Here’s How Often You Should Be Washing Your Dishcloths and Dish Towels
It's so easy to completely forget about washing your dish towels until they start smelling up your kitchen, but that might be a bit too long to wait before throwing them in the washing machine.
After they’ve air-dried, they look ready for another use. But too often, we keep using dishcloths and dish towels long after they’ve gotten dirty. All we’re doing is spreading bacteria and germs on everything they touch—including the utensils we use on the food we eat.
“Believe it or not, dish towels can be one of the dirtiest items in your home,” says Bailey Carson, head of cleaning at Handy, a home-cleaning service. From cleaning up spills to wiping off countertops, they often get used more than they’re cleaned.” Because dish towels are so absorbent, they are the perfect home for bacteria, mildew, and even mold.
Your damp, warm towel is also the ideal breeding ground for that bacteria. That smell you associate with your dish towels and washcloths? Yup. That’s mold and mildew.
Health Canada recommends wiping your kitchen surfaces with paper towel (and these eco-friendly cleaning products) to avoid cross-contamination and the risk of spreading germs. But for those of us who want to take the eco-friendly (and budget-friendly) approach, here’s what you need to know about using dish towels.
Using one as a hand towel? Replace a couple of times a week.
Let the purpose of your dish linens dictate how often they should be washed. Are they just for drying your hands after washing them? Wiping up water on counters or polishing away fingerprints on cupboard doors? In that case, Julie Finch-Scally, founder of The Duster Dollies, says that it’s all right to reuse that type of towel for three to four days.
Using one to wipe down surfaces and dry dishes? Replace every day.
If you’re using your dishcloths and towels to wipe down cutting boards, wash down stovetops, clean up after spills, or even for drying your dishes, you should replace them more often. “Ideally you should wash your dishcloths once a day,” says Liz O’Hanlon, director of Metro Cleaning (UK) Ltd.
Using one to wipe up spills? Replace after every use.
If you’re using towels to wipe up spillages (especially those that include raw meat or fish), replace the towel immediately after each use, advises O’Hanlon.
Does this sound like too much washing? Have an ample supply of dish towels.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you have to run a load of a few towels every single day. Laura Smith, owner of All Star Cleaning Services, recommends collecting dirty towels in a small wastebasket under your sink and washing them when you’ve got a full load.
Have stinky towels on your hands? Wash them with hot water.
That smell would be mold and mildew—so you’ll need to wash them in very hot water. If they come out of the dryer still smelling bad, it’s time to get a new set.
Your dish towels may not be the only things stinking up your laundry—here’s how to de-stink your clothes—no washing required.