How to keep dish rags from smelling is today’s reader question, this time from Lynne, who is fed up with dish rag odor making her kitchen smell bad. As far as laundering them, she’s got a bit of an added problem there.
How To Get Rid of Dish Rag Odors
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 a 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.
That’s the basis of my problem: how do you keep 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 getting anything clean. How do I fix this?
Love your tips!
I think we’ve all been there with smelly dish rags, washcloths, 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.
How to Keep Dish Rags from Stinking
Here are some simple steps you can take to keep dish rags from smelling — and this works on cleaning cloths, too.
Why Dish Rags Smell Bad
That sour smell isn’t just unpleasant — it’s the aroma of bacteria breeding. Between food particles, grease, stuff rubbed off of your hands while using it, and moisture, there’s plenty of food to help bacteria grow.
To make matters even more disgusting, that bacteria will get transferred to any surface you wipe with a smelly dishrag: your counters, sink, appliances, even your hands. From there, it’s a short step to food contamination.
So, yep, you need to do something about it.
Daily Steps to Control Dish Rag Odors
Thicker dishrags hold onto more residue and take longer to dry. So, opt for thin, lightweight dish rags like these microfiber cloths with a waffle weave which air-dries much faster than standard cloth rags.
Wash them in hot, soapy water immediately after use and then give them a thorough rinse. Wring the cloth well, then hang it where it can air dry. The edge of the sink isn’t right for this, but the door of the oven might be. Neither are options in my house, so I stuck a suction towel bar on the tile backsplash next to my sink to hang my dishrag.
Even with thorough washing and air-drying between uses, you should still change your dishrag daily.
Get Rid of Stubborn Dish Rag Odors
Homeowners are typically advised to set their water heaters at 120°F. While this conserves energy and prevents scalding injuries, it’s not hot enough to kill mildew or many forms of bacteria that cause odors.
So, the first step is to boil your dishcloths to eliminate any buildup. Then, follow the proper laundering instructions below to keep the smells out.
- Fill a large pot with 1 gallon of water and set it over HIGH heat on the stove. Bring to a boil.
- Add 1 cup of white vinegar and your dish rags to the water. Do not add soap.
- Boil the cloths for 15 minutes to kill odors and bacteria, mold, and mildew.
- Turn the heat off and let the dishcloths and liquid cool to room temperature.
- Once cooled, wring the rags with your hands one at a time before hanging them to dry in a sunny spot.
How to Wash Smelly Dishrags
Proper laundering will kill odors and help your dishrags remain fresh-smelling.
- Launder dishcloths and dish towels in a load by themselves to avoid cross-contamination.
- Set both the wash and rinse cycle for the hottest possible water temperature. Select the longest 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 to the rinse cycle.
- IMMEDIATELY transfer the dishcloths to the dryer when the wash cycle ends. Dry on HIGH heat for 45 minutes to finish knocking out the smell.
No Washing Machine? No problem!
Just because you have to use a laundromat, or can only do laundry once a week, doesn’t mean you’ve got to put up with smelly dishrags stinking up your house.
Try this trick instead: stash them in a plastic bag in the freezer where the cold temps will prevent bacteria, mold, and mildew from growing.
On laundry day, pop them straight out of the freezer into the machine, no defrosting required. Just be sure to label the bag clearly, so no one goes poking around hoping to find something good to eat.