ingenious design

The Antimicrobial Sponge That Tells Me When It’s Time to Throw It Away

The patterned sponges come in shades of blue, green, orange, and gray. Photo: Courtesy of retailer

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared on the Strategist in May 2019, and over a year later, it remains an example of a product that does what it’s supposed to do — exceptionally well. So we’re republishing it today as part of Ingenious Design Week.

I’ll never forget my mother harping on the importance of using a sponge to clean dishes before I put them in the dishwasher as a kid. Back then, to me, sponges were a symbol of cleanliness. But after reading many slightly horrifying reports on just how dirty sponges can be (including the Strategist’s), I saw them differently: as incredibly gross things. And even though I may eat a lot of my meals out of to-go containers, I do occasionally break out my real dishes — something I’ve done more and more since I introduced my kitchen sink to Skura Style sponges.

The company (which, full disclosure, was co-founded by my former boss) makes its sponges with a patented, quick-drying foam — not cellulose, the material many of the most offensive sponges are made of (cellulose is a breeding ground for smelly and odorless bacteria, because it takes a lot longer to dry). The sponge’s foam body is treated with an antimicrobial agent whose active ingredient is silver — an element scientifically proven to inhibit the growth of bacteria, mold, and mildew — and is topped with a pad for scouring dishes that’s sturdier than the surfaces of other sponges I’ve used. The scouring surface is patterned, which is actually out of utility. The pattern disappears with use — when it’s noticeably fading away, I know it’s time to replace my sponge (something I only occasionally thought to do with standard-looking models, and usually only by the time they smelled like death).

The author’s Skura Style sponge, whose pattern has faded to the point of replacement. Photo: Sam Todd

The first thing I noticed after using a Skura sponge was that there was no trace of sponge smell lingering on my fingers (a certain funk anyone whose sponged down a plate or glass can identify). Really, the funny thing about the sponges is that the more I use them, the more I don’t notice them — in a good way. I’ve never caught a bad smell from one, they don’t stay damp for long (even when I forget to wring them out), and bits of food and grime don’t really get stuck to them. Skura suggests replacing the sponges every one to two weeks, which seems a little frequent based on my usage; I’d say it takes mine about a month for the pattern to fade to the point of replacement (but, since I live alone, I’m usually only washing two or three dishes a couple times a week).

I don’t know that I’d deem any sponge the epitome of cleanliness knowing what I do about them now. But I do know that Skura sponges are far from incredibly gross, and probably the best (and best-looking) kitchen improvement I’ve made for under twenty bucks.

More Strategist-approved dishwashing gear

Photo: Bobby Doherty/New York Magazine

Cookbook author and novelist Rachel Khong swears by these “thick and incredibly smooth” Korean-made dishwashing gloves, whose name translates to “Mommy Hands.”

Made of hemp palm, the brown bristles on these brushes soften under water, enough for you to get a cozy, ticklish hold on. They will absolutely obliterate any grime you’ll come across, on any surface (we like them as a pot scrubber).

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The Antimicrobial Sponge That Tells Me When to Toss It