All sponges and scrub brushes are not created equal—these are the best for each job in your kitchen. (And don’t forget to clean your sponge from time to time!)
In traditional French kitchens, chefs report for duty every morning with a touching ritual—literally. They go around to every person and shake hands, as a sign of respect and camaraderie. Wise chefs make it a point to greet les plongeurs (the dishwashers), usually the least visible but some of the most important members of the kitchen. Their hands are almost always large, male, and sandpaper-rough from days and nights immersed in hot water and cleaning products.
soap squirters and sponge pompoms your bachelor friend uses. Those things are bacterial breeding grounds, as it’s nearly impossible to thoroughly dry them between uses.Lucky for us, we don’t have to wash as many dishes as quickly as restaurant pros do. And there are now more tools than ever that aim to make scrubbing easy, delicate on (often manicured) hands, and even a little fun. No, we’re not talking about those
There may be no such thing as a perfect sponge, but these all come pretty close, especially for certain jobs around the kitchen.
See our checklist below, and scroll down for the deets on each option:
- Brushtec Sommelier’s Washing Kit, $16.95 on Amazon
- SonicScrubber Super Sonic Scrubber, $22.20 on Amazon
- Scotch-Brite Purple Scour Pad, 24 for $18.28 on Amazon
- Sandclean Scrubbers, $12.91 on Amazon
- Black Lion Tawashi Brushes, 3 for $12.69 on Amazon
- The Ringer Stainless Steel Cast Iron Cleaner, $23.99 on Amazon
- Scotch-Brite Dobie All-Purpose Pads, 12 for $12.50 on Amazon
- Scrub Daddy Original Temperature Controlled Scrubbers, 9 for $27.49 on Amazon
Ideal for: Your wine glasses, decanter, and reusable water bottles
Brushtech makes brushes to clean a bewildering number of things—even hummingbird feeders! Its Sommelier’s Washing Kit is designed to scrub fine glassware without scratching, chipping, or breaking it. Three brushes, each best for a specific kind of glass, are included. An oval brush is for goblets, and a narrower brush is for champagne flutes. There’s even a snaky, flexible decanter brush that fits down slim necks and into wide bases, to get at the toughest bits of dried red wine. The nonabsorbent brushes can simply be washed off and air dried (so they don’t harbor bacteria). The stiff yet gentle foam bristles scrub terrifically and bend to your wishes with flexible wire cores, but there’s no fear of scratching because the wires are completely encased in soft foam.Buy Now
Ideal for: Your sink, stove, microwave, and muffin tins
SonicScrubbers are essentially inexpensive electric toothbrushes designed for cleaning the house. Like their dental counterparts, they deliver power in tight spaces and come with an arsenal of specialty heads. The basic kit comes with 5 interchangeable scrubbers. The large, round brush and cone-shaped bristle heads will power through a sink full of baked-on crustiness. The SonicScrubber’s especially great on hard-and-tedious-to-clean muffin tins. Take it over to the stove itself—and while you’re at it, knock out those dried patches in your microwave too. The SonicScrubber uses four AA batteries, and it’s fully submersible. Test your surfaces first, because you may be scrubbing off more than you expected. Just scrub a little in an inconspicuous spot. Also check the spots you’re scrubbing frequently.Buy Now
Ideal for: Pretty much all your pots, pans, plates, etc.—except nonstick and plastic
If you prefer old-school hand scrubbing, which quite frankly is sometimes the best or only way to go, the Scotch-Brite Purple Scour Pad is the best. But don’t expect to find it in the grocery store. Described as “the next generation of cleaning pads,” it is specifically sold only for restaurant-industry use and isn’t widely available in stores. Thank goodness for online vendors. The thin, nonabsorbent web of hard plastic mesh scrubs off the most stubborn foods. Its tough coiled fibers are low-abrasive, said to make 11 times fewer scratches and last 10 times longer than regular household medium-duty pads. The open web design allows food muck to be rinsed out easily. The pad can replace steel wool and can be used wet or dry. The Purple Scour Pad practically erased baked-on grease and food from pans that had been scoured until arms were sore with standard pads. Do not use these pads on nonstick or plastic, and do test your surfaces first.Buy Now
Ideal for: Stainless surfaces
Although they look and feel like big balls of ribbon (or maybe wispy underwater creatures), Sandclean scrubbers can outperform the toughest steel wool. Made from strips of sandpaper-finished cloth, they are 100 percent biodegradable, last a lifetime, and need very little detergent to do the job. In addition to using them on your pots and pans, they’re good for scrubbing root veggies too. Don’t use them on nonstick surfaces, though.Buy Now
Ideal for: Fruit, veggies, and pots and pans
Another biodegradable option, these traditional Japanese tawashi brushes are made from stiff natural palm fibers bound together. As with the Sandclean, this option can be used as a produce scrubber and on your skillets, cast iron and otherwise—but go with something a little softer for your delicate heirloom china if you have any of that hanging around.Buy Now
Ideal for: Cast iron skillets
This stainless chainmail scrubber is intended to thoroughly clean your cast iron without having to use harsh detergents that can strip off the precious seasoning you’ve achieved. It can also be used on pizza stones, baking sheets, stainless pot and pans, and more—without any of the bacteria than can get trapped in most sponges.Buy Now
Ideal for: Pretty much everything
These have been around forever (okay, since 1958), and are truly all-purpose, but won’t scratch your surfaces. You might still want a heavier-duty scrubber for the really grimy messes (because tiny particles can get trapped in the outer layer otherwise), but these are good for washing most dishes, including copper and china, not to mention cleaning up your countertops and stove (with the caveat that you should not use the same sponge to clean potentially dangerous things like raw chicken juice—spilled fruit juice, crumbs, or sauce splatters are okay). Really, the only negative is that these aren’t a fully biodegradable, eco-friendly product. But clean them to prolong their life and consider using ones that are about ready to be tossed to give your bathroom a scrub (as one Amazon reviewer mentioned they habitually do). One bonus is that, since these are so thin and flexible compared to many other sponges, you can really get into tight corners and crevices with them. However, you can’t clean them in the microwave or they’ll shrink.Buy Now
Ideal for: Pretty much everything
The “Shark Tank”-backed Scrub Daddy is another good all-purpose scrubber that won’t scratch, with some added benefits, but also some added cons. In the pros column, it’s shaped like a smiley face, it rinses clean in a flash, it changes texture depending on the temperature of the water you use it with (hotter water softens it up, while colder water makes the fibers firmer), and it air dries quickly so it basically never starts to stink. The only downside is that several reviews indicate these seem to be breaking down faster, perhaps indicating some changes in the materials or manufacturing process, but it obviously also depends on how frequently you use it, and for what kinds of messes. Cleaning knives and forks does tend to lead to snags, though fewer of them if you run the utensils through Sponge Daddy’s mouth as intended (meanwhile, your fingers go through his eyes for a firm grip). We still think it’s worth a try, if only for the little bit of fun it brings to the chore of washing dishes! With an assortment of colors, you can also keep track of which scrubber you use for which area, in case you like to clean your pet bowls with their own sponge.Buy Now
This post was originally published by Louisa Chu on April 11, 2007. It was updated with additional text and new links and images on April 9, 2019.
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Header image courtesy of Black Lion/Amazon.