Home :: Sea Sponge FAQ

Sea Sponge FAQ

  1. About Sea Sponge - How is it Eco-Friendly and Sustainably Harvested?

  2. Size - Picking the Right Sized Sponge

  3. Cuts vs. Forms

  4. Prime Wool vs. Rock Island Wool Sponges

  5. What are Sheeps Wool vs. Prime Wool vs. Premium Wool vs. Rock Island Wool

  6. Why are Rock Island Wool Sponges more expensive than Prime Wools?

  7. Color - Why is my Sponge Yellow or Brown

  8. Which Sponge works best for...?

  9. Is using a Sea Sponge on my Car Safe? (Important!)

  10. Caring for your Sponge or Loofah

  11. How to Soften a Hard Loofah

  12. Where do Sponges come from?

  13. How are Sponges Harvested?

  14. Ten Reasons to Toss that Artificial Sponge

  15. Sponge Selection Chart

About Sea Sponge - How is it Eco-Friendly and Sustainably Harvested?

The Sea Sponge is a renewable natural resource,

When sponges are harvested, those collecting the sponges are careful to ensure that at least one inch of the base of the sponge remains intact. The sponge then will re-grow back to its original form within 1-5 years.

also,

Natural Sea Sponges possess remarkable powers of regeneration, they have the ability to re-grow lost parts and pieces broken off by water currents, and have the ability to settle in another location and re-grow into a clone of the parent sponge.

Studies show that areas harvested actually increase the population density of sponges.

The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission regulates the commercial and recreational take of sea sponges and through a series of 'crop / harvest rotation', ensure that the harvest of sea sponges never impacts surrounding ocean species.

The Natural Bath & Body Shop is partnered with the Sierra Club and its peers (Surf Riders, Gulf Coast Restoration Network and others) and its mission to combat Red Tide and Coastal Pollution.

Picking the Right Sized Sponge

The most common mistake made when purchasing a sponge is picking the wrong size. Here are a few guidelines.

  • For bath use, the sponge should comfortably fit into your hand. We have found that the 4"-5" sponges are the smallest acceptable size for a bath sponge, the 5"-6" is usually just right, and the 6"-7" size is great for large hands.
  • For large jobs, use a larger sponge. When picking a sponge to use on your Car, Boat, Horse, window washing etc, use a 6"-7" or 7"-8" sponge. For very large hands or very large jobs, you can go with a larger sponge.
  • For Sponging, sponge painting or faux finishing, depending on the size of the job, we recommend using a rock island sea wool or prime sea wool sponge (they have the best textures). For size, select a 3-4" or 4-5" for small artistic painting and for larger jobs such as painting the walls of a house, use a 5-6" or 6-7" wool sponge. From experience, rock island sea wool sponges are firmer than prime wool sponges and will give you a more consistent pattern.

Cuts vs. Forms

When picking your yellow, grass or wool sponges, you will have a choice of cuts or forms. Forms are a complete, un-cut sponge. This means that the sponge will have a flat bottom where it was cut from the ocean floor, but otherwise will be perfectly round. Cuts are when a larger sponge has been cut into pieces. Usually cuts will have two flat sides but a round top. For everyday use, cuts are fine. If you wish to proudly display your sponge as decoration, we recommend a form.

What is the difference between Prime Wool and Rock Island Wool Sponges?

Once wet, it is difficult to tell them apart, but besides the price there are distinct differences between Prime Sea Wool and Rock Island Sea Wool Sponges. First, when they are dry, the Rock Island Wool Sponge will be much harder to squeeze than the prime wool sponges. Some cuts are so hard, they feel hard as rocks (hence the name). The Rock island is a more dense sponge, which means it will hold more water and for sponge painting it will retain its pattern better when wet. Commercial and household applications we recommend the Rock Island Sea Wool Sponge as it will last longer. For bath and shower, the Prime Wool sponges less expensive and some claim they are slightly softer. In the end, either sponge will work great for just about any application requiring a wool sponge.

Why are Rock Island Wool Sponges more expensive than Prime Wools?

Rock island Sea Wool Sponges are harvested in deeper water (starting at 60' and deeper). This makes collecting these sponges more time consuming as diving to depths of 60' and beyond allows less bottom time without decompression stop.

Sheeps Wool vs. Prime Wool vs. Premium Wool vs. Rock Island Wool

In order to better guide you to the proper sea sponge, we have categorized the sponge by what they will be used for. The name Sheeps wool is commonly used to describe natural sea wool sponges. Therefor here is a table that shows which name corresponds to which sea sponge:

Prime Wool = Prime Sea Wool Sponge Sheeps Wool Sponge Lamb Wools Sponge Wool Sponge
Rock Island Wool = Rock Island Sea Wool Sponge Premium Sheeps Wool Sponge Premium Lamb Wool Sponge Premium Wool Sponge

 

Color - Why is my Sponge Yellow or Brown

When harvested, all sponges are a dark brown. After processing with peroxide, the brown color is bleached away and a yellow sponge is revealed. By controlling the amount of peroxide and processing time, we control how lightly colored the sponges will be.

