Mold On Loofah: Safe To Use Or Throw Them Out?

Stepping into a nice warm bath or shower can either be the relaxing morning routine to start your day off or the perfect wind down after a hard day’s work.

So what are you to do when you pick up your loofah to cleanse yourself, only to find it has patches of what looks like mold growing in it?

Can you still use the loofah, why has mold grown in it, is it dangerous and how can you stop this from happening again? In this article, we will be answering all these questions and more, so, for all you need to know about mold growth on loofahs, keep reading.

Why does mold grow on loofahs?

Mold grows on and in loofahs because the environment is often ideal for fungal growth and development. Despite mold being a complex organism, its needs are fairly basic, and as long as there are nutrients, a source of moisture, and a little oxygen, the fungi will thrive.

Bathing creates steam and warm temperatures giving mold the humidity levels it needs (anything greater than 55%), and the warm temperatures (between 60-80 degrees Fahrenheit) that allow it to grow at its most rapid rate.

When a loofah sponge is used, it brushes against the skin removing small amounts of dead cells, while this may sound a little grim, this is exactly what mold and mildew use as a source of nutrients, as the skin cells provide minerals and protein that it breaks down and absorbs.

Whenever the loofah is not being used, dust can collect on it, dust is made up primarily of dead skin cells once again, but also other organic materials. This provides more nutrients for mold to feed off, so nutrition is not in short supply.

What kind grows

There are several strains of fungi that are more commonly seen growing in bathrooms, and therefore the most likely to be growing on a loofah. These are:

  • Alternaria
  • Aspergillus
  • Penicillium
  • Cladosporium
  • Stachybotrys chartarum

Several of these strains grow in dark colors with velvet-like textures and only have a few small differences that may be hard to spot with the naked eye. This makes correctly identifying them very difficult.

The good news is that it doesn’t really matter which strain you have growing, for reasons we will explain a little later, as soon as you spot mold in your loofah, it needs to be thrown out and the underlying cause dealt with.

There are several colors that you may spot growing in a loofah sponge, and I’ll detail each of them with the most likely strain they could be.

Black mold

True black mold (Stachybotrys chartarum) is one of the most commonly seen strains growing in bathrooms. It appears in small spots, with very dark to black coloration developing into larger clusters of growth with a slimy or shiny texture when wet.

White mold

Many strains initially appear with white coloration and develop into browns, greens, oranges, and many other shades. If this change in color does not occur and it remains white, the most likely strains you are dealing with are penicillium, Aspergillus, or Cladosporium. These strains have the potential to change colors due to environmental factors but are often seen with white coloration.

Brown mold

Cladosporium is the most likely cause of brown mold in a loofah, as it appears with a velvety or powdery texture (although this may be harder to spot when wet).

There are also many other strains that appear in shades of brown, making them trickier to identify.

Are they dangerous?

It should be clear now that identifying the strain you are dealing with without proper testing is extremely difficult, but the good news is that it really doesn’t matter. No molds should be considered safe, and so need to be disposed of.

Certain strains that have the ability to produce mycotoxins are understandably considered toxic to humans and animals, and indeed, they can cause serious health complications if the spores are ingested or if a person has severe allergies or a suppressed immune system.

However, a strain does not have to be toxic in order for it to be harmful, as a person with allergies or a suppressed immune system can see just as many symptoms from a non-toxic strain as a toxic one.

The main symptoms of exposure to mold and its spores are as follows:

  • Breathing difficulties
  • Coughing
  • Skin irritation
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Watery eyes

It is not to say that you will suffer from all these symptoms, but a few may present themselves after using a loofah that had mold growing in it, even in otherwise healthy individuals.

How do you get mold out of a loofah?

It is possible to remove mold from a loofah, but this can be difficult, as all traces should be killed and removed before use. In many cases, it may well be easier to simply throw the infested loofah out and purchase another.

