The care and keeping of dishcloths

It seems to me that there are two sorts of housekeepers in this world: those who use dishcloths, and those who use sponges.

I was raised the dishcloth way. I like them because they're almost infinitely reusable; because you can feel grime through them when you scrub; because you can wash them in the washing machine; because they dry out quickly.

I have read/heard of lots of people complaining that their dishcloths smell bad. I've been there too, and it still happens to me when I'm not vigilant. It is important to keep dishcloths odor-free, because smell is a sign of bacteria. Here are several things I do to ward off the smell.

1. If you do anything particularly dirty or nasty with your dishcloth, change it to prevent spread of bacteria. I change mine every time it has any sort of contact with raw meat.

2. Keep your dishcloth well wrung so it can dry between uses. Bacteria like wetness.

3. Change your dishcloth every day. I let mine dry overnight. In the morning, I get a new one out and put the old one in the laundry basket under the kitchen sink. Theoretically.

4. Don't let wet dishcloths languish in your laundry basket. They will smell and mildew and I don't want to think about what else. Hang them up to dry first.

5. Wash in hot water with bleach. I know cold water is popular for saving money, and I know bleach is unpopular with the new green cleaning movement, but really, how else are you going to kill germs and keep odors at bay? I do my kitchen laundry on the heaviest cycle with the hottest water with plenty of soap and bleach. A cup of vinegar in your washing water is not going to kill those germs.

6. Choose dishcloths carefully, and have plenty on hand. I like them to be 100% cotton and very absorbent. They need to be able to stand up to heavy laundering (nothing makes me laugh more than a dishcloth with a tag that instructs you to wash it in cold water only). They should be substantial enough to stand up to a good scrubbing, but thin enough to dry quickly. My favorite dishcloths are those cheap, big packs of washcloths that you can pick up at Target, and probably elsewhere too. The material is thin enough to dry quickly, but the terry cloth gives great scrubbing power.

Are you a sponge person or a dishcloth person? What do you do to keep them clean?


  1. I'm spoiled, and between myself and my mom making them, I only use handknitted dishcloths. I love them because the knit texture scrubs well, and they dry quickly. And my mommy makes them for me, lol.

    I agree completely with you about hot water and bleach for dishcloths and towels. I just can't do it any other way. And hottest water and plenty of soap for the sheets and bathroom towels.

    I change my dishcloth every day too, except for days that I've scalded it with boiling water the evening before. I figure that gets another use from it.

  2. Great post! I prefer dishcloths myself...and I use homemade ones knitted from 100 % cotton yarn. They last forever! (well, almost!)Thanks for sharing these helpful hints.

    Sweet blessings,

  3. I have a dual personality. I like sponges and rags for different tasks. I use sponges for washing dishes and occasionally wiping countertops. I use a dishcloth for cleaning other messes in the kitchen - stovetop, cleaning up after preparation of meat, etc.

    I keep my sponge clean per a study by the USDA (http://ddr.nal.usda.gov/bitstream/10113/23351/1/IND44126362.pdf) which showed that microwaving a sponge for one to two minutes gets rid of 99.9% of bacteria present on the sponge.

  4. I am a dishcloth gal myself, for all those reasons you listed. I do however was my dishclothes with oxiclean in hot water instead of bleach and I don't have a problem with mildew. Also, if you line dry them in the sun that will kill bacteria as well.

  5. I am most definitely a dishcloth sort of gal. Occasionally I'll pick up some sponges, but I always worry about how much junk they're carrying around with them.
    Like you, I try to wring my dishcloths out and lay them over the sink to dry out. I've also found that hot water and bleach are the best solutions to keep them odor-free.

  6. I'm an odor free dishcloth person myself. I don't like the bacteria that builds up in sponges and cotton rags. I use Scrubr, http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss_2?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=scrubr&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Ascrubr