June 16, 2023

What the heck are those smiley face sponges I keep seeing on TikTok?

Reading Time: 5 mins

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If you’ve been on TikTok or YouTube for any length of time and stumbled into the world of cleaning videos, you will have seen these sponges in pretty much every video.

They are in the shape of a smiley face and come in several colors and styles. You’ll see them used to clean sinks, bathroom sinks, showers, ovens, and dishwashers.

This smiley sponge is called the “Scrub Daddy”.

The Original Scrub Daddy with its iconic smiley face and yellow color The Original Scrub Daddy with its iconic smiley face and yellow color

Buying a Scrub Daddy Of My Own

After seeing these sponges everywhere on my YouTube & TikTok feed, I finally caved the other day and bought one (you win consumerism!). I’ll admit I also bought the “Daddy Caddy” the little suction holder to stick it to the side of my sink. Though that name does make me a little queasy I’ll be honest.

So far I’ve used it to clean my oven door (inside and outside), my sink, and a few pots and pans that aren’t dishwasher safe. Speaking of the dishwasher did you know you can put the Scrub Daddy in the dishwasher to clean it?! I learned that this week 😅

Anyway, after actually using the product and seeing its many use cases, how it’s marketed, and the range of accompanying products on offer, I wanted to go down the rabbit hole on the Scrub Daddy to see what I could learn.

Learning About The Scrub Daddy’s Creation

The Scrub Daddy is a sponge in the shape of a smiley face. It’s made of a special material (a polymer; don’t ask me what that is) that allows it to be firm in cold water and soft in warm water.

This property allows the sponge to be a versatile cleaning product, cleaning lawn furniture or dishes without leaving scratches.

The Scrub Daddy was created by Aaron Krause and its original purpose was for detailing cars.

The manufacturing company 3M which bought much of Aaron’s detailing products had no interest in the sponges. In fact, they sat in a box marked “scrap” for 3 years before he repurposed them for cleaning dishes.

Aaron cut two holes in the sponges to allow for a better grip and the idea of a smiley face emerged; the iconic image of the Scrub Daddy.

In 2012, Aaron decided to go on Shark Tank to pitch the Scrub Daddy. Lori Greiner offered $200,000 for 20% equity in Scrub Daddy and her offer was accepted. To this day it’s earned the highest revenue of any product successfully pitched on the show.

What’s Interesting About The Scrub Daddy And Why It Works

I have to admit it, the Scrub Daddy is a pretty nifty little sponge.

From a usability perspective, I can see why this sponge is so popular.

From an aesthetic perspective, I can see why this product has become so popular on social media apps like TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram in the cleaning niche.

Sure other companies are jumping on the bandwagon of versatile sponges like the Scrub Daddy but they’re not quite the same.

I previously bought its closest competitor the Scrub Mate by Elbow Grease. It features a simple rectangular shape and is lacking in any type of smiley face (likely due to the Scrub Daddy patent).

The sponge functions the same way but it’s lacking in that spark of joy that makes it something more than just a boring sponge. Yes, I realize I’m talking about a sponge here but there’s always something delightful about well-designed products that I really appreciate.

Scrub Daddy competitor - The Scrub Mate from Elbow Grease Scrub Daddy competitor - The Scrub Mate from Elbow Grease

As I re-read this I realize this is more like a promotional piece for the Scrub Daddy than anything else. However, I still think it was worthwhile doing a deep dive on the subject.

I learned about the struggles and serendipity that come with creating something. About taking a chance on an idea you have without fearing failure.

I also had a chance to think about the marketing and branding decisions that made this product so popular which was pretty interesting.

In all honesty, the Scrub Daddy is just a sponge, but a sponge with the power to make millions each year with no signs of slowing is definitely something worth learning about.