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Monday, August 03, 2009  

Wipe This

Okay, y'all, I'm doing one of those things I don't do that often: putting out a call for help.

It's with a problem that seems minor, because it is. But it doesn't seem minor when I go to blow my nose and discover that my fingers smell like the Well of Souls.

Before that clue sends your mind wandering off in entirely too filthy a direction, let me just explain what's going on: our kitchen washcloths get really stank. Okay, I guess that's still dirty, but in a different sense.

It became a problem around the time M. Edium was born, I think, and we were wandering around the house in a sleepy haze all the time. Back then, a whiff of a damp kitchen cloth that smelled like old mushrooms could be useful for a jolt, but aesthetically it wasn't pleasant. Trash and I used to blame each other for not rinsing them and wringing them out after every use, but then we caught each other actually doing that, and the mystery deepened.

Unfortunately, so did the stank odor. To this day, M. Edium is reluctant to have his face washed, probably because his sensitive nose was submitted too many times to being wiped down with the smell of wet mushrooms.

And it's not like we don't wash them, with extreme regularity. Normally we have one or two cloths in active service at any given time, and none of them lasts more than a day before a now-habitual pre-wipe sniff sends it careering floppily onto the landing at the top of the stairs, which is the closest thing we have to a laundry chute. Then they go in the wash, and from there either the dryer or the clothesline, and then back to the drawer. Where they smell fine, if not April fresh, but the minute we take one out and get it wet it assaults us with a coming attractions preview of what it's going to be smelling like in about twelve hours.

There was one nice reprieve from this phenomenon this past winter, during the period when our dishwasher was brokenA and we did three or four sinkfuls of dishes a day. During that time, our dishcloths were constantly clean and fresh-smelling, with no lingering odor aside from whatever flavor of Dawn we were using. We'd like to get back to that, but not enough to actually do our dishes manually again.

So what's the solution? Switch to paper towels? Use nothing but those disinfectant wipes Trash loves so much? Let the crumbs build up on the counters until we can use a broom and dustpan? Or just wear noseplugs all the time? Admittedly, that last solution will also help me cut down on facial tissue use with my allergies and all, but I can't see Trash or M. Edium going for it. And throwing out all our dishrags and buying all new ones won't help, because it seems to affect them all equally, regardless of their age. But not the rest of our clothes, so we know the problem doesn't lie with our appliances.

Suggestions welcome. Worst ideas will win the prize of a damp dishrag sent to your home address.

posted by M. Giant 8:22 AM 20 comments


Try washing them with Oxyclean.

By Blogger Cori, at August 3, 2009 at 8:31 AM  

Wash them with bleach. Dry thoroughly. And when you're done with them, but don't plan to do laundry immediately(!), hang them to dry somewhere, so they're not sitting wet in the bottom of a dark hamper. Oh, and wash your hamper out with bleachy water as well.

By Anonymous heatherkay, at August 3, 2009 at 8:41 AM  

Wipe down your counters with a strong borax solution and soak the dishcloths in the same thing. You just have mold. Get that 20 Mule Team borax--it has a cool label!

Don't think about the Lorax though. Whoops!

By Blogger Emma Burns, at August 3, 2009 at 9:22 AM  

I second the Borax suggestion. It also works great if you add some to the laundry, it removes any and all odors. I just wash my dish cloths and towels in the washing machine with some soap and borax, comes out clean (and stink-free) every time.

By Anonymous Kristin, at August 3, 2009 at 10:12 AM  

Can you wash them with your dishes in the dishwasher? (I don't have a dishwasher, so I don't know if this would work...)

By Blogger mosprott, at August 3, 2009 at 10:39 AM  

We don't use wash cloths, but sponges, and put them in the dishwasher every time we run a cycle to disinfect them.

