Vortex — Power of cleanness

Polyurethane Foam Kitchen Sponge. History of Origin

06 December 2010

Nowadays, one if not several kitchen sponges unpretentiously rest near the sink in present-day kitchen. It is an inconspicuous, yet indispensable tool for cleanness. It would seem an ordinary piece of foam rubber (polyurethane foam). But it is not so: every up-to-date kitchen sponge has come a long way to take its usual place in our home.

What were dishes washed with many years ago? Hands, sand, soda, and, of course, rags. It was still difficult, however, to clean off most heavily dirty spots with rags; in addition, it was not easy to wash grease off of rags. Little by little, wisps made of bast, ramie, loofah, sisal were "invented". But they were primarily used for the body and not for dishes.

In the Middle Ages, the wisp made of the real sea sponge, the great grandmother of polyurethane foam sponge, appeared in the Mediterranean countries. It was treated in a special way, so it was quite good for washing. Yes, exactly for washing the body, because such sponge was unlikely to be used in the kitchen. And most housewives washed dishes with ordinary rags until polyurethane foam was invented.
Still, the wisp "evolution" continued: at first, the Mediterranean sponge was replaced for the Caribbean one (it was harder, and washed off dirty spots better), and then people learnt to make them of rubber. But something there was still "wrong"…

In the first half of the twentieth century, polyurethane foam appeared. By the way, it was invented absolutely by chance.
In 1937, Otto Bayer (the founder of the well-known company), a German scientist, discovered and started to produce polyurethane. Many things have been made of this material for the last 70 odd years: from electric wiring insulation to children’s toys. It is successfully used in many spheres even today. But then, in the late 30s and in the early 40s, they only started to develop and improve it.

And so, in 1941, when working upon a new type of polyurethane, German scientists suddenly obtained a "defective" product. It contained a lot of air bubbles, and it was absolutely not suitable for usual application.
At first, they tried to overcome this side effect, but then they studied the new material better, and realized that it had an enormous potential. 13 years later, commercial production of foamed polyurethane (polyurethane foam) began. In the course of time, more new types of polyurethane foam were invented; it was becoming softer, stronger, and cheaper.

Maybe because this "airy" material resembles so much the porous skeleton of the sea sponge, people at once learnt how to make wisps and kitchen sponges thereof.

Such sponges were a perfect cleaning agent, they produced good foam, and were elastic and light. But they had a great drawback: polyurethane foam sponges of those times were very soft and fragile. They were not suited for serious dirty spots, and quickly got out of shape, being rolled up, torn, and crumbled. And, one must admit, it was very annoying.

But we are lucky: the manufacturing progress resulted in the progress of polyurethane foam sponges. Those latter became stronger and easier to use, sponges of different colours and shapes appeared. Nowadays, the housewife has a wide range of them to choose from. Still, the choice must be right.

Firstly, quality is important. State-of-the-art kitchen sponges of reliable manufacturers are made of high-quality material. They are used longer and better than run-of-the-mill wisps that become unfit for use after 1 or 2 uses. High-quality sponges are produced with the newest cleaning technologies taken into account. They can have the antibacterial surface, the thicker fibre layer, or other features that make dishwashing easier and safer.

Secondly, you should choose kitchen sponges for specific purposes. For example, an ordinary shaped sponge with the hard abrasive layer is all-purpose. Its "enlarged" version suits perfectly for large dishes. You have to buy soft fibre sponges for teflon and enamel. It is better to wash up wine glasses and glassware with a specially shaped sponge without abrasive fibre. The "right" sponge is half the battle. And a "wrong" one will fray your nerves, and it also can damage your dishes, hand skin, and nails.

Thirdly, you should regularly replace dish washing sponges. Warmth, moisture, remnants of food, the porous structure of polyurethane foam, all these are perfect for microbes and bacteria. That is why, if you want your dishes to be really clean and your family to be really healthy, you should take a new sponge every 5-7 days. Fortunately, the price of a polyurethane foam sponge allows to do so.

So, that is all, these three simple pieces of advice will make your daily routine easier and less troublesome. You will save time and efforts, trying to make your kitchen really clean. Do not be surprised if a high-quality sponge will make dishwashing your favourite pastime at home!