It can be assumed that most people leave their showers believing they have scrubbed themselves clean, but if using a loofah is part of their routine that might not be the case. If you’re not sure what a loofah is, I mean that plastic sponge puff ball used as a body scrub, although natural sponges made of plant fiber count as loofahs too and are actually worse. It’s also called a pouf, shower pouf, shower puff, body sponge or “puffy shower washing thingy-majigs.” I first saw a news clip as a kid about how germy loofahs are and have never considered using one since.
Hearing horrifying accounts such as from “Mrs. Thrifty” of A Thrifty Mrs blog, where the writer was bathing using a recently purchased loofah and noticed a dead spider on her body, does little to make me consider buying one. After freaking out, she discovered the bodies of four more dead spiders hidden in the loofahs folds.
Loofahs are often used to exfoliate, but that means the dead skin being scraped off starts to collect in it instead of being washed away. Rinsing it out is difficult as the water can just push the flakes of skin towards the center where they collect. Next time you go to use the loofah, you might actually just be scrubbing yourself with last week’s dead skin.
Additionally, based on a study published in the Journal of Clinical Microbiology, loofahs collect and grow bacteria. Letting them dry in a warm, moist environment is what allows them to develop so much bacteria. In other words, if you’re letting it hang to dry in your shower or bathroom, that’s actually the worst thing you can do. Using a bacteria-filled loofah is dangerous because bacteria can get into cuts on your skin. These could be small nicks from shaving or blisters from a new pair of shoes. It can also lead to acne on your body as the bacteria gets in pores that are more open from hot water or steam. Bacteria can develop overnight too; it is not a long process. Dermatologists who were quoted in Self Magazine, Huffington Post, Good Housekeeping and Cleveland Health Clinic articles all talk about how bad loofahs are for your skin and the problem it causes due to bacteria growth.
The articles that didn’t recommend throwing it away talked about thoroughly rinsing it out and letting it dry outside of the bathroom. These suggestions were mentioned on a list of ways to clean and take care of your loofah. The fact loofahs need a section about how to take care of them is a bit of a red flag for me. Most recommended replacing the plastic types every two months and every three to four weeks for natural ones. It might only cost two dollars, but that $12 a year is equal to 40 McNuggets, one nice meal, about five gallons of gas or a new CD. It is simply $12 wasted when scrubbing yourself clean with your hands or a washcloth is just as effective. A washcloth still can grow bacteria in a warm, damp environment, but it is easier to rinse out and tends to be replaced (due to laundry) more often than a loofah.
While there are benefits to loofahs, such as their ability to exfoliate and increase blood circulation, the negatives scrub away the positives.
Photo by Beau Brockett