Mama’s Do’s and Don’ts for Your Kitchen Dishcloths

(I must tell you that I searched high and low for the correct grammar of pluralizing ‘Do and Don’t’.  The correct way is sans apostrophes, although that looks horribly odd.  But I had to put an apostrophe in ‘Do’s’ because I just couldn’t take the ‘Dos’.  Just so you know.)


Our kitchen is definitely the most-used room in our home.  I homeschool my children, so we eat 3 meals a day in our little kitchen and those meals are mostly made from scratch.

3 made-from-scratch meals + real dishes (not paper plates) = a ridiculous amount of used dishcloths and towels

I will be the first to admit that I change dishcloths often, usually using 2 dishcloths per day.  I can’t bear to wash a sink of supper dishes with the same cloth I used to wash breakfast dishes the same morning.  The dishcloth has had all day to sit and grow all kinds of gross bacteria and other germs.  Food-borne illness can make you really sick and I’d like to avoid it at all costs.  So I avoid it by washing a million kitchen towels and dishcloths each week.

Note: When I refer to a ‘dishcloth’ in this post I’m talking about the cloth you actually put in the sudsy water to wash dishes, not the towel you use to dry them off. 

Dishcloth Do’s

Rinse dishcloths frequently in hot water.
Rinse your dishcloths often under hot water, especially when you’re wiping down kitchen surfaces. Rinse after you wipe off the table and then again after you wipe off the stove and then again after you wipe off the counter.  It’s even better if you can swish it around in a sink full of soapy, hot water and then wring out before you use it.  You really can’t rinse a dishcloth too often, in my opinion.

Use a dishcloth only for washing dishes.
If you’re using a dishcloth for dishes, make sure that is the only thing you use it for.  Don’t wipe the baby’s face with it or her high chair tray.  That type of washing deserves its own cloth or paper towel.  And by all means, do not wipe anything off of the floor with your dish cloth and then use it again to wash dishes.  The thoughts of that makes my skin crawl.  So don’t do it.

Use more than one dishcloth, if needed.
Don’t be afraid to use more than one dishcloth per day.  If you’ve washed two sinks full of dishes, you probably need a new cloth.  I think most of us believe we’re allowed a maximum of only one dishcloth per day, but I promise you can use two.


Always lay dishcloths flat to dry between each use throughout the day.

Dishcloth Don’ts

Don’t use the same dishcloth for the whole week.
Even if you only wash 1 or 2 dishes a day, you just can’t use the same cloth that many days in a row.  By the end of the week, the dishcloth has gotten wet multiple times and that by itself is enough to let bacteria grow.  Add in the washing off of food particles and you’ve got a gross piece of laundry there.

Don’t leave your dishcloth wadded up in a ball.
If you must use the same dishcloth all day, make sure you lay it out flat to dry between uses.  It’s even better if you can hang it up to air dry before you use it again.  Warm, balled up, wet dishcloths are great little breeding grounds for mold and mildew.  Avoid it at all costs.

Don’t be afraid to use paper towels.
If you’re wiping up a huge puddle of spilled milk, go ahead and just use paper towels.  Soured milk in a dishcloth is one of the worst smells ever and you’ll probably end up throwing the dishcloth away because of it.  Or for wiping a countertop contaminated with raw chicken, just use paper towels instead of a dishcloth.

In all likelihood, you won’t be able to wash those horribly germ-y dishcloths immediately and they’ll sit somewhere until wash day.  You don’t want them sitting somewhere, covered in salmonella.  Trust me.  I  know it’s not the eco-friendly thing to do, but use paper towels for the really gross stuff.


So tell me: Are you a person who changes dishcloths regularly or are you a once-a-weeker?  ‘Fess up!



Several of my favorite home-related bloggers and I write a monthly series on cleaning, de-cluttering and taking care of your home.  For other ideas related to the kitchen, stop by these other Room by Room bloggers!


