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How to wash your Swedish dishcloths

How do I wash a Swedish dishcloth? 

This is a question we often hear from those who haven't yet tried Swedish dishcloths and who are still using traditional dishcloths, rags, sponges or single-use paper towels for cleaning up in the kitchen.  In addition to the many benefits to the environment (namely, helping to eliminate the 13 billion pounds of paper towel that are used and tossed in a year in the U.S. alone - saving you big bucks in the process; and also preventing synthetic microfibers and plastics from seeping into our waterways, water supply and oceans), Swedish dishcloths are a snap to clean, dry and then re-use.  Let me count the ways!

After an easy job (e.g. wiping crumbs off countertops, cleaning cabinet fronts or shelves, or cleaning sticky fingers and that last-bit-of-delicious on a little one's face who's helping you bake and then licked the beaters), you should:

1) Rinse your Swedish dishcloth with cold water and if needed, add a drop or two of soap, then rinse again.  You're ready to tackle whatever is next!  This is the easiest, gentlest way to keep your dishcloth clean.  Rinsing Swedish dishcloths thoroughly after each use will prolog their useful life (typically 6-9 months).

After a few days of light use or a more moderate job (e.g. mopping up spilled milk, washing dishes, wiping down the shelves and drawers in your refrigerator), we'd suggest: 

2) Pop your dishcloth into the dishwasher with your dishes on the top rack.  Voila!  It’ll come out free from particles, germs, bacteria and you're ready to use it again and again.  Depending on how you use your dishcloths, we'd recommend putting them into the dishwasher or washing machine ~1-2 times a week.

3) Throw your dishcloths into the washing machine with your laundry, for an easy and effective clean and disinfect.  A warm cycle is best (>140 degrees Fahrenheit, 60 degrees Celsius).  We generally avoid fabric softeners because of the chemicals most softeners contain, but also when washing Swedish dishcloths because fabric softener will reduce the cloths' absorbency over time. 

Please note: you shouldn't put Swedish dishcloths in the dryer - since Swedish dishcloths are made of 70% cellulose and 30% natural cotton they will shrink substantially or disintegrate in the dryer heat!  Some shrinkage may occur in the washing machine but it will be moderate.  Air-drying your Swedish dishcloths is best.  

4) Sanitize your Swedish dishcloth in the microwave if you want to be sure to zap anything that could produce bacteria. Just pop in the damp cloth into the microwave for 60 to 90 seconds - damp is important for even heat distribution and to prevent sparking.  Remove your dishcloth with tongs or once you've allowed it cool for a few minutes (please do be careful here as these can get very hot!).

After big jobs when you need to clean heavily-soiled dishcloths (e.g. cleaning the stovetop, wiping thick or greasy sauces or anything likely to stain, such as coffee spills or spaghetti sauce) you can: 

5) Boil your dishcloths: bring a pot of water to a full boil and then immerse your Swedish dishcloths for 3 to 5 minutes.  Remove your dishcloths with tongs and allow to cool before wringing out.

Boiling shouldn't be used regularly as a cleaning method because it will cause your Swedish dishcloths to crumble or disintegrate more quickly, but this can be an incredibly effective method for cleaning filthy dishcloths.

6) Bleach your Swedish dishcloths, especially when you need to both disinfect and remove stains.  You can easily make a warm water (not hot) solution of one quart of water and one-quarter to one-half teaspoon of bleach. Soak your Swedish dishcloths in the warm bleach solution for 1 to 2 minutes.  Rinse thoroughly.

How and where to dry your Swedish dishcloths

Now that your dishcloths are clean, air-drying your Swedish dishcloths is next. Since Swedish dishcloths dry incredibly fast, bacteria and germs aren't able to grow on their surface as they do with traditional dishcloths or sponges (have you ever been able to truly squeeze a sponge dry?).  This is why Swedish dishcloths don't omit that awful wet, stinky sponge smell.  

You can hang a rinsed dishcloth over a faucet or sink divider, lay them flat on the kitchen counter, or place the dishcloth over the edge of the sink to dry.

If you have a dishcloth drying bar in your sink, a dish drying rack, or a hanging towel bar, this will allow your dishcloth to dry very quickly because the air will flow across both sides.  You can also hang them them on wall hooks, cupboard hooks, or even on fridge clip magnet.

With this basic care, you will be able to clean and reuse your dishcloths hundreds of times (they'll typically last 6-9 months, then compost!)  Happy cleaning and re-using!

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