Our $ pick, Scotch Brite’s Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge, has a little bit of everything. Its scrubby side can coax charred tomato sauce out of a stainless steel pan with very little elbow grease and without holding onto charred bits and tomato sauce for several days afterward (as long as you rinse it well under the faucet). Its spongy side quickly lathers and spreads them around so they can actually do their job. As we discovered in testing, multifunctional sponges are key — if you can’t scrub and make lots of suds with it, what’s the point? It’s also comfortable to hold, doesn’t start to look disgusting even after several encounters with excessively dirty pots, generally rinses clean of any food particles or stains, and dries quickly (which helps prevent bacterial growth).
We tested each sponge, including seven options in the $ category, to see if they’d scratch common dishes like wine glasses, plastic melamine cups, and three types of pans: stainless steel, ceramic, and Teflon non-stick. While the Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge didn’t scratch anything when used to lightly scrub, when we put hardcore elbow grease into it (pretending to be muscular football players), it left thin lines on the melamine cup that were very visible in regular light, and a few slight scratches on the outside of the stainless steel pan that you could see by shining it in the light (the package does note that it’s not for use on stainless steel appliances). So if you have a dishes-do-er with running back strength in your house, and some melamine or stainless steel around that often requires intense scrubbing, consider yourself warned. (There were a couple of other sponges in this price category that didn’t scratch anything at all, but they all lacked a scrubby back — a total deal-breaker when you’re faced with a stubborn dish.)
One of our editors (and their mom!) has used these Non-Scratch Scrub Sponges for most of their life, and says that they really do hold up to tough use, whether or not you have a dishwasher nearby. But if you don’t take care of them, they can start to stink (thanks, bacteria!) in as little as two or three days. To prevent that, when you’re done with dishes, completely rinse off any and all food residue (ideally with hot water), seriously squeeze out the excess water, and let it dry out completely overnight, every night. TBH, this basic “sponge hygiene” will help any sponge last longer.
Because the Scotch-Brite Non-Scratch Scrub Sponge is made from cellulose (as were all the sponges in this category), a material usually derived mostly from wood or plant pulp, they don’t last forever. Even if you squeeze them out every night, these are the kind of sponges that are best to replace every two weeks or so. And that’s as long as you clean them every three or so days (or at least once a week), either by running them through the dishwasher with a heat-dry cycle or wetting them and heating in the microwave for one minute.
Unfortunately, this sponge isn’t biodegradable — almost none of the more eco-friendly sponges held up well enough after use for us to recommend them. We’d hoped Scotch-Brite’s Greener Clean sponge might be the answer, but it didn’t hold its own against the worst cooked-on food. Because the scrub pad isn’t biodegradable or compostable, you’d still have to contribute to a landfill every time you replaced it, or somehow peel the scrub pad off of the sponge, and compost the sponge.
But if you’re in the market for a basic, cheap sponge that’ll give you the most bang for your buck, we recommend picking up a pack of Scotch-Brite Non-Scratch Scrub Sponges! Don’t just take our word for it; see what a few of the more than 800 positive reviewers from Amazon have to say.