There is a trade-off, the lighter the color, the weaker and less durable the sponge becomes. Most of the sponges we ship will have a light brown hue to them. If you would like a bright yellow or darker brown sponge, specify this in the customer order notes and we will locate the best color available for your order.

Which Sponge works best for...?

  • For Bath and Body - Wool sponges are the best for bathing, they are soft and will last the longest. Grass sponge is a great alternative, it will not last as long as it is not as durable, but is a better value.
  • For Exfoliation - Yellow sponge has a lightly rough texture and is perfect for exfoliating. Of course our Loofah Sponges are great for exfoliating as well as they have the roughest texture.
  • For Household cleaning - Use Yellow or Grass sponges for household cleaning. They are value prices and both have a great texture for removing soap scum and dirt.
  • For Car and Boat - We recommend the Wool sponge (either Prime or Rock Island). Be aware that sponges often contain some trapped sand and/or shell from the ocean floor. Be sure to wash the sponge thoroughly before using it on a delicate automobile finish. Also inspect your sponge to make sure the cut-bottom does not contain any remnants of coral rock or sea shell. If you see or feel any roughness on the bottom of the sponge, use scissors to cut away any impurities before using the sponge on your car's finish.
  • For your Horse - or other large pets, use our sea wool sponges. Usually the larger the better.

Is using a Sea Sponge on my Car Safe? (Important!)

Yes, but be aware that sponges often contain some trapped sand and/or shell from the ocean floor. Be sure to wash the sponge thoroughly before using it on a delicate automobile finish. Also, inspect your sponge to make sure the cut-bottom does not contain any remnants of coral rock or sea shell. If you see or feel any roughness on the bottom of the sponge, use scissors to cut away any impurities before using the sponge on your car's finish.

If you are ordering a large Wool Sponge for use on your car, let us know in the customer notes and we will pick the best sponge for you.

We cannot be held responsible if you scratch your car's finish, so If in doubt, call us!

Caring for your Sponge or Loofah

It is advisable to wash loofah's and natural sponges regularly to deter soap build-up. Follow the cleaning advice here regularly to remove soap build-up.

  1. Rinse the natural sponge or loofah under a cold running water.
  2. Soak the sponge or loofah in a small bowl filled with 2 tablespoons of vinegar to each liter of water. Leave to soak for 2 hours.
  3. Remove from the bowl and shake gently to remove excess liquid.
  4. Set out to dry on a clean surface, such as the bathtub.
  5. Use again. The sea sponge or loofah should be as good as new.

How to Soften a Hard Loofah

When you buy a loofah sponge in the store,they all feel as hard as a rock. When it gets soaked with warm water, it should soften up to be comfortable to use. But what if yours stays as hard as a rock?

  1. If your loofah has a handle (to make a back scrubber) do not try using boiling water -- you will dissolve the glue & the handle will come out.
  2. Soak the loofah in a mild bleach solution to break down the fibers somewhat (maybe half a cup of bleach in a gallon of water).
  3. If you use too much bleach, or leave it soaking too long, the fibers get way too loose, and you will not be able to use your loofah to exfoliate your skin, etc.

Where do Sponges come from?

Unlike their artificial cousins, natural sponges do not live in a pineapple under the sea. The breakdown of our incoming raw sponge shipments is:

  • Prime Sea Wool, Yellow, Finger, Vase and Glove sponges come from either Key West or the Bahamas
  • Rock Island Sea Wool sponges come from the Gulf of Mexico (from the city of Tarpon Springs heading West / North West)
  • Grass Sponges come from the Gulf of Mexico (Tarpon Springs) as well as the Bahamas
  • Silk Sponges come from either the Bahamas (Caribbean Silks), China (South Pacific Silks) or from the Eastern Mediterranean (Mediterranean Silk sponges).

How are Sponges Harvested?

All of our Sponge Divers are licensed by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and only harvest sheepswool, yellow and grass sea sponges of at least 5" in size and by individually hand-cutting each one.

Prior to the 1980's, sea sponges were sometime harvested using a rake, this practice ended as rakes sometimes would pull the whole sponge off the sea-floor and not allow it to grow back.

When the sponges are hand cut. pieces of the sponge remain on the seabed and within a few years they grow back to their full size. Also, some pieces will break off and attach themselves to new areas and grow into new sponges.