or for the bath, ask a sales associate about the alternatives that are available.

 

So what is a loofah? And what is it made from?

Loofahs are not sea sponges. They’re a vegetable that grows on vines in subtropical climates, such as India and Egypt. The loofah resembles a long pointy gourd or a cucumber and can grow to be quite large. When it’s ready for harvest the loofah is dried, peeled, and deseeded. Inside are the fibrous innards – almost like a skeleton – that we’d recognize as a loofah sponge.

Loohaf growing on vine

Fast forward to the loofahs we find in the store. Once water is added and the loofah puffs up a bit, the material provides the perfect amount of exfoliation needed for your skin. For the shower and bath, consider the Ecotools body sponge loofah, dual-sided buff pad or loofah bath brush for those hard-to-reach places!

You can also exfoliate and soap up at the same time with Soapstones scrub-a-dubs. This smart combo of natural loofah and glycerin soap will keep your skin looking great from top to bottom. Especially feet! They’re Canadian made as well.

éco&éco loofahs can be used for just about anything, not just for skin care. Consider using a loofah next time you wash the car, scrub vegetables, or clean the sink. They’re also gentle on Teflon. It’s a good idea to have separate loofahs for each purpose, launder them regularly, and store them in a dry location.

These loofah kitchen scrubbers by Loofa Art are a cheerful addition to any home and are made of naturally grown and processed loofa. Pop them into the dishwasher with a load of dishes to keep them clean.

If you choose a loofah to scrub the house, or yourself, you should give yourself a pat on the back! Loofahs are considered an environmentally friendly choice. And they are biodegradable too! Once you’re done with your loofah, just toss it in your compost bin.

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