Grow Your Own Loofah Sponges
Did you know you can grow your own loofah sponges in your garden? The loofah sponge (also spelled Lufuh) can be found in bathrooms and kitchens everywhere. But did you know these natural, non-abrasive sponges actually come from a type of gourd?
Loofah Comes From A Plant
You may have used one of these sponges in the bath for skin care, in the kitchen, or even on your car for washing. But most people don’t know where they come from. This is understandable since many scenes advertising the sponge show tropical scenes with sand and sea shells. But these are not ocean sponges.
Loofah sponges come from the fruit of a vine in the same family as cucumbers, squashes, melons, and hard shelled gourds. In India, China and Vietnam the young fruit is eaten as a food. If the fruit is allowed to ripen on the vine, the interior is very fibrous and this is what is dried and becomes the loofah sponge.
The plant is a vine which can reach 30 feet or longer. The flowering blooms are a yellow flower which develops into an elongated fruit. When the fruit is allowed to ripen it turns brown and the skin begins to crack. It is at this point that the fruit can be harvested and the skin removed.
The vines are subtropical in nature so they need a long and warm growing season. They need around 200 days from planting to maturity. I have read that you may have trouble growing them north of Kentucky, but some have been able to do so by starting them indoors a few weeks before the expected last frost.
The fruit should be harvested immediately if the fruits receive frost, or it can ruin the sponge inside.
How To Process The Sponge
Once the skin is removed the seeds can be shaken out. Save the seeds that are plump for replanting the next season. The sap should be washed out with a water spray. If the sponge has dark spots it can be soaked in a non-chlorine laundry bleach to make it a more uniform color.
After cleaning the sponges should be set out in the sun or on a table out of the weather to dry. Turn them daily to help them dry completely. Once they are dry they are ready for use.
Uses For Your Loofah
There are many ways to use your natural loofah sponge. You can replace your kitchen sponge with a loofah sponge for scrubbing pot and pans, grimy sinks and cleaning counters and stovetops. Since they are not abrasive they won’t scratch your stove or pots and pans.
Use them in the bath or shower for a natural alternative to cloths for cleaning your body or your face. They are gentle enough for sensitive skin yet will clean all the dirt and grime from your face and body.
Use a loofah sponge to wash your car. They are gentle enough to not scratch your paint while removing grime from your car.
They should be discarded after a few weeks to prevent bacterial growth within the sponge. You can prolong the use of the sponge by placing it in the microwave for a few minutes to sterilize it. Just be sure the sponge is moist when you sterilize it so they don’t catch fire in the microwave (think about the last time you burned popcorn in the microwave).
The best part is that since they are a natural plant product when you need to get rid of it after use, you can simply toss it in the compost pile.
So now that you know you can grow your own loofah sponges let us know what you think in the comments below. Are you going to try and grow your own loofah sponges next spring?