Tarpon Springs at the Sponge Docks

Tarpon Springs, located on the west coast of Florida just 40 miles South of Tampa, is a modest Greek town that is home to the Sponge Docks. In fact, Tarpon Springs has the highest percentage of Greek Americans of any city in the United States. The first Greek immigrants arrived in the city during the 1880s, when they were hired to work as divers in the growing sponge harvesting industry. Today, only a small amount of sponges are produced from Tarpon Springs compared to the 1930’s when the town was generating millions of dollars a year.

Spotless Greek bakeries with gorgeous pasties on display dot the windy main street. Dingy boats with worn out nets line the dock.

Sidewalks are crowded with tourists peeking in and out of shops and locals eat their lunch on a nearby bench. Sponges of every shape and size are on display in large wooden crates or plastic baskets along the path.

Greek shop owners sell olive oil beauty products and goat milk soaps in every color and fragrance. An olive toned Greek woman grabs my hand and slaps olive oil lotion on the back of my hand at the register.

There are plenty of seafood and authentic Greek restaurants in and around the main street. I ate the best gyro I’ve ever had in Tarpon Springs.

But let’s talk about these sea sponges and explore it uses:

  • Art
  • Cosmetics
  • Bathing
  • Use as a Vase (think succulents)
  • Decoration
  • As a Car Wash Sponge
  • Tampons that can be used every 6 months (yes, really!)
  • Cleaning
  • Keeping moister out of the refrigerator

Sea sponges are actually extremely durable and can be refreshed every 6 months to a year by soaking them in a baking soda solution (2 Tbsp. baking soda to about 16 oz. water) or a Hydrogen Peroxide solution ( 1 part hydrogen peroxide to about 20 part of water) for 2 hours.

The reusability of the sea sponges makes it an environmentally responsible household item.

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