However, if you are very attached to your loofah and want to try and save it, here are a few methods you can try.

Before attempting to clean mold or mildew from anything, you should wear protective equipment to prevent coming into contact with its spores or the mold itself.

Recommended equipment includes:

  • Eye goggles
  • Breathing mask
  • Rubber gloves

Even if you have no allergies, wearing this equipment is heavily recommended.


Vinegar has a pH of between 2-3 making it acidic, and it is this acidity level that can break down and kill mold and other fungi.

To use vinegar to effectively kill mold on a loofah, use the following steps.

Step 1. Place the loofah in a plastic bowl or sink.

Step 2. Pour one cup of undiluted, distilled white vinegar over the loofah and work the vinegar into the material, then leave to sit for between 20 minutes to half an hour.

Step 3. Place the loofah under a running tap and work the vinegar out of the fabric with your fingers.

Step 4. Leave it to air dry, preferably in direct sunlight. The UV rays emitted by the sun will help to kill off any remaining fungi, and the smell of vinegar will dissipate after a few hours.


Loofahs made from synthetic materials can be microwaved safely as long as they have no metal parts. A microwave is an excellent method of killing not only mold and mildew but also any bacteria that may have developed.

To use a microwave to cleanse a loofah of mold and bacteria, use the following steps.

Step 1. Place your loofah under a running tap to ensure it is completely saturated with water.

Step 2. Place it into a microwaveable container and set the microwave for 2 minutes on medium heat.

Step 3. Remove the container with the loofah from the microwave and allow it to completely cool before attempting to remove it.

Step 4. Remove the loofah from the container and allow it to fully air-dry before placing it back in your bathroom.

Washing machine

Natural sponge loofahs can be machine washed, but ensure you use only regular detergent and a mild cycle. Synthetic loofahs (also called shower puffs), should be hand washed in vinegar rather than machine washed, as it can damage the delicate fibers.

Can you use bleach?

You can certainly use bleach to clean a loofah, and in most cases, bacteria will be killed by the powerful chemicals. However, bleach is not 100% effective at killing fungi, and may only serve to lighten the color of it, without actually killing it. It is for this reason that we would not suggest bleach as the best option for removing mold from a loofah sponge.

How to prevent mold growth on loofahs

Knowing how to kill and remove mold and mildew on a loofah is one thing, but being able to prevent its growth in the first place is certainly preferable.

So, in order to prevent a loofah from growing moldy, use the following methods:

Rinse after using

Whilst using your loofah sponge, skin cells and soap residue collect within the fibers, these act as the nutrition for fungi, and so need to be removed entirely before being put to the side.

After each use, ensure the sponge is rinsed thoroughly with clean water. Whilst rinsing, gently rub the fibers to help remove any residue.

Clean regularly

In addition to rinsing after each use, a deep clean should be completed at least once per week. This can be either in a washing machine (for natural loofahs) or in a vinegar wash for synthetic versions.

Ensure it is totally dry

The number one mistake people make when storing a loofah is that after use it is often left on the side of the bathtub or on a shelf next to the shower in a pool of water.

As we have explained, fungi need moisture, and so if you take this away, it simply cannot survive and replicate. So, after each use, shake the loofah to remove as much water as possible, and preferably hang it rather than placing it on a shelf so that any water droplets can fall into the bathtub or shower enclosure rather than create a pool.


Loofahs (or shower puffs), can be a breeding ground for bacteria and fungal growth if left in the right conditions. High moisture levels as well as residue leftover from cleaning are the main causes of mold growth. These issues can be rectified with vinegar washes for synthetic materials or machine washing for natural versions. Keeping the loofah clean and dry is the best way to prevent mold growth in the first place.

Chris Walker

Chris Walker has struggled for several years with mold after buying his own property. After finding the solutions to several issues around his home, he decided to create this site in order to answer as many questions about mold and mildew as possible to help others dealing with the same problems.

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