  1. I use one or two dishcloths a day for dish washing, table and counter wiping. I also have face/high chair wiping cloths and a large stock of small (cut open feet of worn sweat socks) and large (receiving blankets) floor mess cloths. I hang mine to try over the edge of the hamper in the kitchen (mesh bag) or laundry room when the time comes.

    • mamalaundry says:

      Thanks for sharing your system, Leigh! With 2 little ones that are still really messy, it seems we go through those face cloths the most around here!

  2. I’m confused — why is it a big deal to put cloth towels used to clean up potentially smelly messes, like spilled milk, directly into either the washer or a sink/bucket to soak? That’s what happens at my house because we don’t use paper towels. As in, there aren’t any in the house.

    Smelly fabric items can be made not smelly with the application of vinegar.

    And, if you are that frightened of the chicken you buy, please find another source. Go to your local farmer’s market and find someone growing chickens the right way. It will be more expensive, but really, no one should be afraid of their food.

    • mamalaundry says:

      Sally, it’s not a problem to wipe up those types of spills if you wash them right away. If one lets dishcloths sit for several days, they’ll sour. Wiping up spills of milk or raw chicken with a dishcloth and then letting it sit for days on end until wash day is not sanitary at all. If a person is likely to not wash dishcloths immediately after use, simply use a paper towel to avoid the problem.

      I’m not “frightened” by the chicken I buy, and I didn’t imply that. All raw chicken (organic, farm-raised, the ones in my backyard, etc) can be a dangerous source of food-borne illness if you don’t use proper methods while preparing it.

      My point was to be cautious of what you’re cleaning with your cloths and then wash them carefully to avoid food-borne illness. You are certainly welcome to take care of your dishcloths however you choose! 🙂

  3. I’m bad, I still use a sponge….but no more, starting today I will use dishcloths, and change them daily!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Cathy, that made me laugh! Today’s the day to switch to a dishcloth! 🙂

    • I’m a grandma with no little kids.
      Here is what I do each day to my dishcloth. I put it in the microwave and “nuke it” for about 2 minutes.
      Let the thing sit for awhile because the steam from the dishcloth will help sanitize the inside of the microwave.
      If you sanitize your dishcloth this way you can use it more than one day. Besides it cuts down on washing.
      That saves money too!
      G-maw mari

  4. I have been known to go through 3-4 dishcloths a day. I am a germ-a-fob so I visually can see the germs sitting there laughing at me. Ok, so I am exaggeration a bit, about the germs, but I am for sure wigged out about the stuff that might be on the rag.

    • mamalaundry says:

      You and me both, Sandy. They laugh at me too…

    • This is me also. I only handwash certain items I do not put in the dishwasher but I always use a fresh dishcloth each time I wash things. I also use a clean dishcloth to wipe down the counters. I have many, many dishcloths and kitchen towels. I have a fold out towel holder above my washer that I got at ikea it has 4 bars that all swing out from the wall and I rinse the dishcloths then hang them on that until totally dry. Also dry the kitchen towels completely. I also wash the kitchen towels and dishcloths together with no other items. I am not a neat freak by any means but am paranoid of germs in the kitchen around my food.

  5. Well I am one of those people if you knew how long my dish cloth had been there you would not come over. I want to change. I want to buy enough dish cloths so that I can have one for each day of the week. So I can change it once a day maybe every 2 days. I would never change my dish cloth more then once a day though. Seems over kill to me.

    • mamalaundry says:

      Yes, Deborah, I should have mentioned having enough dishcloths. Having a good stash is part of being able to switch often. Thanks for bringing that up!

  6. We usually hand wash a few things every day, big things that don’t fit in the dishwasher or take up too much room in it. We run the dishwasher about once a day as well. For hand washing I use a scotch brite eco scrubbie sponge which gets put in the dishwasher every time it is run and once a week it’s thrown into the bleach load. For counters I have a container of cut up white shirts and a solution of castile soap, vinegar, and tea tree oil. Those get tossed after being used once into a basket in the laundry room JUST for counter cloths that gets washed every few days as well. For things like raw chicken juice, I do give the counter a spray with disinfection solution and I use one paper towel to wipe it up, then go over it with a t-shirt rag.

