Despite the industry's best intentions, oil spills continue to happen, and existing cleanup methods are surprisingly inadequate. Using common polyurethane foam — the kind often found in furniture cushions — the team behind Oleo Sponge developed a method called sequential infiltration synthesis to insert metal oxides within polymeric materials. The team managed to adapt the method to grow a thin layer of metal oxide “primer” close to the foam’s surface where it could bind molecules and thus capture oil. To work, the Oleo Sponge is submerged in the water and then wrung out. The oil residue wrung from the Oleo Sponge is then collected in containers for the purpose of either reuse or safe disposal. Once the oil is wrung from the sponge, the sponge can be used again and again.