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How To Get The Stink Out Of Your Favorite Dishcloths

There is nothing worse than getting out a clean dishcloth that already smells.  Learn what to do to prevent that horrible stinky odor from taking over your dishcloths with a few quick and simple tips.

kitchen towels hanging on hooks to dry


Get The Stink Out Of Your Dishcloths

I hate cleaning.  There I said it.  I am the sister of the three Shanes who has the worst time keeping a house.

It seems like I’m constantly cleaning the kitchen. What makes that chore even worse is when you pull out a fresh, clean dishcloth and it already reeks.  

Paper towels can get the job done, but I care too much about the environment to use them to clean. This means I have a big stack of dish towels on hand to wipe things up.

But these rags only work if they are kept fresh. Smelly towels will only spread that stink if you try to wipe things up with them.

What if I told you I had a few tips and tricks that are easy, cheap and not time consuming to help us with our smelly towels problem?

In order to fix the problem, we gotta know what causes this issue.  And that can be done with just one word.  BACTERIA.

how to get the stink out of your dishcloths wethreeshanes.com

What Causes Smelly Kitchen Towels

Kitchen towels often get food particles stuck to them which can then be a breeding ground for bacteria to grow.

Another issue is the fact that our hand towel stays moist for extended periods of time.  Damp towels create an ideal environment for bacterial growth as well.

Things like dryer sheets and fabric softener can trap bacteria keeping it on the kitchen dishcloths. Sometimes we have bad habits when cleaning that can exacerbate the situation as well.

Some of us like to put our stinky dishcloths over the sink divider to dry out. But if you are constantly using your kitchen sink, your damp towel will never dry and therefore grow bacteria.

Another bad habit some houses have is that you use the same smelly dishcloths for far too long. We have a one day rule at my house and most towels do not even last that long. 

I once made fun of my mom for using way too many dishcloths while cleaning the kitchen.  Now I’m just like her.  Funny how that works.

Stinky Dishcloths are Spreading Bacteria

When our damp cloths have unpleasant odors coming off of them, the chances of it being contaminated with bacteria are high.  We do not want to spread things like E Coli all over our kitchen counter tops and dishes.  That poses a big threat to our families health and is such an easy fix. 

I do not want to use a dish cloth to clean up after cutting chicken and then wipe off my kitchen table.  You also do not want to wipe something off of the floor and then use that towel to dry dishes, or for a little one to dry their hands on.  You can’t have a clean surface if you use stinky towels. 

Spreading bacteria and other gross things can be easily done without even knowing it.  So what can we do to both clean and disinfect our traditional dishcloths?

up close picture of bacteria

The Solution to Stinky Dishcloths

Vinegar is the solution to stinky dishcloths and towels. Vinegar is a natural deodorizer so a good vinegar soak will get rid of that sour smell.

vinegar being poured into a bit pot of boiling water.

How to Get Rid of Stinky Towel Smells

Here’s what you do:

  1. Fill a big pot with warm water and have that come to a boil. 
  2. Once water is boiling add one cup of white vinegar.
  3. Add as many dishcloths to the boiling water that will fit. 
  4. Let these hand towels sit in the hot water for 20 minutes. The best way to make sure they all get a hot wash is to stir them around occasionally.
  5. Turn off the stove and let them cool off before touching.  You do not want to burn yourself. 
  6. This is optional but while they are cooling off I like to add a few drops of lemon essential oil and give it a little stir.  Lemon Essential oil is great for disinfecting because of its antibacterial properties.
  7. Either wring out and put straight into the washing machine for a normal wash cycle OR wring out and let dry completely.  Preferably in the sun for best results.  Then launder them once they have dried completely. 
big pot with water and dishcloths soaking on a stovetop

Vinegar Alternative

Don’t like vinegar or just want a different recipe?  There are a couple of things you can try.

Baking Soda – Instead of a cup of vinegar, try using a cup of baking soda in its place.

Let the towels sit for 30 minutes in the baking soda water.  Baking soda does a great job of breaking down the bacterial membrane and getting rid of that musty odor.

Hydrogen Peroxide – Still looking for something different to get rid of that stinky towel smells? You could soak your towels in a hydrogen peroxide parts water solution.  

Use hot water and hydrogen peroxide and then let the towels sit for 30 minutes.  

You do have to be careful with hydrogen peroxide though because it CAN bleach out the colors on your wash cloth.  If you do not use all white towels, this could be a problem and then you may want to choose one of the above solutions instead. 

Preventing Stinky Towels

Now that our towels no longer have that musty smell, what can we do to prevent them from stinking again?

  • Rinse your dish towel out with warm water in your sink when you are done using it to get that extra food residue off.
  • Hang your towels to dry completely so they don’t stay moist. If you can hang them to dry outside in the sun, that is even better.
  • Don’t use the same dish towel for too long. Switch them out often.
  • Do not use fabric softener or dryer sheets with your towels. Residue tends to stick to the fabric and can cause bacteria to become trapped and linger.
  • Cold water will not cut it. You need to use hot water to help kill all of that bacteria.
Learn how to get rid of stinky towel smell and how to prevent it in the future.

Stinky Dishcloths Be Gone

Keeping our kitchens clean can be challenging. But keeping that stinky smell out of your dishcloths should now be easy. Just remember to take proper care of your towels and we can prevent bacteria from growing.

What did you learn about cleaning kitchen towels that you didn’t already know? Do you have a tip or trick we didn’t mention? Let us know in the comments.

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