    Gah! Hope that answers things clearly!

  7. Funny, I just posted on dishcloths and how I keep odors at bay. I definitely change my dishcloth at least once a day; often more if I’m spending a lot of time in the kitchen. I don’t use paper towels much, though. If I do something really messy, I just rinse out my cloth or towel really well, hang it to dry, and then put it with the rest of my kitchen laundry. I wash on super-hot, heavy-duty mode with plenty of soap and bleach.

  8. I’m with you on the Dishcloth Rules. The first time I saw a spill on the floor wiped up by the dishcloth that then went back into the sink, I nearly ran screaming from the room. I’m a slob/germaphobe like Nony. We go through paper towels slowly, but we do use them. I do not wash kitchen loads every day, so I am more careful about what I use the dishcloth for.
    Sally H’s comment about finding another source for your chicken was really meant for me, I think. I am truly creeped out by “regular” chicken but when we butchered our extra birds one year-handlingthe meat didn’t bother me a bit. Now that our zoning has changed I should just find another source. Thanks Sally H!

  9. I have a collection of about 25 dishcloths, about 30 dishtowels and a special “yucky old rag” basket under the counter and I throw out the sponge every week or so. On the other hand I have picked some dishcloths out of the sink with a fork and put them straight in the trash when our life was out of control and hectic.

    So with love and understanding I say “Please change out the towel, if not for you then for your guests!” I have come to think that each family has it’s own little bacteria strains and probably gets used to them over time but a guest might suffer the consequences of yucky dishcloth/sponge syndrome. (Although any mysterious isolated bouts of vomiting and such is probably kitchen related, and who wants to wash a whole load of sheets and blankets instead of a few dishtowels?)

    There was a house I went to and every time I had “intestinal distress” within an hour of being in the kitchen. The sponge was quite terrible and combined with quick handwashing with little soap and water probably contaminated everything in the kitchen. While I am not a disinfectent-on-everything person, it is OK to use some nice hot, soapy water and a clean towel for cleaning up in the kitchen!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Oh Shanna, I couldn’t agree more! I do think each family has their own germs as well.

      “Intestinal Distress.” Oh I can sympathize!

  10. I use multiple dish rags per day. (I call them dish rags, the ones you dry with are dish towels.) Pretty much every time one gets wet, it goes to the laundry when I’m done with it. So if I have breakfast stuff that needs washed in the sink, the rag goes to the laundry after the kitchen is wiped down. I don’t care that lunch is only a few hours away, wet dish rags gross me out and I have enough of them that I can use a fresh one each time.

  11. I so agree!. I did find some microfiber ones at Dollar General last summer in some bright colors that won’t hold the water so they dry very quickly yet are nice to clean with. Have you ever smelled a dishcloth after it’s set there for a few? My kids are always wiping with them and throwing them back into the sink, where I’m digging it out and throwing it in the wash…lol

  12. Leticia Barnes says:

    I have colored dish clothes for washing dishes and white ones for the counters. I go through at least two of each a day plus probably five dish towels. I can’t help it I don’t like wet yucky things lying around at all. It is usually used and tossed right into the washing machine.

  13. I’m an OCD towel/cloth changer! I use at least 2 cloths (sometimes as many as FIVE) every day. I was my dishes with a two sided sponge/scrubber. It gets sanitized in either the dishwasher or microwave frequently. I use dish cloths for cleaning counters, appliances and faces/hands. They are rinsed with hot water (or swished in a sink of hot, soapy water) after each use. I hang them over the oven door handle to dry and faithfully change them out each morning and as needed throughout the rest of the day.

    My kids are trained that if they grab one to clean up a spill from the floor, it goes straight to the laundry room afterward and gets hung over the side of the basket to dry.

    I also have a stash of dish cloths of a completely different color scheme that are used solely for cleaning bathrooms.

