To be frank, there isn't much beyond the usual you would expect a sponge to do. Soak up water from a bucket, be soft and frame friendly, and remove the worst of the grit and grime off your bike. Technically the Green Oil EcoSponge does all of these, but not quite as well as you might hope.
The EcoSponge is claimed to be the world's first Fairtrade bike product, made in the Philippines. It uses a plant-base inner, from indigenous plants. The outer is recycled cotton, mainly from reclaimed cotton rice sacks, and it's all biodegradable, making it compostable at the end of its life.
Size-wise, the sponge isn't ideal. Personally, when it comes to cleaning a muddy cyclo-cross bike I'm not hanging around. Having to wash bikes almost daily through the winter means you want the job done well, but quickly. That tends to require a large sponge which can soak up plenty of water and can be manhandled into all the tricky-to-get places of a bike. With the EcoSponge it seemed too small to use hurriedly, and I found myself catching knuckles on sharp chainrings or dropping it entirely. Usually with a larger sponge you at least have some protection from this.
The natural plant fibres do soak up water, making them soft and pliable, but just not enough. The sponge was still too rigid to really work efficiently and the low water absorption meant plenty of trips back to the bucket. Equally, the lack of absorption was an issue when drying the bike with a dry and clean EcoSponge. Having said that, the sponge did foam well when used in conjunction with the Green Oil Green Clean spray I've also been testing.
The outer layer of recycled cotton is certainly a nice addition to the previous model which was simply the plant fibres (see the review here). It is soft so you don't have to worry about scratching any precious carbon as before. It does bring up another issue, though, with the fibres bunching and twisting inside the cotton.
Naturally, cleaning a dirty bike does discolour the sponge quickly, especially the white cotton outer, so the fact that it is machine washable is a big plus, lengthening the life of your sponge.
At £3.99 it's not wildly expensive, although still more expensive than a car washing sponge from Halfords. But then that isn't Fairtrade or biodegradable, so I guess it comes down to a conscious decision. It does do the job required, just maybe not as well as it could.
A clever, environmentally friendly idea, but it doesn't really do the job as well as cheaper and bigger alternatives
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Green Oil EcoSponge
Size tested: N/A
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The EcoSponge is for bike cleaning, from muddy mountain bikes to oily roadies.
It's a clever idea, but just didn't live up to the mark set by cheaper and larger products.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The EcoSponge is a Fairtrade product made in the Philippines. It consists of a plant based inner covered with a soft cotton outer made from reused cotton rice sacks. The sponge is machine washable, which helps to prolong its life, and at the end of it is fully biodegradable so can even go on your compost heap.
It is a well made product with neatly sewn outer cotton layer.
The sponge does do the job, but just seems to require more effort than it should. It doesn't absorb as much water as I wanted, it's not big enough to vigorously whip around the bike without catching your knuckles, and it's slightly too stiff to get into all the really awkward places. The outer is soft so won't damage any paint or carbon.
Lasts well! I was expecting the cotton to tear when catching on chainrings etc, but seemed to survive well. Making it machine washable certainly prolonged its lifetime too.
It's more expensive than most other large sponges and doesn't do the job as well. The fact that it is Fairtrade and safe for the environment is excellent, but if the product doesn't work well then I'm not sure who would choose to use it.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The EcoSponge does work but not nearly as well as you would hope.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fact that it is environmentally friendly, Fairtrade and biodegradable at the end of its life.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Too small to work efficiently and doesn't absorb enough water for my liking.
Did you enjoy using the product? As much as you can enjoy cleaning your bike!
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Unfortunately not.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale CAADX My best bike is: Scott CR1 Pro
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives