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Cleaning a clogged sponge filter


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Any tips on how best to clean a sponge filter that has gotten very clogged? I have a heavily overstocked tank with mystery snails and guppies; although it's overstocked, plants, plenty of water changes, and multiple filters have kept everyone happy and healthy. I am currently using a HOB as well as a sponge filter, but both the sponge filter and the intake sponge are so bogged down with gunk that simply squeezing them out isn't cleaning them. I've tried rinsing under running water,, the washing machine, washing machine with vinegar, washing machine with soap, and nothing has really helped. The gunk is really embedded in there.

Now yes, I could lower the stocking level to prevent this happening again. But the current question is whether I can save these sponges, or if I have to buy new ones. I don't mind buying them again, but I strongly prefer to reuse in order to reduce waste (if possible.) Thanks for any tips.

PS Yes these are Co-op filters and pre-filters, but I do not fault the product for getting clogged. It's due to the crazy stocking level in my tank and all those poopy snails!

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