(Yes, that is a fresh pan of brownies on the stove.)
Dish cloths and kitchen towels fall into a different category of ‘typical’ laundry. Like cloth diapers, kitchen towels need to be washed in their own load of towels – not with jeans, tshirts, underwear and the like.
Kitchen towels and dish cloths are the perfect environment for efficient breeding of bacteria: they’re wet, often scrunched in a ball (so they don’t dry out), often warm and sometimes hiding in a dark place waiting to be washed.
I will readily admit that I switch kitchen towels and dish cloths often. As in, I can easily use up to 3 or 4 a day – but I also prepare 3 meals a day in my kitchen. After I’ve wiped the counter down from preparing chicken, I don’t want to use that cloth again to wipe our kitchen table. That is just asking for food-borne illness, of which I am not a fan. And when one of my little people has used the kitchen towel to wipe water off of the floor, I don’t want to use it again to dry my hands.
So what constitutes the proper care of dish cloths and kitchen towels? Here are a few suggestions to keep your kitchen as clean as possible:
- Change dish cloths when you’ve used it to wipe counters with raw meat.
Raw meat – whether it is beef, pork or chicken – can cause serious food-borne illness. Food-borne illness can range from an upset stomach to far more serious conditions. I am very careful with raw meat and raw eggs and if there is any question at all, I change my cloth or towel. Why be sick when I can avoid it?
- Always wash dish cloths and kitchen towels on hot and on a regular/heavy duty cycle.
These are items that must be laundered on hot. You’ve used them to wipe up milk or wash dirty dishes and they need to be washed on hot water to best activate the detergent you are using. Hot water only makes detergent dissolve and work even better. Kitchen towels also need to be washed on a regular or heavy duty cycle – never on delicates or gentle even if the care label says to do so. The gentle cycle does not provide enough agitation to adequately get the cloths clean.
- Don’t use fabric softener in your kitchen towels or cloths.
Fabric softener is great for other laundry items, but it should be avoided with kitchen cloths. Liquid fabric softener provides a filmy coating on the outside of the laundry it comes in contact with. I don’t want a film on my dish towels and I also don’t want a softener to inhibit my towels from getting completely clean in the washing machine.
- Rinse dish cloths completely before putting them in the washing machine.
If you’ve used your dish cloth in a sink of soapy water, it still has a lot of that soap in its fibers. I personally have had a soapy dish cloth SUD my machine a couple of times. Causing the machine to go into the SUD cycle just causes wear and tear and makes it go through a ridiculously long safety-type cycle. Save yourself the hassle and rinse them completely.
- Let your dish cloths and kitchen towels air dry before putting them in the laundry hamper.
There is never a time that it is beneficial to put wet, dirty dish cloths and towels in a laundry basket to wait until wash day. It will cause them to mildew, smell and just grow general funk that is gross. Let them air dry completely over the edge of the sink during the night and place them in the laundry basket in the morning.
- Have a good selection of dish towels to choose from.
If you have a moderate number of dish cloths and towels, you’re more likely to change them often simply because there are more available.
How often do you change your dish towels and cloths? Daily? Weekly?