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I'd guess that sponges are less reactive with strong acids.

You also mention waste and recycling. Paper towels are often used once, then thrown in a garbage can that is typically outside of a fume hood. It would be a good way to noxious chemicals released into lab, as well as potentially bringing incompatible chemicals together.

Sponges can be rinsed, and thus would be less likely to bring incompatible chemicals together in a waste can. Will create less waste, and won't sit around releasing fumes into the room.

Finally, it will be safer for the janitors and everyone else involved in the waste stream.

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Q: Why are sponges used instead of paper towels in a lab?
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