compulsive shopping

I Can’t Stop Buying Sparkly Korean Dish Scrubbers

Photo: Lauren Ro

A few years ago, my mom started giving me sparkly, crocheted pads in funny shapes like pinafores and various fruits that her friends had made. I didn’t believe her at first when she told me they were kitchen sponges. To me, they looked like ’roided out doilies for especially sweaty drinks or, perhaps closer to their actual function, festive loofahs. Then I started doing the dishes with them, and I was hooked. Just abrasive enough, the scrubbies removed food and grease better than all the dishwashing implements I’d tried over the years, including Japanese tawashi brushes, Swedish dishcloths, and, of course, Scotch-Brite. Their superior functionality aside, they made the task a hundred times more enjoyable thanks to their cushy, neon-colored weave that feels good in the hand and invigorating to behold. They also dry faster, don’t get grimy, and last three times longer than a regular sponge because the special “eyelash” polyester yarn they’re made of is basically indestructible. Another part of their appeal, though it may not be for everyone, is that they require less soap: My own mother and sister prefer a standard sponge, complaining that these don’t get sudsy enough, but I never noticed that being a problem.

Turns out crocheting these scrubbers is a pastime among certain Korean ajummas, who love to give them away as gifts. But it wasn’t until a recent trip to my parents’ local Korean grocery store in Los Angeles that I realized you could actually purchase them. I bought two — one shaped like a strawberry and another like a bullseye — to add to my stockpile back home in Brooklyn. Curious, I started clicking around online and found that they’re readily available at places like Amazon and Coming Soon, but if it’s handmade wit and whimsy you’re looking for, Etsy is a trove of cheeky scrubbies that will delight anyone who dreads facing a sink filled with dirty dishes. Here are some of my favorites.

The best one my mom ever gave me was shaped like a dress and fit over a bottle of Ajax, making the latter appear to be wearing an apron with flutter sleeves. These stripey numbers are similar and look like they have an open hem and neckline. As long as they’re the right size, you might be able to achieve the same effect with your preferred bottle of dish detergent.

If you’d rather lean into the Korean theme than have your sponge cosplay as a ’50s housewife, try these scrubbies shaped like traditional hanboks.

For a more subservient scrubby, here’s one made to look like something a palace maid would wear, waist apron and all.

Looking ahead to the modern era, I love this bottle of Chamisul soju scrubby (though I’m a Chum-Churum [translation: “like the first time”] girlie myself).

Food-shaped scrubbies are by far the most popular, and you’ll find all manner of fruits, vegetables, and snacks on Etsy, like these adorable pumpkins that will arrive with plenty of time for Halloween festivities.

I have never seen one as a peeled tangerine before. I am in awe.

Strawberries and grapes are also ubiquitous. These are even cuter than your standard fare because they’re heart-shaped (insert finger-heart gesture here).

You can practically taste the kiwi fuzz coming off these hyperrealistic sponges.

Hang on to the last days of summer with this watermelon scrubby. Hint: Wash the dishes in cold water with no gloves on to instantly cool down.

I couldn’t resist these perfect eggplants.

For the millennial who needs reminding that avocado toast will be the cause of their financial ruin (just kidding, it’s not).

Everyone loves a pizza party. (The pointy part of the slice would be useful for getting into hard-to-reach crevices.)

A scrubby even Homer Simpson would deign to use.

I own a few flower-shaped scrubbies. These are especially pretty.

They also come as animals. How cute would this little snake look perched on the corner of your sink?

Now onto more novelty shapes. Yes, these are, in fact, the Adidas shower slides in sparkly, scrubby form.

Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine I could be sharing dish duty with Snoopy and my man Charlie Brown.

These lovely gingham scrubbies would go really well with your farmhouse sink.

We featured these rectangular ones from Coming Soon in our 2020 holiday gift guide. They’re handmade in Brooklyn using the same Korean technique.

If you were so inclined, you could even crochet them yourself. The key is using this very specific, made-in-Korea polyester “eyelash yarn” that’s also sold on Etsy.

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

It only just occurred to me that pairing a dish scrubby with some Korean Mamison dishwashing gloves would truly make for the most delightful (and practical) housewarming gift.

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I Can’t Stop Buying Sparkly Korean Dish Scrubbers