In this week’s Reader Questions, Lynne wants to know how to keep your dish rags from smelling so… funky. Although she’s fastidious about rinsing them after use, and hanging them over the divider in the middle of her sink, they still reek by the end of the day. So do her cleaning cloths. As far as laundering them, well, she’s got a bit of an added problem there.
Since finding your blog, I have become a better housekeeper in the sense that I have gone from doing nothing to at least doing something each day. Laundry isn’t one of those things, though. We don’t own our own washer and dryer, so things pile up all week (sometimes up to two weeks) before one of us has time to get to the laundromat.
Article continues below
Have you bought my cookbook? Autumn: A Season of Easy Cooking features 3 MONTHS of weekly dinner menus, 3 MONTHS of grocery lists, 3 MONTHS of cooking plans. You'll save money by reducing food waste, eat seasonally, and spend LESS THAN 20 MINUTES COOKING DINNER each night! Get it from Amazon here!
That’s the basis of my problem: how do you keep your dish rags from smelling NASTY by laundry day? Sometimes no amount of washing gets rid of that horrible smell and I never feel like they’re actually getting anything clean. How do I fix this?
Love your tips!
I think we’ve all been there with smelly cleaning rags, dish cloths, and even towels we’ve left sitting in a wet pile. Unfortunately, as you’ve discovered, once that stink gets in there it’s hard to get out. Here are some simple steps you can take to keep your dish rags from smelling (and your cleaning cloths, too), along with two methods to freshen them again.
How To Keep Your Dish Rags From Smelling
- Change dish rags at least once a day.
- Opt for thinner, lightweight dish rags — ideally microfiber cloths with a waffle weave like these (Amazon) — so they air-dry faster.
- Rinse them in hot, soapy water immediately after use. Wring dry, and hang so air can circulate on both sides. The edge of the sink isn’t good for this, but the door of the oven might be.
How To Launder Dish Rags
I don’t recommend washing microfiber cloths used solely for dusting in vinegar, but if you’re getting your cloths wet, they need extra care. This method works fine on both microfiber and standard cotton dish rags and cleaning cloths, but if your washer/dryer doesn’t have adjustable times for washing cycles (and the laundromat’s probably doesn’t) you’ll want to use the boiling method instead.
- Do a load with only your cleaning or dish cloths.
- Set both the wash and rinse cycle for the hottest possible water temperature.
- Set the cycle for the longest possible washing time. On my machine, that’s “Heavy Duty”, but check your washer’s instructions.
- Use your regular laundry detergent, and add 1 cup of white vinegar.
- IMMEDIATELY transfer them to the dryer when the wash cycle ends!
- Skip using the moisture sensor, and dry them on HIGH heat for 45 minutes to knock out the smell.
How To Boil The Smell Out Of Dish Rags
- Fill a large pot halfway with water and set it over HIGH heat on the stove. Bring to a boil.
- Add 1/2 cup white vinegar to the water.
- Add your dirty dish rags and/or cleaning cloths to the water.
- Boil for 15 minutes to kill odors and bacteria, mold and mildew.
- Allow to cool completely, then wring each rag well and hang on a clothes line or coat hanger to dry.
If your schedule is too busy to do these methods regularly, there’s still one more trick that can help keep your rags from getting smelly between washing days: stash them in a plastic bag in the freezer where they can’t develop that mildewed smell. Just be sure to label the bag clearly so no one goes poking around hoping to find something good to eat!
I recommend these: