Kitchen Tip Tuesdays: Solution for sinky dish cloths (finally!)

Kitchen Tip Tuesdays

I've had quite the time with keeping my dish cloths smelling good. I've tried:

Being really strict about wringing out the day's rag at night, letting it dry, and getting a fresh cloth out each morning. (More work than it sounds like!)

And when that wasn't completely 100% followed/successful:

  • Bleach in the washer.  (Works okay, but then every white load was needing bleach.)
  • Vinegar in the washer. (Didn't work well enough.)
  • Starting over with new dish rags.
  • Baking soda in the washer. (Didn't work on the dish rags.)
  • Leaving the clean, washed rags in the sun. (More work, especially in western WA!)

I've even begged for help here on my blog! Not just once, but twice!

And would you believe, I just finally found a healthy, easy, and effective way to treat those dish rags that somehow still end up stinky on occasion. (I think it has to do with little helpers who don't rinse the rag, wring it out, and hang it nicely on the sink when they're done...) ;)

Here's what I've been doing for the past few months, and it really WORKS!

Dish rags in vinegar

Instead of putting a cup of vinegar in the washer load, put any stinky dish cloths in a small bucket or container and put enough vinegar in the container to saturate the cloths.

Leave them in the vinegar for at least 5-10 minutes. Then throw the contents of the container into the washer and wash with other whites on warm or hot (or however you wash your dish rags).

This method concentrates the vinegar and is an easy healthy way to freshen dish cloths! :)

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Kitchen Tip Tuesdays Participants
1. SNEAKING LIVER ONTO YOUR TABLE! - Kelly the Kitchen Kop
2. Mommy's Idea Book (Cooking w/ Kids Tips)
3. No more stale food, MJ (It'snotoverafter30)
4. Tereza~opening stubborn jars:)
5. Amy @ Finer Things (beverage cool down)
6. Heather @ Just Doing My Best (Get kids to eat veggies)
7. Lenetta @ Nettacow (Browning Frozen Hamburger)
8. Gretchen (Notes from an OAMC class)
9. Lacey (clean dishwasher)
10. Becky-Keeping Watermelon Fresh Longer
11. Parenting the Tiniest of Miracles (Ditching the Sippy Cup)
12. Kitchen Stewardship (Reheating Leftovers Tips)
13. A Simple Walk (Using Up Leftover Lunch Meat)
14. Laura @ Bloggin' Mama (chicken stock time saver)
15. Stephanie (Tips For Making The Perfect Cookie)
16. Annie @ Pioneer Mom (re-using canning lids)
17. Good Cheap Eats (the lost art of the carrot stick)
18. Melinda @ Mamabear (bread bag use)
19. Enjoying Motherhood (tip on how to keep track of the pantry)
20. Lori (Butter pats)
21. Kolfinnas Korner (cookin 'burgers)
22. Unfinished Mom (crispy vs. soft veggies




I will be trying this, since I struggle with the same thing.

I am wondering how you launder cloth napkins in order to keep them smelling fresh. Do you use this same method?

Shannon @

I use Super Washing Soda from Arm and Hammer. Find it near the Borax usually. It is NOT baking soda though. Woks on all sorts of smelly things. I am an athlete and it works great on workout stuff too. It is usually $4 a box, but lasts me a month.

I'm thrilled! I have been tying everything you mentioned above. The baking soda took the smell out initially -- 1 day or so, but then it returned... so I'll have to try vinegar next! thanks :)

Great minds must think alike, I was thinking about posting this very tip today. I keep a quart jar handy that I mix one fourth vinegar and three fourths water in. I soak my sponges/scrapers in it and then dump the contents in the sink and rinse them well in hot water. I also use it for dish cloths when needed.

I love this tip because I make my own laundry detergent and sometimes my dish cloths do not smell the freshest. I am definitely going to try this. Thank you!

I'll have to give this a whirl!

I've had that same problem in the past, but only w/ certain rags. I came to the conclusion that it was the fabric the rags were made of. Some would stink right out of the wash and rags made of a different fabric wouldn't stink even when they were dirty. I just tossed them.

I'd love to know which fabrics and what your observations on each one were! :)

All of my dish cloths are 100% cotton, but some thinner than others. I also have some SKOY cloths which I use for dishes, and they stay fresh longer, and can be run through the dish washer. :)

I think I'm going to try this with my husbands work shirts as I can't get the smell out of them - ICK!


When I first met my husband, he had been doing his laundry for about a year. His method was to stuff as much as he could in the washer, wash it, then dry whenever he thought about it. Between that and working in a warehouse where he sweated alot... well, I was doing his laundry long before we married.

Anyway, I tried everything to get that baked in odor out and ended up washing them in detergent mixed with a cup of borax and a cup of baking soda. I would let them agitate and then let them sit, for an hour. All the smell is now gone. I still wash his work clothes/yard clothes with the borax and baking soda added, but just a quarter cup or so and not every time and the odor is not an issue anymore.

Now I'm anxious to try the vinegar on my kitchen rags instead of bleach!


Thanks for the tip!
I'm on my way to give it a try right now :D

The easiest way I've found for "freshening" dishcloths is to get them damp/wettish and put them in the microwave for 2 minutes. Germs don't live through that!

