I, too, ended up with a pandemic pet. Goo, the first feline member of my household, transformed me from a dog person into a cat person and transformed my apartment from clean enough into a giant fur ball.
Her hair reached every corner of our apartment: It was stuck to our oven range, enmeshed in our window screens, and fully embroidered into our rugs. At the suggestion of the internet, I tried cleaning our house with a vacuum, a broom, a lint roller, tape, and damp washcloths. Each method did something, but not enough, and certainly not everything — what was I going to do, vacuum our stove top? (I tried, but it wasn’t pretty.) I found myself on my hands and knees pawing our carpet with my bare fingers, desperately trying to scrape up layers of fur. It was fruitless. My fingers ached from self-inflicted rug-burn, and I realized that, like a cat, I needed claws. I needed something with teeth, or bristles at least. It turns out that the tool I so desperately needed was something I already owned — something as squishy and agile as the cat herself; bendable, cute, and fun to hold in my hand. I started using a bright-red, bristled silicone sponge to gather the dirt, dust, and hair Goo trails through our apartment, and it has never been cleaner.
Originally an impulse purchase from the MoMA store, I bought my first silicone sponge for its irresistible texture: rows of tiny rubber needles perfectly aligned in a loose figure-eight shape, comfortable for nestling into the palm of your hand. I had to touch it. It was an op-art, dizzying design object with claims of reducing waste by outliving rougher, cellulose disposable sponges. It became my go-to sponge for cast-iron cookware, allowing me to scrub with pressure without fear of scratching, but for the day-to-day dishes passing through my soapy hands it primarily pushed food around instead of penetrating any grease or residue. I didn’t think it had any oomph, until I realized it quite literally holds a static charge. It may be so-so on grease, but it’s a veritable hair magnet. With the satisfaction of Goo’s nails on a scratch pad, I can drag it across a carpet and excavate sheets of fur and dirt. I can brush it against a delicate window screen and peel up a pile of hair in its teeth. Dragging it across our oven range, I am equally disgusted and relieved by what it manages to collect.
The sponge, of course, is not just for pets — it wants for static, and it wants for string, so it catches all sorts of hair and lint. It’s a helpful counterpart to the cover protecting our shower drain and useful as a complement to the classic, sticky, de-linting wand that I brush across my clothes. The sponge can’t grab scattered, tiny specks (dandruff) as efficiently as the tacky roller can, but it’s effective nonetheless and certainly more ecologically sound than regularly throwing out sheets of plastic. Given the range of surfaces it can tackle, we currently have one dedicated to keeping the house clean, one for our cookware, and one for brushing our garments. Thankfully, the sponges are sold in sets of three, so you can color-code them to prevent yourself from washing your Le Creuset with your dedicated carpet sponge, but I’ll note that they are supremely easy to clean and therefore singularly usable for multiple purposes. The bendable nature of the sponge allows you to crease it and pull debris off without needing to pick or tweeze between the bristles. Then you can throw it in the dishwasher.
Silicone sponges are significantly cheaper than a new vacuum or any of the myriad products marketed as (pet) hair-removal miracles. While I wouldn’t want to use it to clean wall-to-wall carpets — for that, I would suggest the grown-up version of the same idea, a plastic broom — I find it to be absolutely necessary for hard-to-reach places, as well as for fully imbricated clumps of lint and hair that stump even the strongest of vacuums. I can squish it between the back cushions of our couch, or in the sliver of space between our bookshelf and the floor. All the tiny nooks and hidden crannies where Goo spends her time are rendered accessible (and clean!) with the help of this silicone savior. Its malleability is its greatest asset: It can go where Goo goes, i.e. everywhere.
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