A cup of vinegar in the laundry will set colors to keep them from bleeding and also eliminate musty odors from towels and wash cloths.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 3, 2009 at 11:20 AM  

We have a color-coded cleaning system in our house. One color is for sponges and washcloths used only for doing dishes, one color for cleaning counters/appliances in the kitchen, one color for the bathroom, one color for general house cleaning, and one color for people. Wash daily/after use using borax. Sort of anal, but it works like a dream and we never use paper towels anymore.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 3, 2009 at 12:38 PM  

Where do you hang them after the rinse and wring? I found that my dish cloths get musty when I hung them over the center ridge thing between the two sinks. Now I hang them on the oven door handle so they get more air and actually dry out some between using.
I don't if that would help. It may just depend on humidity levels and it's very dry where I am.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 3, 2009 at 3:34 PM  

1. As a previous commenter said, hang them up from the faucet or the side of the sink when after you use them and wring them out well.

2. Every two days or so, put the damp cloth in the microwave for 30 seconds to kill anything living on there.

By Anonymous BHL, at August 3, 2009 at 4:22 PM  

Hang them to dry after a day's use, then put in the hamper once dry. Replace daily.
We have this issue with baby washcloths.

By Blogger Unknown, at August 3, 2009 at 5:22 PM  

After using them, rinse well with warm/hot water. Then rinse with cold water before hanging them to dry in a place where they get good airflow. Hanging them to dry while they're still warm and damp is an invitation to the bacteria that causes the stank.

By Blogger Unknown, at August 3, 2009 at 5:31 PM  

washer, hot water, laundry detergent, NO fabric softener, 1 cup vinegar. Works great, saved all my towels from being replaced.
Works great for any funky smells in laundry or for when you simply forget about a wet load in the washer for a few days and it gets that funk.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 3, 2009 at 6:11 PM  

You could try microwaving them (wet, of course) for about 3 minutes. That's supposed to cure moldy dish sponges.

By Anonymous Average Jane, at August 3, 2009 at 6:46 PM  

Our towels sometimes smell like that too and I think it is because we live in a hard water area - the soap doesn't wash out of them completely and then they smell once they get wet. I have tried using washing soda/soda crystals as well as washing powder in the wash for towels and dishcloths and it's really helped.

By Blogger Roisin Muldoon, at August 4, 2009 at 2:27 AM  

Do you use hot water for laundry? if no that is partly why smells come back. I keep a squirt bottle of dilute bleach water on counter top and squirt the dish clothes with them before wringing and hanging to dry.

By Blogger patricci, at August 4, 2009 at 5:37 AM  

Since you have a kid (and pets!), I'd forgo bleach, ammonia, and anything else toxic for vinegar and hydrogen peroxide. Those two sprayed on anything (first, vinegar, then peroxide) kill everything, including smelly bacteria. Then, like many others suggested, I'd rinse and wring out the washcloth and hang it on the faucet or oven handle to dry.

By Blogger Krishna, at August 4, 2009 at 6:39 AM  

Vinegar all the way! I had this exact problem. I agree with the vinegar in the washing machine suggestion; it also works to soak the things in a tub with a cup or two of vinegar for at least a couple of hours, and then wash. It honestly makes them like new, and is much healthier (for you and the world, I guess) than the bleach solution. Good luck! --Sarah

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 4, 2009 at 1:53 PM  

Like someone else said, I suggest one good scrub down of the counters/ wash of all dishrags with Borax. because of the kids and cats I wouldn't make it a regular part of the routing, but you want to make sure you really got everything out and start fresh.

When you rinse them out, use dishsoap, not just water. Then make sure you're hanging them when air can get to them. If it's wadded up on the back of the sink or over the faucet it won't dry all the way. Oven handle is a good suggestion. We have a little mini-clothesline strung along the window over the sink.

By Blogger lumenatrix, at August 4, 2009 at 2:24 PM  

The same thing happened to me....we installed a water softener and uv filter and the problem was gone - COMPLETELY! (The uv filter was more for water quality than the rag-stench...from what I understand the water softener alone would've solved the problem.) Call a water system company and have them come and test your water 0 they should do this for free. If you have hard water that could be the reason.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at August 6, 2009 at 10:15 AM  

I'd borax the drawer where you keep the clean ones as well.

By Blogger Teslagrl, at August 6, 2009 at 10:17 AM  

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