Little is written of the humble dishcloth, that trusty kitchen servant. Constantly at the ready to help you with everything from too-hot pans to random sticky spots on the counter, the dishcloth is your partner-in-arms. It’s steadfast, always there. Ready to wipe, dry, soak, and shine. Its service is constant. Its devotion total. And its sacrifice… well. What’s with dishcloths constant falling apart? What actually is that smell? And what on earth to do about it all?
Recently, a friend texted me a picture of one of her dishcloths. Both dishcloth and owner were in great despair. The dishcloth, worn with what looked like an anciently long lifespan, was crumpled, hem unstitched, fraying and frazzled. Its general aroma could almost be smelled through the phone. And it was maybe two months old.
But dishcloths don’t have to die such regular, untimely, and smelly deaths. Not at all! They can be things of everyday use and beauty that, like a really cute apron, make you happy every time you see them in your kitchen.
Keeping your dishcloths looking and smelling like new is easy. First, look for cloths made of turkish cotton. Turkish cotton — or any other high-quality cotton — is your kitchen’s best friend. It will hold up best under pressure, stand the test of time, and generally, the higher quality the cotton, the least likely it is to hang on to some foul smell. (Avoid anything that’s made with a blend — it’s those non-natural fabrics that hold the stink!)
Make sure you find one with a textured weave. I’m partial to the ever-handy, super-absorbant basket weave, but any other weave is fine as long as your dishcloth has a little texture. Not only will it help you dry your dishes and hands, it will also help those countertop messes come up a little faster.
And wash it often. We throw our dishcloths in the washing machine whenever we’re running a like-colored load, so they regularly see the wash every other day or so. And that’s key – even if they look like they don’t need it, your dishcloths are germ, dirt, and scum magnets, and the only way out is with a little soap and water. I usually spray our most-used ones with stain spray before throwing them in, just to play it safe, but other than that, there’s no special treatment. They come out looking — and smelling — like new. Which is really nice, since I’ve bought precisely three dishcloths in the last ten years. And you’d never know they’re any newer than the ones my mother gave me as hand-me-downs from the 70’s.
My favorites are the old-standby: Williams-Sonoma’s contrast stripe dishcloths. These things last for millennia. In twenty thousand years, no one will remember Raleigh-Elizabeth, but my Williams-Sonoma dishtowels will be found in mint condition. I’ve also had really good luck with the jacquard dishcloths at Sur La Table and some knock-offs (shh!) acquired in the kitchen aisle super on sale at Homegoods.
Just keep your eyes peeled for turkish cotton and a textured weave, and your dishcloths will have what it takes to last a lifetime. They’ll bear the brunt of smeared tomato sauce and caked-on leftover brownie like a champ. Little hands caked in peanut butter? No problem. A grape juice spill all over the counter? Easy peasy. Your dishcloths can take what you throw at them, and in any working home kitchen, that’s a lot. So honor the faithful dishcloth, and do it justice: choose wisely, and remember, there’s always room in the wash for one item more. At least where your dishcloths are concerned.
What tricks do you have for taking care of wet hands, plates, and messes in the kitchen?