    I love finding 12 packs of dish/wash cloths on clearance and saving them for when we need new ones because they do wear out with such frequent use and washing.

    Strangely enough, I am not a germ freak. But kitchen contamination is fairly easily avoidable. I’d rather wash a few kitchen towels than mountains of puke laundry.

    • mamalaundry says:

      Girl, you and me both. Washing a weekly load of kitchen laundry is so much better than a mountain of puke laundry!! Well said!

  14. Melissa W. says:

    I admit that I usually only use one or two week. I tried doing changing it daily, but I just found that it was easier to just do it when I really needed to. Its mostly out of habit.

  15. Thanks for the thoughts.

    I change my dish cloth at least once a day. I hang it up on my stove or dishwasher handle between uses. If I lay it over the edge of my sink it sours. I also hang them out in the sunshine to help kill germs after they have been washed. The sun does a great job of helping rags that have soured lose the sour smell.

  16. I recently found that I could buy 20 orange cloths found in the automotive area of Sam’s Warehouse for a really good price. Then I cut them with pinking shears into 4 squares and use them for dishcloths. They are just the right size to squeeze dry with one hand and are very absorbent.

  17. Just read this post and thanks!!!! I like to keep my kitchen stuff clean…

  18. I read a tip years ago that I still use today….after you’re done using the dishcloth for the time being, rinse it well in hot soapy water, then wring it out and rinse well with COLD water before wringing it out well again. Then lay it out or hang to dry. This helps prevent bacteria from growing while it dries as you avoid providing it with a warm area to grow in.

  19. Is it ok to put the Dishrag in the dishwasher every other day?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      Sam, I personally don’t put anything in the dishwasher but dishes. I know others put toys, cloth diapers, hair brushes, etc to get them extra clean.

      I see this as a fire hazard, so I don’t take the chance.

      Will the dishwasher get the cloth clean? Or certainly! But I’m not a risk taker when it comes to fire. 🙂

      Thanks for stopping by today!

  20. This is great information. I’m going to send it to my mother. I used to use a new dish cloth every time I washed dishes. When I spent a lot of time at my mother’s house years ago, this became a contentious issue. I received so much criticism from people, I have forced myself to use the same dishcloth for over a day now, even though it doesn’t feel good to do that.

    But as soon as one gets bad – like you said – with chicken or something yucky – it’s done. I don’t use it again. Or if I wipe the counter, then I consider it done and I don’t wash anymore dishes with it. So I still accrue a lot of dirty dish cloths.

    I also live in an apartment and it costs $1.75 for each wash and $1.75 for each dry, so I have quite a few dish cloths. I’m on this page because I don’t want people to see the mess of dirty dishcloths I keep under my sink. I’m just not sure how to store them until it’s time to wash.

  21. Chris Curry says:

    The biggest issue I see with the graphic of this post is laying the cloths to dry where they can come into ANY contact with the sink itself. The kitchen sink is the dirtiest place in the house. Laying the wrung out cloth flat to dry on the counter is ok depending on the cleanliness of the countertop but the most hygenic solution would be to hang the cloths to dry.
    Thank you for all of the other content of your post!

  22. Question- if I want to change my cleaning cloths daily but I only wash them once a week is it better to throw them into a ‘dry’ bucket or a ‘wet’ bucket and let them soak until washing day?
    If ‘wet’ bucket, what would you suggest soaking them in?

    • Lauren Hill says:

      I’d let them dry overnight and then toss them in the towel hamper to wash once a week. They’re fine to sit for a week as long as they are dry before you put them in the hamper.

      I don’t recommend letting them soak in a wet bucket. It brings a host of troubles in my opinion – it can easily spill, it’s a safety concern for kids, etc.

      -Lauren 🙂

  23. Becky Gibson says:

    I was taught in Home Economics to use one dish rag for dishes one for the table and counter tops and one for the stove and I learned from working in a school cafeteria do not towel dry dishes. I don’t towel dry but I do use my dish rag more than once.


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