Here’s A Quick Pop Quiz For You: Do You Know Many Bacteria Are Present In A Loofah After Two Weeks Of Daily Use? If You Guessed 7.2 Billion, you win! Err…Well, In Addition To Bacteria, There Are A Variety Of Microorganisms, like Mold or Mildew, Contaminating Your Favorite Shower Tool. Yuck!
We’ve all heard or read about the horrors that live and lurk on and deep inside our bath and shower tools. Whether they are of the natural type or synthetic, it is true that our bath and shower sponges, poufs, loofahs or exfoliating scrubbers, whatever you call them, can provide the perfect environment for exploding populations of microbes, both harmful and benign. With regard to bacteria, natural loofahs wear the dubious crown as most prolific nurturer of these tiny microorganisms. Research dating as far back as 1994 has found that loofahs, those natural scrubbers made from a tropical species of cucumber fiber, make the perfect breeding ground for bacteria. The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology found that loofahs can transmit potentially harmful species of bacteria to the skin that under the right circumstances may even cause an infection.
As we noted in the intro, bacteria aren’t the only things you need to worry about – mold also thrives in the moist environment of your bathroom. Some kinds of mold have been shown to harm human health – certain individuals can become seriously and chronically ill due to exposure to household mold. Symptoms stemming from mold spore exposure may include:
- Nasal and sinus congestion
- Eye irritation
- Blurred vision
- Sore throat
- Chronic cough
- Skin rash
It may be disheartening to realize what a little shop of horrors our beloved bath and shower assistants can turn into, and some experts will recommend just throwing them in the trash. If you are despairing, “But what about my exfoliation? What about my rich, long-lasting lather?”, fear not - it doesn’t have to be that way. In fact if you follow our simple tips below, you’ll be in shower heaven knowing that you are getting clean and exfoliated, NOT spreading unwanted intruders all over your skin. You’ll also be able to effectively double the life of your shower sponge! With that in mind, here are some simple tips and easy to follow habits to practice.
- Choose a synthetic sponge / pouf / scrubber. Despite our love of natural fibers and products, the above-referenced study highlighted that natural loofahs love collecting bacteria.
- Always try to make sure your bathroom is well ventilated, with an exhaust fan and/or use a dehumidifier in the bathroom after uses to dry it out more thoroughly. This will give those microscopic nasties a less welcoming environment and will slow their progress.
- If possible, dry your shower sponge outside of the bathroom between uses. When it comes to mold and bacteria, one simple rule applies: wet is bad and dry is good. Since the bathroom tends to be the most humid part of the house, getting your shower tools out of there will help.
- Rinse your bath sponge thoroughly after use and shake it out before hanging it up to dry. The fewer particles of exfoliated skin remain caught in the nooks, crannies and folds of your sponge, the better.
- Give it a stiff drink! The bacteria-killing properties of alcohol are well known, so a great tip is to keep a spray bottle of rubbing alcohol, which is usually ethanol, handy. After thoroughly rinsing and shaking out your sponge, give it a generous spray of alcohol before hanging it up to dry. Make sure to get some of the mist into the deeper layers of the sponge. This will kill off some of the bacteria that may be growing in there, and discourage new growth. If you don’t already have a spray bottle of alcohol handy, be sure to pick one up, as it really comes in handy for all kinds of cleaning and sanitizing around the house, and is more effective and safer to use than disinfectant hand gels and washes containing triclosan.
- Give it a bleach bath once every 2-3 weeks. Although a harsh chemical that is not particularly friendly to our skin or to the environment, doing one bleach “super-clean during the life of your shower pouf can radically reduce or eliminate the presence of creepy crawlies. Just follow these steps:
- Fill the bucket or sink with one gallon of water.
- Add ¾ cup of bleach.
- Place the sponge into the mixture.
- Allow it to soak for at least 5 minutes.
- Remove and rinse completely with water.
- Squeeze and shake out as much of the excess water as possible.
- Allow the sponge to air dry completely.
- Change your bath sponge regularly. Some people will suggest pulling out a new sponge every 3-4 weeks, but if you’ve been following the other tips on this list, you can effectively double that. Don’t go beyond that 6-8 week timeframe though, because these mesh tools can’t keep away bacteria, and especially mold, forever, and additionally, they will eventually start to come apart with regular use. So mark it on your calendar, or have fresh shipments of brand new bath sponges automatically delivered to your door!
- Get activated charcoal in your bath or shower! Activate charcoal powder, also known as activated carbon, has proven antibacterial properties and is also highly touted for its detoxifying benefits. Basically how it works is a result of the physical properties of charcoal. On the nano level, charcoal has a huge surface area and a negative charge, allowing massive amounts of positively charged material (ie. bacteria, toxins) to adhere to its surface, effectively sequestering and keeping these nasties off of your skin. Now you can buy bath and shower sponges like these that are infused with ~5% activated charcoal powder. It’s hard to measure the impact of incorporating charcoal into your sponge, but it’s natural and safe, and certainly doesn’t hurt!
So there you have it, your playbook for keeping your bath and shower sponges at their best and relatively free of microorganisms that would do us harm. As a result you’ll extend the life of your sponge and, who doesn’t like to save money? Thanks for reading, and let us know what you think!