Make a Sponge on Stick (Spongia)

Do you have a grimy vase, bottle, demijohn, a bottomless jug ? May be a dusty, awkward to reach place behind the radiator or the refrigerator that has so far eluded you? A bottle brush just won’t reach? The vacuum cleaner attachments are too large? No problem. Mrs Everybody will show you how to make your own bespoke ‘sponge on a stick’ cleaning tool.

A dry sponge-on-a-stick can be used to pick up dust, hair and fluff. A wet sponge-on-a-stick will clean and rinse. A damp sponge-on-a-stick will absorb excess moisture.

Why Did Mrs Everybody Need a Sponge on a Stick?

She was cleaning her 25 liter demijohn and her normal bottle brush couldn’t reach more than 1/3 of the way into the huge glass vessel. The supplier of this very impressive demijohn had suggested that the glass vessel be cleaned with a special  ‘mop’ drill attachment, but Mrs Everybody baulked at the concept!

Mrs Everybody selected a suitable sponge and found some kitchen string, and Mr Everybody suggested where the most suitable stick was to be found. Teamwork!

Materials

A sponge (Wet)
A stick
Chord for binding

How to Select the Sponge

I choose a 2.5 inch Silk Fina Sponge for my mammoth task. The Silk Fina Sponge does feel like silk, it has very small pores, it is very absorbent and durable.

Tiny Silk Fina Sponges

Tiny Silk Fina Sponges, Close Up

The sponge needs to be small enough to reach normally inaccessible places, but remember that when they are wet, sponges are very flexible. So a wet 2 inch wide Silk Fina Sponge will easily squeeze into a 1 inch gap and I am sure that a 5 inches Silk Fina when wet could just about navigate a 3 inch gap.

Choose the largest sponge that you can for the task in hand – you can easily cut or trim the Silk Fina sponge if it is a tad too large. The texture and strength is more or less the same throughout the entire body of this sponge species, so even following trimming, performance is never limited with this type.

For other larger scale tasks, such cleaning inaccessible windows, walls, etc the Honeycomb Sponge is also very durable. We have Silk Fina Sponges measuring up to 7.5 inches and Honeycombs measuring up to 6.5 inches. The Sea Grass Sponge is another option but they are not as durable as the Silk Fina and the Honeycomb Sponges. You will find a table outlining the differences between the sponge types on the shop page (scroll down for the table)

How to Select the Stick

Mr Everybody’s grand contribution was to use a bendy wooden pole which had been waiting in the corner of the shed since I have lived here. I am not sure of the original use. But never mind, it was a thin, strong and flexible narrow diameter rod. It gave my sponge maximum reach and allowed the sponge to clean the lower 2/3rd of the vessel without damaging the glass. My normal array of bottle brushes cleaned the upper third.

Other stick ideas might include a freshly harvested reed, wet willow, a green twig or branch, a pipe cleaner, a drain snake (this is a rod made of wound metal, normally used for clearing drains, it is very flexible and under medium pressure can hold its form). It depends a lot on the scale of your task!

How to Select the Chord for Binding

I have only experimented with a few chords. Fully natural of course! I have found my normal flax string very difficult to draw through at the end of the operation. The rough fibers tend to stick to each other. I also tried a waxed bow makers linen. Again, I found that the wax made the thread sticky so you need strength to finish the whipping, but it does give a firm knot and a tidy finish. In the end I opted for a kitchen string made of soft cotton. It seemed more flexible and easier to work with.

How to Wet a Sea Sponge

Put some water in a bowl and immerse the sponge. Squeeze the sponge, very gently at first. Continue squeezing until the sponge feels flexible. This little massage will pump water into the sponge and the fibers will soften. Squeeze any excess moisture out of the sponge.

This is how you make the sponge on the stick.

Assemble your materials, the wet Silk Fina Sponge, the stick and the chord.

Follow the steps in the diagrams.

How to bind a sponge on a stick in 4 steps

How to bind a sponge on a stick in 4 steps. In the photographs below showing the common whipping  technique, I used a bamboo knitting needle for my miniature stick. This little stick was suitable for cleaning the relatively straight sided tiny amphora in the final photograph.

Step 1 – Upper Left
Make a loop on the face of the sponge, with the short end of the string. Wind the longer end of chord around the back of the sponge and stick, over the loop. Make sure that the lower third of the sponge is well encapsulated with the chord.

Step 2 Upper Right
Keep winding in the same direction, keeping the wound chord closely spaced. Adjust as you go if necessary. Wind at a medium tension. If the binding is too tight, the finishing, as shown in Step 4 will be extremely difficult!

Step 3 Lower Left
Make sure that the binding is well adjusted so that there are no gaps between the chord. Pass the long end of the string through the head of the loop, which will now be laying along the handle. The end of the handle should be completely covered with the sponge and the chord.

Step 4 Lower Right

Now the binding is going to be finished.

If you would like a temporary easy to undo ‘sponge on a stick’ then there is no need to trim the string. Pull both loose ends of string evenly, so that the loop is drawn under the winding, half way along, but underneath. The temporary sponge on a stick is now ready for use. Leave some of the loose ends exposed, so you can easily undo the whipping.

If you would like to create a permanent and reusable sponge on a stick, you might want to trim the loose ends of string to hide the ends, before you draw the loop into the middle of the winding, or trim and adjust the loose ends of string right at the very end. You can even stitch them into the whipping if you like.

It only takes about 1 minute to create a bespoke sponge on a stick. You can easily take this tool apart again and reuse the stick, string or sponge for a multitude of purposes.

I will reuse this tiny but mighty sponge for other experiments as it is a real performer!

Well done!  You have created a very useful bushcraft style tool. Please remember to pass on your new skills onto your friends and family!

Buy Unbleached Sea Sponges here

P.S. I am bound to get some enquiries from the parents of school children and museum education officers who would like to set ‘Make a Sponge on a Stick’ as an educational project. Thank you, Romans and Horrible Histories! Yes, we can give you the specifications and we do have a small stock of suitable sponges. Please call to discuss!

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