How To Make Unsponges – Zero Waste Dish Scrubbers

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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

How To Make Unsponges - Make your own kitchen sponges - a great alternative to plastic bacteria breeding sponges and scrubbers. A great zero waste kitchen swap. Upcycle old clothes, towels and bedding to make these padded scrubbing washing cloths that can be laundered with the rest of your wash. DIY unsponge tutorial with pictures. Pictorial guide to making these sustainable recycled kitchen swaps. Environmentally friendly #unsponges #kitchenswaps #upcycling #sustainable #zerowaste #environmentallyfriendly #kitchenunsponges #diyunsponge

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
  • 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.

My materials for unsponges

Cut some rectangles of material to make up each unsponge. Mine measured 15cm by 12cm approx (6 inches by 4.5 inches)

Fabric Squares

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 only 1 layer of an old bath towel.

Place the padding at the bottom, then pin the scrubbing and the topping layers on top – right sides together.

Unsponge layers

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.

Seam with turning gap

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.

Pressed pad

Seam allowance pressed 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.

Sewing 5mm seam around pad edge

Quilting the pad

And there you have it! A finished unsponge.

How To Make Unsponges - Make your own kitchen sponges - a great alternative to plastic bacteria breeding sponges and scrubbers. A great zero waste kitchen swap. Upcycle old clothes, towels and bedding to make these padded scrubbing washing cloths that can be laundered with the rest of your wash. DIY unsponge tutorial with pictures. Pictorial guide to making these sustainable recycled kitchen swaps. Environmentally friendly #unsponges #kitchenswaps #upcycling #sustainable #zerowaste #environmentallyfriendly #kitchenunsponges #diyunsponge

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.

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. Hessian or old coffee sacks are perfect for up cycling to make rag rugs. Or buy hessian here. 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.

Heavy duty unsponge materials

Just cut the bottom layer in burlap instead of muslin/towelling. My only other 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.

How To Make Unsponges - Make your own kitchen sponges - a great alternative to plastic bacteria breeding sponges and scrubbers. A great zero waste kitchen swap. Upcycle old clothes, towels and bedding to make these padded scrubbing washing cloths that can be laundered with the rest of your wash. DIY unsponge tutorial with pictures. Pictorial guide to making these sustainable recycled kitchen swaps. Environmentally friendly #unsponges #kitchenswaps #upcycling #sustainable #zerowaste #environmentallyfriendly #kitchenunsponges #diyunsponge

Need some more ideas for using up all your old fabric scraps? Try this post here.

Looking for more kitchen zero waste swaps? See how to make Reusable Kitchen Roll.

And please do pin this post for later.

How To Make Unsponges - Make your own kitchen sponges - a great alternative to plastic bacteria breeding sponges and scrubbers. A great zero waste kitchen swap. Upcycle old clothes, towels and bedding to make these padded scrubbing washing cloths that can be laundered with the rest of your wash. DIY unsponge tutorial with pictures. Pictorial guide to making these sustainable recycled kitchen swaps. Environmentally friendly #unsponges #kitchenswaps #upcycling #sustainable #zerowaste #environmentallyfriendly #kitchenunsponges #diyunsponge

Cuddle Fairy
PoCoLo
Keep Calm and Carry On Linking Sunday

32 Replies to “How To Make Unsponges – Zero Waste Dish Scrubbers”

    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Totally agree, gift ideas are always first in my head.

      Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      And mine can be cut up & composted too when they are done, as they are 100% cotton.

      Reply
  1. Christy says:

    What a great idea! These look really simple so I’m sure I could make them, but it had never occurred to me I could make an alternative to sponges. I’ve got loads of old fabric I’ve been keeping without any real purpose but not wanting to throw it out, so I’m definitely going to give this a go. #KCACOLS

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      They are so simple. And just a great way to use up the old scraps and fabric.

      Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Yes, all fabric that may otherwise have gone to waste.

      Reply
  2. Anne says:

    What a great idea, I’m sure I have all the fabric but I’m rubbish with the sewing machine, maybe I can get my daughter to help out? I’m always looking for alternatives too.
    #mmbc

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      Thank you. As with anything practice helps, but certainly it is a great beginner project too.

      Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      They are so easy! And just a little way to help reuse old fabrics.

      Reply
  3. sam says:

    I never knew about this, such a great idea and a fab way to recycle old material X #pocolo

    Reply
  4. Stephanie 139a says:

    These look great, I made some reusable kitchen towels with some pretty fabric and an old dressing gown, but could do with some smaller ones. Thanks for sharing with #PoCoLo

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      These just feel slightly better and more substantial in use because they are padded. Thank you for reading.

      Reply
  5. Tracy Albiero says:

    These are great to use instead of sponges. I can see using Christmas material and leave little secret santa gifts at work. #KCACOLS

    Reply
  6. Jade says:

    Thanks for sharing this great idea. With really clear instructions too, its really great to have ideas how to reuse more items. #KCACOLS

    Reply
    1. Jo Boyne says:

      So far it has held up pretty well actually. The great thing about these is even when they are worn out, you can cut them up into fine pieces and compost them, as they are all natural cotton materials.

      Reply

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