How to clean kitchen towels like a pro?
Cloth towels in the kitchen are definitely eco-friendly, but how to ensure that it remains clean?
Which is better for your kitchen, cloth or paper towels?
The focus of today’s post is your assistant in the kitchen – the humble kitchen towel. Also known as kitchen cloth/ dish rag/ dish towel etc. The idea is to share the benefits of using cloth in your kitchen, I will also share tips on how to clean your kitchen towels so that it stays fresh.
If you have been following my blogs, you would know that I am a go green girl. I believe in trashing the world as less as we can. So it may not come as a surprise when I say that I prefer cloth towels for the kitchen over tissue paper.
Cloth vs. paper kitchen towels – which is better? Paper towels are easier to use, so isn’t that a clear winner?
You know what I prefer, but I have my reasons. Let me tell you why. For that we must start by comparing the kitchen clothes with paper tissues.
Let the war begin!!!
Kitchen rags vs. paper tissues – who wins?
I was a paper napkin user for a long time before I switched almost completely to kitchen towels. So I can give you both sides of the picture.
As with all reusable stuff, kitchen clothes are a one-time investment. With some simple care, they can last a very long time before they have to be replaced. On the other hand, paper tissues can be used only once. They have to be bought over and over again and come at a significant cost.
#2. Eco friendliness
We know that trees are cut down for making paper. Most of the tissue papers we buy are virgin paper, which means they come from fresh trees rather than recycled paper.
In addition to cutting down trees, they undergo a lot of processing in the factory to make them white and soft.
Do you know how much chemicals are used in this process and how this is polluting our water bodies?
Needless to say, they aren’t eco-friendly at all.
On the other hand, cloth tissues can be used over and over again. They are much, much better for the environment. The eco quotient increases if you decide to wash them with eco-friendly soaps.
#3. Ease of use
Here, both cloth tissues and paper tissues have pros.
Paper tissues are used and thrown away. Zero laundry, zero maintenance. The hassle is that you have to keep restocking them.
Let’s say you use them to clean a water spill. The paper tissue is going to disintegrate very quickly. You may have to use several paper tissues simply for cleaning a spill. On the other hand, cotton cloth rags are quite absorbent. You can clean the whole spill with just one cotton cloth by squeezing out the water in between.
If you are using it to wipe the wetness from your cooking utensil, the paper tissue can disintegrate, leaving small bits of the tissue on the utensil. Certainly not something you want. Cloth rags will leave no such residue and will do a clean job.
At the outset, it might look like paper tissues are the clean and hygienic solution. Think about it. It was packed in a factory you didn’t see, using chemicals you don’t even want to hear about.
On the contrary, you decide the washing routine for your kitchen clothes and you know they are actually clean.
So the winner is kitchen clothes in this department too.
Now you know why I am asking you to switch to cloth towels for your kitchen.
Are you already using kitchen towels, but are afraid they aren’t clean enough or they don’t smell fine? So how to clean your kitchen towels so that they are clean (and safe)?
Worry not. I am here to solve your problems.
How to clean kitchen towels and the precautions required to prevent them from smelling:
We should have different kind of clothes for the kitchen like – absorbent ones used to clean spills, clothes to wipe clean dishes and vessels before cooking/ serving, clothes to wipe hands or handle hot vessels. This will help us ensure good hygiene.
For the purpose of simplifying this post, I will refer to all these clothes as kitchen towels in this article.
Now I will tell you about what I use in my kitchen.
When I saw this roll of cloth tissues, that can be reused over and over again, I got super excited and held it tight. These are non-absorbent clothes, so I use them to wipe clean my wet or dry utensils and to clean small spills.
I also have separate cotton towels for handling hot vessels or wiping my hands and use a sponge for cleaning major spills.
One fine day, I noticed that my towels didn’t smell as fresh as I would like. I gave all of them a thorough rewash and stored them back in my kitchen clothes container. But in no time, that dingy smell was back. For a brief moment, I thought it was wise to go back to paper tissues. Thankfully, I did my research and figured out that I can get them back to normal by following a few simple precautions.
I would like you to be as happy as me, using cloth in your kitchen. So here I am today, sharing all those little tips that worked so well.
Kitchen cloths frequently come in contact with food. So it is natural for them to take on the smells of those foods. Smelly dish rags are a result of bacteria and other germs that build up in your cloth rags. Neither you nor I want bacteria on our kitchen clothes. So let’s discuss how to keep them from smelling in the first place. (Relax, I am not going to ask you to dip them in that strong smelling, chemical filled fabric conditioner.)
#1. Give them a quick rinse after every use
Sometimes, I use the clothes just to wipe an already clean vessel. That’s innocuous. But sometimes, I use them to clean spills. The trick here is to not put the used rags crumpled in a corner until wash day.
Instead, give them a quick rinse in plain water so that the food particles aren’t sticking to the cloth. Now hang them in a place to dry.
#2. Only put away dry cloth rags in the laundry corner
I have already given this away in my previous point. Have a place in the kitchen where you can temporarily dry few kitchen clothes. Once you give them a quick rinse, let your kitchen rags dry there.
