Tuesday, September 10, 2013

The Science of the Loofah!

No, this post is not going to be about bathing-well yes it is. But not in the way you might be thinking. What I love about science is this-you can find it everywhere!  How many of you out there have bought a loofah before? I have to admit I have several and love using them! But do you know where the inspiration for our plastic loofah’s come from? 

That is right. The idea behind those plastic loofahs that cost you 2$ originally came from a plant. My friend Anne called me the other day to tell me about her latest adventure–growing loofahs. Hmm-growing loofahs! And the questions began: where do they come from and how did they fit into the whole bath experience. 
Let me just say thanks to  my guest blogger Anne for inspiring this post and sharing how she grew loofahs this summer!

In Search of the Loofah!
I turned to the Internet to answer some of my most basic questions about bathing and the loofah. Here is what I learned:

Why were People so Against Bathing?
Thanks to the Black Plaque in the 14th century, people did not bath much. According to doctors, the warm water opened up your pores and allowed diseases to enter. This trend continued until the 19th century when doctors felt that keeping the pores open was a better solution.

When did Bathing Really Start?
In the late 1800’s thanks to a little book called “Baths and How to Take Them.” You can see a copy of it here. Thankfully the book told everyone how long to stay in the water, what temperature the water should be, and of course when you should not get in the water!
 Because most American’s did not have indoor plumbing, the bucket and sponge substituted for the modern day bathroom! Enter the Loofah! It was a great tool to use.

What is the Luffa or Loofah? 
The Luffa belongs to the same family as squashes and cucumbers. Scientifically, they are from the genus Luffa. They have large yellow flowers, a vining growth habit, and fruit that roughly resembles a zucchini or cucumber.

Here is how my friend Anne, from Pungo Couture, grew hers this summer:

These things love to climb! I simply planted them near my kids swing set and wham! They took off!

To plant your very own loofah's, this is all you need to do:

  1. Sow seeds between two wet paper towels on a plate - keep in the sun and keep plate wet for about a week until the seeds sprout

Plant in soil close to the base of your swing set or fence when school gets out
Enjoy the pretty yellow flowers all summer long!  Full sun makes loofah very happy
When school starts, you can begin to harvest your loofahs

How do you harvest your Loofah?

  1.  Get mom to buy a Dollar Store or inexpensive serrated bread knife
  2. Slice vertically to open the skin
  3. Take your thumbs and push the loofah skin off
  4. Wash all the loofah plant goo in a bucket of water
  5. Dry outside for a week or more in a sunny spot turning to make sure all moisture is gone
  6. Slice with the serrated knife into sections

    So what can you use them for? Well you can use them to clean pots and pans; or exfoliate in the shower! Other cultures use the loofah to make soups. Check out this recipe here
Making Loofah Soap!
This is an easy project you can do with your kids once you have grown your loofah!

Here are the materials you need:
Wax Paper
Tart Tin
Ready-Melt-Soap (click here to purchase some or here)
Double Boiler or Microwave

  1. Cut a half slice of loofah using a bread knife.
  2. Place slice in the tart tin with cups lined with wax paper.
  3. Melt ready-melt-sop in the top of double boiler or in the microwave.
  4. Pour enough soap into tart tin until the slice is covered.
  5. Wait for soap to completely harden before popping out of tin
Finished Product!
 Who needs to purchase these things from a store when you can turn to science! What other things do you do that connects to science? Go Science!


  1. Hey Charity-I can get you some seeds and you can plant them next summer in time for the fall!

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. Happy to share seeds, call me Annie Loofaseed! (get it - Johnny Appleseed? ok ok lol!)


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