Are your dish rags stinking up your kitchen? It’s not just a hard smell to ignore, it’s a dangerous one. Why? Because dish rag odor is a sign of bacteria and the worse the smell, the more there are.
See, after the bacteria feed on food residue and grease clinging to your dish cloth, they breed. And breeding bacteria create an unpleasant stink. Yep, that means exactly what you think: your dish rag smells because of bacteria farts.
Act Fast When Your Dish Rag Smells Bad
All of that breeding bacteria doesn’t just lead to unpleasant odors. It also creates a biofilm. So when you wipe a surface like your dishes or countertop, or even your hands, that bacteria transfers.
Now, you’re looking at not just a stinky rag but E. coli, salmonella or listeria all over the place. Let’s do something about that pronto.
How to Get Rid of Dish Rag Odors
Since bacteria is to blame for your dish rags stinking up the place, it’s important to use cleaning methods that are tough on germs. You know what I’m going to suggest, right? Yep, vinegar!
To eliminate the odor-causing bacteria in your dish rag, boil them in a solution of 1 part vinegar to 2 parts water for 15 minutes. When they’re cool enough to handle, wring them out then immediately immediately launder them in hot water with your usual detergent. Tumble dry for 45 minutes or line-dry them in bright sunlight for added disinfection.
Baking soda alternative
Dissolve 1 cup baking soda in 1 gallon of hot water then add your dish cloths and let them soak for 30 minutes. Then proceed with laundering process. Baking soda weakens the bacterial membrane, and the hot wash and dry finishes them off.
Hydrogen peroxide alternative
Combine equal parts of hydrogen peroxide and warm water in a bowl and soak your dishrags for 30 minutes, then rinse and dry them. Hydrogen peroxide is a natural disinfectant, so it eliminates those smelly bacteria. But since it can lighten some fabrics, it’s best to spot test this method first. first.
Steps to Keep Them From Stinking Again
Okay, you’ve eliminated that stinky, stale smell on your dish rags but the fact that it happened at all is a sign we need to change one or two things. So, let’s look at best practices for laundering and using them, and make sure you aren’t setting yourself up for odors by the types of dish rags your using.
Dish rag fabric impacts
Plush dishcloths are more difficult to rinse, take longer to dry, and trap more food particles. That’s the trifecta for bacterial growth which makes your dish rag smell. So, ditch the heavy duty fabrics for thin, lightweight ones that can air-dry quickly. Think: waffle weave.
Best laundering method
Cold water isn’t going to cut it for getting rid of bacteria in dish rags or kitchen towels, not even if the detergent you’re using is designed for cold water. So, that leaves you to choose from washing them in their own load in hot water or washing them in cold but adding bleach or a laundry disinfectant.
I opt for a hot wash and rinse using the heavy duty setting on my washing machine, then add 1/4 cup of baking soda with them when I fill the machine, and then use vinegar in place of fabric softener. By the time they come out of the dryer, those things are clean, soft, and fresh as can be.
Skip the fabric softener when you’re laundering dish rags, wash cloths and towels. The surfactants in fabric softener can trap bacteria, so they don’t all get washed away.
Bacteria grow and breed best in a warm, damp environment. So to keep your dish rag safe, be diligent about rinsing with soapy water after every use then wring it out until it’s almost dry. Don’t drape it over the sink divider or, worse yet, leave it in a ball in the sink. Instead, hang it on a hook or over the faucet—somewhere with good air circulation to speed up drying.
Even with repeated rinsing and wringing, good kitchen hygiene involves switching to a fresh dish rag daily, and even sooner if you’ve been cleaning very greasy pots and pans. It may add to the laundry pile, but it will pay off by avoiding a smelly dish cloth stinking up your home.