Once they are dry, put them in a laundry bag meant for kitchen clothes.
#3. Do your laundry every 3-4 days
It is too much work to launder your kitchen clothes too frequently. It is also a waste of water if you are laundering just a few of them. But do not wait too long either.
Wash your kitchen clothes every 3-4 days. Whether you prefer to hand wash or wash them in the machine is up to you.
#4. Wash them alone
Do not launder your kitchen clothes along with other clothes. You don’t want the food smells transferred on to your dresses or the smell of your sweat and germs to pass on to your kitchen towels.
Always do a separate laundry of your kitchen towels.
#5. Store them in a place with proper ventilation
You probably want to store them in a container to prevent dust buildup. But my experience has been that no matter how well you wash them, they start smelling when you keep them for long in a closed container.
The solution is to keep them in a container with holes for aeration.
Not having a fancy container with holes? You do not have to go shopping.
Find a plastic container in your kitchen that is slightly broken and discarded in a corner. Heat a knife (not used for cooking) in a flame and make some holes in the plastic container. Wash the container well after this. Your DIY kitchen cloth holder is ready.
Make sure that there is sufficient ventilation when you are drilling holes with a heated knife. You don’t want to inhale melting plastic.
#6. Keep different clothes for different purposes
Consider not using the same cloth for cleaning food spills and wiping clean vessels. Hands harbor bacteria, so it is nice to keep a separate cloth to wipe your hands too. If you are using one cloth only once before wash and you are washing them well, then it should be okay to use the same set of clothes for different purposes.
Whether you want to launder all your kitchen clothes together or separate them into categories is up to you. Since I follow steps 1 and 2 for my kitchen clothes, I am okay with doing all kitchen laundry together.
Smart tip: If you want to separate clothes used for different purposes, you can color code them. Like red is for spills, green is for wipe dry etc.
Tips to restore smelly kitchen clothes:
What’s the use of all this advice when your kitchen clothes already smell? That’s okay too. We have got you covered.
#1. Consider improving your wash routine
Increase the time for soaking in your washing machine and include an extra wash cycle. If you are washing it by hand, soak them longer and wash more thoroughly. This might help you get them cleaner.
If you have a hot water cycle in your washing machine, use that.
#2. Boil them
Boiling your kitchen clothes is a great way to remove odor and bacteria. Fill a container halfway with water and bring it to boil. Now add your kitchen rags and boil them for ten minutes. (Stand nearby and give it a stir in between). Wring them and dry as usual.
#3. Vinegar, the savior
After the wash cycle, pause your washing machine and add a cup of vinegar diluted with water. (Add more vinegar depending on the stench or the number of clothes). Let the clothes soak in vinegar for at least an hour before the regular rinse cycles.
If you are washing by hand, you can add vinegar to your tub of washed clothes. Continue rinsing after an hour of soaking.
#4. Basking in baking soda
Use baking soda instead of vinegar, in the same way as mentioned above. I recommend not using baking soda and vinegar together as it leads to a fizzy chemical reaction and I am not sure the cleaning will be as effective.
#5. Put them to dry right away
Once the washing is complete in the washing machine, do not let the damp clothes sit under the closed lid for too long. Put them to dry immediately to avoid bad odor.
Some of us would have learnt it the hard way, as this applies to all kinds of clothes outside the kitchen too.
#6. Dry them in the sun
Are you drying them indoors? It is time to show them some solar magic on a sunny day.
Drying them in direct sunlight is a great way to get rid of odors. If the sun is on holiday, ask help from the wind.
I hope you have learnt some fab ways to keep your kitchen clean and green at the same time. Finally, I would like to discuss some extra safe measures to keep our kitchen clothes safe and superb.
- Do not use fabric conditioner
Fabric conditioners like comfort leave a residue in the clothes and you don’t want that to be passed on to your food. We only need clean smelling kitchen clothes, not fragrant ones.
- Be careful if handling meat.
We are a vegetarian household. But I understand that the possibility of bacterial contamination is more if meat or even eggs are being handled in the kitchen.
Be extra careful when handling non vegetarian food and ensure that you avoid reusing your kitchen clothes for other purposes, before washing.
- Paper towels to the rescue
When in doubt, for example, while handling meat, you can use paper tissues for that purpose alone. It would also be smart to use paper tissues to clean oil spills, because it is going to be harder to wash the oil off your kitchen clothes.
So, have a pack of paper tissues, but hide them!! The kitchen towels should be the ones easily visible to everyone’s eyes. Paper tissues are to be used only for specific uses.
- Toss out old towels when the time comes
Most of you probably do not need to be told this. You will replace your kitchen towels with new ones when the time comes. But for frugal people like me, such reminders help in addition with usual common sense!!
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There you go. I hope you will feel encouraged to use kitchen towels after reading this post. Now that you know how to clean kitchen towels and dish rags, the change would not be a daunting one.
And do let us know how you like the switch. We love hearing words of encouragement.