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Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

What’s the Best Way to Wash Kitchen Towels



Properly-maintained, your kitchen towels will stay beautiful and functional for years.
Properly-maintained, your kitchen towels will stay beautiful and functional for years.

If you’re economical and environmentally-conscious, you’ll no doubt have a stash of kitchen towels that you use and reuse, instead of buying weekly batches of paper towels. A cloth kitchen towel will last a number of years if properly looked after.

If you use cloth towels, how do you ensure they are hygienic and well-maintained? After all, no one like having a smelly, stained rag in the kitchen!

Many would simply throw their kitchen towels in with the regular laundry, and that’s fine for the most part. But, when you’ve got a pile of really dirty dishcloths, there’s a few extra tips you can use to get them looking their best again.

Kill Bacteria

To remove the bacteria from your towels, you can use a small amount of bleach in the wash. Not many would be bold enough to use bleach on their beautiful, colored towels, but just a little is okay. This is an effective way of removing the bacteria that naturally accumulates on kitchen towels.

Clorox Disinfecting Bleach, Regular - 81 Ounce Bottle

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Fill your washing machine as normal with water and detergent. Add just a couple of tablespoons of bleach to the water and allow the machine to agitate the mix. Once the bleach has mixed with the water and detergent, add the cloths. After the cycle, you’ll have clean, hygienic towels fit to be used again!

Find out how to use bleach to clean your coffee pot.

Removing Odors: Vinegar Method

Be ready for any drips and spills with clean, odor-free kitchen towels!
Be ready for any drips and spills with clean, odor-free kitchen towels!

One way to address odor problems is to use vinegar. This is great for removing that dirty kitchen smell. All you need is vinegar, baking soda, and laundry detergent.

Fill your washing machine with the towels and detergent. The amount of detergent depends on the size of the load. Add a cup of vinegar and baking soda to the machine and start the cycle. Allow it to continue until the soapy mixture has become agitated. Then, pause the machine for a few hours. You can even leave it overnight if the towels are particularly stinky.

Baking soda is amazing! Read this post for how to use baking soda to clean baked-on oven grease.

In the morning, continue the wash until it is complete. You might need to repeat this, but it’s unlikely. Allow the towels to dry, preferably outside on the line. Using the dryer will shorten the lifespan of your towels, and sunlight is great for sterilizing.

Repeat this method on a monthly basis, and you’ll always have a tidy, odorless set of towels to hang in your kitchen.

Are your decorative kitchen towels not getting the job done? Find out which dish cloths look as great as they dry!

Products for Strong Odors

For particularly potent odors, there are other methods to remove bad smells. These require more specific products. Bac-Out and OxiClean are the best I’ve found, but similar products will surely suffice.

Biokleen Bac-Out Natural Enzyme Stain and Odor Remover - 128 Ounce - Destroys Stains & Odors Safely, for Pet Stains, Laundry, Diapers, Wine, Carpets - Eco-Friendly, Non-Toxic, Plant-Based

See BioKleen Bac-Out Stain & Odor Eliminator at Amazon

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Fill a tub with water and add your chosen product. Follow the guidelines on the packaging to determine the correct amount. Soak your smelly towels for several hours or overnight. In the morning, remove them and put them in the washing machine to wash as normal. You can add some vinegar for an added boost, but unless these towels of yours really reek of something awful, you should be okay without.

OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover Powder, 7.22 lbs

See OxiClean Versatile Stain Remover at Amazon

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An additional tip is to use dish soap instead of laundry detergent, as this is designed to remove the germs and food residues that invariably accumulate over time.

Check out my article on dish soaps for baby bottles to learn about great natural dish soaps.

Stain Removal

Stains can be removed in the same way you would remove them from clothing. Add your regular laundry detergent to the washing machine along with your towels, and maybe some extra stain removing substance. Kitchen towels shouldn’t stain quite like clothing, as they are sturdier and don’t come into contact with the same things as our clothes, like grass or motor oil.

Ready to use again!

Eventually, you will have to just replace your kitchen towels. Nothing lasts forever, no matter how beautiful or coordinated to your kitchen it might be. But, with these simple strategies, your towels will look better and last longer.

Utopia Towels 12 Pack Dish Towels, 15 x 25 Inches Ultra Soft Cotton Dish Cloths, Blue

Check out Utopia Towels 100% Cotton Kitchen Dish Cloths at Amazon

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If you need recommendations on great kitchen towels, I’ve got some of my favorite kitchen towel options. You might also like the best dish drainer for pots and pans, which will efficiently air dry your kitchenware.

For more cleaning advice for the kitchen, read up on the best oven cleaners for self-cleaning ovens, and how to clean the outside of a refrigerator.

If all this cleaning makes you thirsty, I’ve got a review of the best insulated tumblers.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Bryce Heitman

Bryce is not a real professor, but he's real nerdy in the kitchen. He's been barbecuing, chopping, and generally blazing food for many decades. He thinks there's definitely a better spatula or utensil out there that hasn't been invented yet.

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