On Dishcloths and Dishrags

Funny, Reusable, Washable Paper Towel Substitutes, from the Exist Green shop in Omaha. These were gifted to me last Christmas, and made all of us laugh.

The other day, I splashed a lot of coffee on a favorite white cotton dishtowel. As I vigorously sprayed hot, hot water on it, in the sink, very close to the stain, I was reminded of how I learned to do this from Ed ( Co-owner and Master Baker) and Kara (Pastry Chef and Operations Manager) at Cupcake Island.

It seems that I was bothered by the chocolate stains on our pure white terry towels and was throwing them in the laundry bag, until Ed caught me and said if I kept on doing this, we would have way too much laundry. So Kara said, ”Haven’t you ever learned this?” as she showed me the technique for quick stain removal. I was fascinated!

Cupcake Island, Opening Day, 9/5,2006, Shirley and Grandkids Sam and Clara. This is where I learned many new things.

At home, this desire to change out the towels frequently came from our daughter-in-law’s sister, Sarah, who likes to clean, and always has a clean dishtowel. Now I do that also, at least once a day.

However, in the past, I’m not sure what I did in 45 years of marriage and household management. I remember installing a bar inside the cupboard door under the sink for the dishcloth to dry. I’ve never been a fan of the lumped up dishcloth (or dishrag as my family called it) in the bottom of the sink, or hanging behind and around the faucet.

Old dishrag, bunched up. Don’t do this.
Another old dishrag hanging around. Don’t like to see this.

On this dishcloth/dishrag designation, my brother-in-law, Tom, says, ”When it’s new, it’s a dishcloth; after it’s been used, it’s a dishrag.” Ha!

Summer, 2021 splurge. Brand new all cotton absorbent kitchen cloths, my favorite.

When the used ones became musty (inevitably), I washed them. To prevent the mustiness, Grandma Philomena gave me the tip of putting a few drops of bleach in the pan of dishwater. That works really well until you don’t do the dishes that way any more, with most being cleaned in the dishwasher now. But you still need a wet, soapy cloth to clean countertops, cooktops, refrigerator front, and appliance handles.

Recently, my sis-in-law, Jane, told me that her husband, Pat Neary, would put the wet cloth in the microwave for a minute or so, to dry and disinfect it. I have not done that myself, but it seems to be a good idea!

Another idea from my daughter-in-law’s ”fond of cleaning” family: have 2 kinds of towels out everyday, one for drying your hands, and one for the dishes. The one for dishes is the flour sack, muslin type, that is thin, soft and very absorbent. Good idea! I had never thought of that.

Photo found online. I used to have many of these.

Embroidered dish towels were very popular in the 1950’s and 60’s, and a good gift from Aunts and Grandmas. They had line drawings and often cute sayings, or days of the week, with colorful embroidery outlines. I’m sure I even made some of these in 4-H or Girl Scouts, as a way to learn stitchery.

Another thing about dishcloths-you can use them almost anytime you’d use a paper towel. But, do you really want to? I ask myself that often, because many times a day, our granite counter is very spotty with food prep and water splashes. Since I don’t have a sink of soapy water due to dishes being placed in dishwasher, I have to make a little soap and water each time I wipe the counter, or use a spray cleaner with paper towels. Now, with our waste free philosophy, (learned from our daughter, Leigh), I usually feel too wasteful to do that. We buy very few paper towels these days. So, I get a clean dishcloth, do the cleanup, and put that one in the laundry room, because, as you know, I don’t like seeing a wet cloth in the sink.

Like I said, I don’t know how I did it all of those years raising a family. For sure, I was not as obsessed with how things looked in the kitchen! Now, I have that luxury, and I kind of enjoy it.

As the TV ad said, “Life is messy; clean it up!” , with your dishrag or dishcloth, whatever you call it!


4 thoughts on “On Dishcloths and Dishrags

  1. Great tips Shirley! I keep a stash of old washcloths to wipe down counters and do the really dirty work. They then go to the laundry room where I hang them over a laundry basket to dry (so they will not mildew in a pile) then wash them with bleach once I have enough for a load. Keeps my dishtowels for dishes and lasting a bit longer!


    1. Hi Jane! Thanks for your comment. It’s good to hear how you handle the basics of kitchen cleanup. I too have old cloths under the sink. They’re good for wiping down the cast iron skillet, after boiling a little water in it, to make sure it’s dry.


  2. Thanks Shirley! I needed to read this message today! My 2022 resolution for decluttering and using less/recycling more is going slowly. (Trying for zero plastic use.) hugs… Linda Meigs

    Sent from my iPhone


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