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If you've only got a few tired-looking sponges in your dish-cleaning arsenal, it's time to consider a few upgrades. Most people aren't fans of scrubbing dirty pots and pans, but having the right tools for the job can make it more efficient and pleasant—and, dare we say it, fun.
Since these items can become breeding grounds for germs (thanks to the combo of continuous dampness and tiny crevices), follow the manufacturer's suggestions for cleaning—many can be go into the dishwasher, certain sponges can be dampened with water and placed in the microwave, or, depending on the material, you can try soaking in a weak bleach solution, as recommended by the Center for Disease Control.
Here, the best dish scrubbers for all of your dishwashing needs.
Best for Bottles: OXO Good Grips Bottle Brush
Your water bottle might only hold H2O, but it's still important that you give it a thorough daily cleaning—otherwise you risk ingesting bacteria that can hang out inside.
This bicolor brush from OXO is about a foot long and has two different types of nylon bristles: The blue ones are stiffer, and can tuck into crevices and corners, while the white ones are softer. The neck is strong but flexible, to help you maneuver it easily, and the handle, which has a handy hole for hanging, is covered with a soft, non-slip material that won't slide out of your hand, even when it's wet.
The brush is dishwasher safe and has a head that's slim enough to slide into narrow bottles. Obviously the scrubber is ideal for water bottles, but the bristles are soft enough that they can also be used on baby bottles and delicate stemware, too.
Best for Cast Iron Pans: Amagabeli Stainless Steel Cast Iron Chainmail Scrubber
Cast iron pans are beloved for their ability to retain heat and brown food to perfection. But when it comes to cleaning and maintaining them, there are so many "don'ts," you might be tempted just to leave yours in the cabinet. (For cast iron, one should avoid soaks, the dishwasher, steel wool, and even dish soap itself—though some cooks use a tiny amount.)
But this useful piece of chainmail, which is made from rustproof stainless steel, will degunk your pan without harming its layer of seasoning. It's dishwasher-safe, and can also be used to clean items like dutch ovens, glass baking pans, cookie sheets, and pizza stones. It comes as part of a set with two pan scrapers, which help you target small, stubborn bits of residue that are hard to tackle with the larger chain mail.
Best Silicone: Lubrima Silicone Sponge
These food-grade silicone sponges are non-porous, so they won't hang onto smells and bacteria the way foam and cellulose sponges do. And since you'll only need to replace them every few months (when they start to fall apart), they might be a more eco-friendly option than softer, more traditional kitchen sponges, which should ideally be replaced every week or two.
Some people find silicone sponges a little slippery for everyday washing, but they really shine when you need to remove stuck-on bits of food, like the remnants of eggs or fried rice, and are easy to clean afterwards. They can also double as pot holders, vegetable scrubbers (make sure to set aside one sponge for just this task), and some fans even use them in the shower to help exfoliate. They can be safely dishwashed on the top rack and will dry almost instantly.
Best for Reusable Straws: HIWARE Straw Cleaner Brush Set, 8-Piece
Using a metal or plastic reusable straw will help keep the throwaway versions out of landfills, where most remain indefinitely, as well as oceans, where they can harm wildlife. But you've got to clean them properly, or that slender tube can become a catchall of gunk that you'd rather not sip along with your smoothie or iced coffee.
These dishwasher-safe brushes are all about eight inches long, with heads that come in two different sizes. The eight-millimeter brush works well for narrower metal straws, while the ten-millimeter one is best for plastic smoothie straws and the ones that come with water bottles. The brushes are made from a mix of food-grade stainless steel and nylon, and the bristles are safe to use even on softer plastic surfaces.
Best Scented Sponge: Scrub Daddy Lemon Fresh Sponge
Scrub Daddy is famous as one of Shark Tank's most successful ventures, and the tough, durable sponges deserve their many accolades. The face on this lemon-scented option might be adorable, but it also helps the sponge be more useful and ergonomic, as you can slide your fingers into the eyeholes to inch it down into a glass, and use the mouth to clean both sides of a piece of silverware.
One of the most distinctive features about Scrub Daddy's material is that it becomes tough and stiff in cold water, which helps it remove caked-on food, and softer and easier to compress in warm water, making it the perfect texture to shove into a coffee mug.
Scrub Daddy sponges will resist odors for up to two months, at which point you should buy a replacement, and they're safe to use on a wide variety of surfaces, including nonstick pans, granite, glass, ceramic, and wood. If the citrusy smell isn't your thing, there are unscented versions as well, and Scrub Daddy offers several different colors, so you can designate certain hues for specific rooms or jobs.
Best Soap-Dispensing: OXO Good Grips Soap Dispensing Dish Brush
A combination product like this one helps keep your sink area looking neater, since you won't have to futz with your dish soap bottle every time you do dishes. OXO makes two different heads for their soap-dispensing handle: This nylon brush, which has bristles that are soft enough to use on nonstick pans, as well as foam sponges, which also come with a scrubber side. (Some customers keep both on hand and swap them depending on what they're washing.)
Just fill the handle from the bottom and press a button to squirt out the perfect amount of soap for the job. Once you're finished, the brush can be propped up in a sink caddy or hung to dry using the hole in the handle.
Best Eco-Friendly: OAKPOPAPERCO Reusable Kitchen Sponge
Handmade in Oakland, California, these eco-friendly sponges come in attractive patterns with designs like narwhals, sushi rolls, and koala bears. Filled with cotton batting, the sponges have flannel on one side (covered in polyester mesh) and terry cloth on the other.
Because they're made from cotton, these sponges are super durable—plus, you can pick the pattern you like best, which adds some fun to your dishwashing duties. They can be machine-washed and hung to air dry using the attached cord.
Best Multi-Use: O-Cedar Multi-Use No Scratch Scrunge
Teflon suggests these sponges (or scrunges, as they're called—that's "scrubber" plus "sponge"), so you know they won't scratch nonstick cookware. The sponges are dual-sided, with cellulose on one half and a scrubber on the other.
The scrubber is perfect for tackling stubborn food bits (think neglected broiler pans or even barbecue grates), but the sponge is also gentle enough to clean your fanciest wine glasses. And those ripples on the scrubber don't just look cool—they also prevent the material from trapping chunks of food, thus reducing lingering odors.
The company recommends dishwashing your scrunge regularly and replacing it every one to two months, which makes it slightly more durable than some of its competitors.
Why Trust the Spruce
Lexi Dwyer has written about soap dispensers, laundry whiteners, and recycle bins for The Spruce. She keeps a chainmail scrubber, Scrub Daddy, and silicone sponge on heavy rotation in her Brooklyn apartment.