Oh, that reminds me! We don't have a microwave, but I have tried boiling the rags in a pot of water.

Aside from fading (and redistributing some color), it did take care of the smell, but only for a few uses. Soaking in vinegar is a lot easier than boiling rags...

My husband never rinses the dish cloth, so all of ours are smelly. I hate it. I'm not wiping the table, the counter, my baby, or my own hands on a sour smelling cloth. I'm going to round up all of our clothes RIGHT NOW and try this out. Thanks!

Thanks for this tip, Tammy!
I have had the same dish rags for about three years now, and throw them in the wash after one days' use. I've noticed that they not only get stinky, but feel as though they were used at a burger joint. YUCK.
I am going to try this today. Thank you!

My Mom told me that you can keep them from getting stinky in the first place if you rinse them in cold water when you are done using them. I've tried it a few times (when I remember) and it does seem to work.

Hmmm. I have been married for 26 years and never had this problem with dish cloths. I wonder why? Now, I HAVE had this problem with a scouring type sponge that didn't get laundered as quickly as it should have. It took forever to finally get the odor out of it.

I have all different types of dishcloths. I do always rinse in cold water after every use, ring well and always always spread out to hang dry over something. And I never use more than one day. Any difference with how you use yours? I'm very sensitive to smells, so I'm sure I would have noticed a problem.

Tammy - do you use vinegar when you wash nappies too? I've heard that is good for the smell?!! I think you use cloth right?

I use vinegar on occasion for diapers. It works pretty well, but nothing beats sunshine for me. I just lay mine out in the grass.

I'm trying this with my son's football uniform!!!! That is one stink that will NOT come out!

I'm going to go soak some dishrags now.

Thank you so very much. All of mine keep getting smelly, because there end up being "too many cooks in the kitchen". The positive side is that every so often I'm getting help from people, but this will help me the day after!

I wanted to ask you about some cloths you had reviewed a few months ago. You said you had used one for a whole month before it started getting smelly. Do those cloths also have to get soaked in vinegar?

I once lived with a woman when I was in Teacher's College who had the STINKIEST dish cloths known to man kind. I didn't want to offend her, but I did have my own "secret" cloth that I used instead.

The trick, I agree is to hang them so that they dry out properly.

I like to use thin J-clothes and they wash nicely. I haven't bought a new box in years.

Thank you, thank you, thank you for the vinegar tip!

I haven't had problems with my dishcloths--I usually use a sponge for dishes and dishcloths for cleaning, and then wash them right away--but our washcloths have been smelling funky lately. I washed one a bunch of times and tried stain remover on it and couldn't get the smell out and wound up trashing it. :( So when another one came out of the wash stinky, I tried soaking it in vinegar in the sink, and it doesn't smell anymore! Thank you!

do you wash your dishcloths all by themselves? I have been using disposable sponges but am trying to use more dishcloths- but I don't want to throw them in the wash with the underwear, ya know?! But I don't accumulate dirty ones fast enough to do a load of just cloths- so what should i wash them with?

My method is boiling them...just boil a pot of water and toss the towels in, leave in for about 5 minutes on a hard boil and voila!

My husband and I use the same hand towel and wipe our hands on it after washing them or our face after brushing our teeth. The towel gets washed about 1x per week, sometimes less. It's not enough!! It really starts to smell, even (maybe especially) after being washed with detergent on cold (it's maroon colored). I just saturated it with vinegar and it's sitting in the sink until I wash it later today. I wonder if I should wash it on hot just this once, and whether I should add some baking soda to the washing cycle to further neutralize the stink (and vinegar). Thoughts?


How did the vinegar do for you? Did it help?? :)

I personally wash all my towels in hot water -- but don't wash a maroon-colored one on hot with anything light-colored in the load, of course! ;)

Drying on HIGH heat or outside in full sun helps keep towels fresh... we also get clean towels a LOT so that the soaking-wet ones can dry and get washed.

Since I have little kids who are constantly washing their hands, our bathroom towel gets replaced with a fresh one 1-3 times per day! And I don't put wet towels in the laundry basket/hamper... I hang them on the side and when they have dried, then they go in the basket until I wash them.

I think I'm just very sensitive to fresh-smelling towels!! :) I really like white towels, because they can easily take a hot wash, and even a splash of bleach every now and then if needed! :)

Yup, the vinegar saturation soak for 30 minutes worked great! I then washed (I think on hot, but I'm not positive) without baking soda, and voila, smells great! Thanks SO MUCH! We live in a downtown apartment so no clothesline (cannot wait to move to the 'burbs!)! :(

My mom taught me a method that works very well. And it is great for the sink as well. Fill the sink with water to about 1 inch deep and add some bleach. Lay the dish cloth flat in the water, and leave for about 10 - 15 minutes. Then rinse well. The cloth is healthy clean and the sink sparkles as well. Do this when ever you notice the dish clothes getting a little too greyish and keeps the fibres very clean. I like that the sink gets a good disinfecting as well.

Switching from a petroleum-based dish washing liquid to plant-based worked wonders! Haven't experienced stinky rags since :-) (currently using Mrs. Meyers brand ~ found it last at Walmart, using 7th Generation prior)... Great Post ~ love using vinegar!

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