How to Grow and Make Your Own Loofah Sponge
The loofah sponge (also called luffa or loofa) is related to squash and watermelon, which are both trailing vines. People use the fruit’s fibrous interior for exfoliating the skin in a shower or bath. Rather than spend a bunch of money on a loofah sponge from the store, why not grow one, make it yourself and save money?
The loofah plant has a long growing season. It needs full sunlight and is best suited for hardiness zone 7 or higher, so you will need to know your hardiness zone before choosing try planting them. If you live north of Kentucky, you may not have the success you would like.
You can increase the plants’ growing cycle for northern states by starting them indoors at least a month before the last expected frost. You can germinate the seeds by placing them between two damp and warm paper towels.
When you are ready to plant them in the ground, plant them 8 to 12 inches apart. You can also create hills, 4 to 6 feet apart, in which you have planted four seeds 1/2-inch deep. If possible, plant the loofah near a trellis or fence to give the vines a place to grow. Once the plants have come up, thin them out to only one plant per hill. The best time to thin them out is when they have grown an inch or two.
Adding nutrients to the soil is also important for loofah plants. After adding compost, you will also want to mulch around the plants to help keep the soil moist and warm. Train the vines along the trellis or fence. Wrap the end around the trellis to get them to grow there.
Pay attention to the plant. When the plant first flowers, pluck the first flowers and cut the first four lateral branches back. This will allow the better fruits to grow.
At the end of the growing season, remove the gourds from the vine. Leave them on the vine as long as you can to ensure they are ripe. The skin should begin to turn brown, they will weigh less than when they were unripe and the skin may have opened slightly. If the weather turns cold and it frosts, you will want to harvest the gourds whether they are ripe or not.
If the skin of the loofah has not begun to open on its own, you may want to slam the gourd on the ground. Roll it back and forth to loosen the skin, or puncture it with a knife so you can remove the fruit from the skin. Allow the seeds to dry out completely and then freeze them so they are ready to plant next year.
To make the loofah sponge, spray off the loofah to remove any remaining seeds and wash away the sap. Then place the loofah in a bucket of bleach water – one cup of bleach for the entire bucket – and soak it to remove all black spots. This may take a while. Then remove the loofah and rinse it well; allow it to air dry in the sun. Be sure to turn the loofah occasionally as it dries.
You have several options at this point. You can leave the loofah in its original shape, cut it to a shape you like, or cut it into slices and place them in homemade soap. You can place a string through the fibers of the loofah so it is easy to hang and dry between uses.