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.

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.

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 linens.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. Does this sound like too much washing? Have an ample supply of dish towels.

Of course, just because you should replace dish linens up to seven days a week doesn’t mean you have to run a load of a few dishcloths and towels every single day. Instead, collect dirty towels in a basket under your sink and wash them when you’ve collected a full load’s worth.

5. 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.

Next, learn how to clean your oven without using any harsh chemicals.

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Originally Published on Reader's Digest