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I am always on the lookout for zero waste swaps for things that we use everyday. And even though I have a dishwasher, I do still sometimes have to use pan scrubbers and sponges to clean the dishes. So today I decided to show you how to make Unsponges – a reusable scrubbing or washing sponge that is much better for the environment than a plastic sponge scrubber.
How To Make Unsponges
A few months ago I cleared out my little one’s cupboards, and found some brushed cotton/flannel bedding and muslin cloths from when she was a baby. Reluctant to just send these to landfill, I wanted to find some new ways to upcycle this cloth.
Firstly, I made a few reusable sanitary pads, as the flannel makes for a perfect absorbent wadding pad. See my tutorial here.
But I still ended up with some smaller offcuts. And I always end up with offcuts of cotton when making clothes. These are perfect for making some reusable wadded unsponges.
What You Will Need To Make Unsponges
- Cotton Quilting Fabric – for the top – find this skulls fabric here – or similar fabric here if you are in the U.S
- Old Flannel Bedding – brushed cotton – or old thin towelling for the middle padding
- Muslin, Waffle, or old thin towelling for the scrubbing side.
- A rotary cutter, mat and quilting measure are a good idea for cutting out, but not essential
- Scissors, pins and a sewing machine are essential.
How To Make Them
Cut some rectangles of material to make up each unsponge. Mine measured 15cm by 12cm approx (6 inches by 4.5 inches)
I used 1 layer of cotton for the top, used 4 layers of flannel for the padding, and 1 layer of muslin for the scrubbing side. If you use an old tea-towel as padding you may only need 2 layers, or you may want a thicker pad, so use more layers.
Place the padding at the bottom, then pin the scrubbing and the topping layers on top – right sides together.
Sew a 1cm seam allowance all the way around, leaving a gap of about 5cm (2 inches) at one side. Backstitch at either side of this opening to give it some strength when turning.
Trim the seam allowances by half and clip the corners, but don’t clip the stitching. Except in the area that will be turned.
Turn the pad inside out, so that the topper fabric and scrubbing fabrics are right side out. Push the corners out using a knitting needle or pen. Give the pad a good press. And push in the seam allowance at the opening, pressing this well so that it is fully inside.
Now, sew around the pressed pad 5mm from the edge. This can be tricky, as the pad is bulky. I use the edge of my presser foot as a guide. This 5mm seam allowance will close the area created by the turning gap, and so you should be left with a pad that is closed all the way around. But I then also sew a second layer of stitching about 1cm inside the first. This just gives a bit more quilted and polished finish to the unsponge.
And there you have it! A finished unsponge.
These can be washed with a normal wash, and tumble dry or leave to air dry. Just a much better alternative to the horrible bacteria breeding plastic pan scrubbers and sponges.
When they are worn out or you feel they have come to the end of their use, cut them up and they can be composted. (provided you have used 100% cotton)
But what if you need a heavy duty version?
Making Scrubbing Unsponges
Sometimes you just need a bit of extra scrubbing power for burnt on food. And the method above is easily modified to make something for times like this.
I make rag rugs using old cut up jersey clothing and burlap cloth. (see my post on rag rug making) Hessian or old coffee sacks are perfect for up cycling to make rag rugs. Or buy hessian here. (Or here in the U.S.A) But again you do tend to end up with small off cuts of sacking. And these can be used instead of the muslin or old tea towelling to make a slightly more abrasive version of the unsponge.
Just cut the bottom layer in burlap instead of muslin/towelling. A good tip is to make your turning hole slightly larger for this type, as the stiff burlap layer can be harder to push through.
Again these are fully washable (wash with your normal laundry every 3-4 days depending on use), but let air dry instead of tumble drying. And again, once they wear out, cut top and compost.
Got some burlap/hessian left?
Need more ideas for using up all your old fabric scraps? Try this post here.
Looking for more kitchen zero waste swaps?
And please do pin this post for later.