How To Clean Dishcloths Naturally (without bleach)

How To Clean Dishcloths Naturally (without bleach)

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I’ve been using my microfiber cloths in place of paper towels for years now and I wouldn’t go back. I always have a cloth to hand, either dry or wet for quick clean-ups, and of course, for washing the dishes too.

With that said, there is always a downside too! We all know that as soon as you get a cloth wet, bacteria can start to grow and before you know it your cloth is smelly. Often that funky smell can linger even after you wash the cloth.

In today’s post, I’m going to show you how you can very easily clean your dishcloths naturally without using bleach and get rid of that dingy smell for good!

The best natural and bleach-free way to clean your dishcloths is to boil them with a little dish soap and half a cup of vinegar. You can also use baking soda to effectively clean and deodorize your dishcloths or a dishwasher tablet if you have one spare. In between washes, cook a wet cloth on high in the microwave for one minute to quickly kill off bacteria and prevent it from smelling.

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How to clean dishcloths without bleach

I always try to avoid bleach if I can. The only place I use it now is to clean the bottom of the toilet bowl because so far I haven’t found a more effective option.

Bleach can be very damaging to the tiny fibres in microfiber cloths and even cotton cloths will wear thin. Oxiclean is a great alternative to bleach for cleaning microfiber cloths.

Warning! Using very hot water on microfiber cloths can damage the fibres. Check the washing directions for your particular dishcloths. E-cloth recommends not washing above 90c. If your dishcloths are made from cotton then boiling water should not damage them.

Let’s look at the options for cleaning your dishcloths, starting with my favourite, dish soap and vinegar:

How to clean dishcloths with vinegar and dish soap

vinegar and dish soap for cleaning dishcloths without bleach

If you have some vinegar to hand, pair it with some dish soap and use it to clean your dishcloths. They will smell lovely and fresh.

Vinegar and dish soap are the perfect combination because together they can cut through grease and kill bacteria.

Vinegar is great at dissolving limescale which is why vinegar and dish soap are great for cleaning shower doors.

dishcloths boiling in vinegar and dish soap
  1. Fill a large pot with water and add no more than a teaspoon of dish soap and half a cup of vinegar. Too much dish soap will cause too many suds.
  2. Add your dishcloths and bring the pot up to a boil.
  3. Put a lid on the pot and simmer for 15 minutes.
  4. Use some tongs to remove the cloths. Transfer to your washing machine and wash as normal.

I find a lid is a necessity otherwise the kitchen stinks too much of vinegar! If you don’t like the vinegar smell go for the next option which uses baking soda.

Related reading:

How to boil dishcloths in baking soda

Baking soda or bicarbonate of soda has incredible deodorizing abilities, which includes the ability to remove odors from your dishcloths and treat stains.

Here’s what I found works a treat for dealing with smelly dishcloths:

  1. Add your dishcloths to a large pot and add water so that the dishcloths are covered.
  2. Add about 1/4 cup of baking soda to the water and give the pot a good stir.
  3. Bring up to a boiling point, add a lid and then continue boiling for 15 minutes.
  4. Take the dishcloths out with tongs and then add to your washing machine and wash as normal.
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How to clean dishcloths with dishwasher detergent

I often prefer to use homemade dishwasher detergent, but I like to keep some shop-bought dishwasher tablets on hand because they have so many other uses besides dishwashing.

It depends on the brand you use, but dishwasher detergents usually contain enzymes that are great for consuming and removing protein-based stains. Dishwasher detergents also often contain sodium hypochlorite which is actually bleach. This cleans your dishcloths and whitens them at the same time.

Here’s how to clean your dingy dishcloths with dishwasher detergent:

  1. Add one or two dishwasher tablets or some dishwasher powder to a bowl of hot water and let it dissolve.
  2. Add your dishcloths and let them soak for at least 30 minutes.
  3. Remove and then transfer to your washing machine and wash as normal.

How to clean dishcloths in the microwave

I’ve been sanitizing my dishcloths in the microwave for a long time. I love doing this because not only does it clean the cloth, but I can clean the microwave at the same time!

Simply cook your rinsed wet cloth on high for one minute. Then let the cloth cool until you can pick it up and then use it to quickly wipe around the microwave.

I find microwaving my cloth useful if I want my dishcloth to last more than a day or I’ve used it for a particularly mucky job and it needs sanitizing very quickly. You could also do this at the end of the day before you hang it out to air so that when it gets into the washing machine it’s already pretty sanitary.

Tips for keeping your dishcloths fresh all-day

I love my microfiber dishcloths, and when I remember, I switch out for a new one every day. I soon know if I forget, because my nose tells so!

Here are some tips to help you keep your dishcloths clean and smelling fresh:

  1. Use a new dishcloth every day. Keep your dishcloth as sanitary as possible and keep stains at bay by switching to a new cloth every day.
  2. Air between uses. Hang your cloth out in an airy position when you are not using it to help prevent bacteria growth.
  3. Microwave your cloth. Cook your rinsed wet cloth in the microwave on high for one minute to quickly kill bacteria in-between washes.
  4. Never put your wet dishcloth in the laundry bin. If you are not ready to wash your dishcloth immediately, let it dry before you add it to the washing pile.
  5. Wash your cloths in their own load. Save up your used (dry) cloths and launder them together so that you can give your cloths special attention and avoid cross-contamination.
  6. Dry your dishcloths in the dryer or outside in the sunshine. The drying phase is an opportunity to kill any bacteria that didn’t die off in the wash. The high heat of the dryer or the sun’s rays should finish killing any remaining germs.
  7. Boil the from time to time. Every few weeks, boil wash your dishcloths in a tub of boiling water or on your stovetop. Doing so will remove odors. Don’t do this if your cloths are made from microfiber.
  8. For really mucky cleanup jobs, use a paper towel. As much as I love using washable cloths instead of disposable paper, sometimes the job is too mucky and I don’t want to contaminate or damage my precious cloths. Examples include raw meat juice, blood and dog vomit.

How to get dishcloths white without bleach

Your dishcloths might be clean, but do they look clean too? They might well be sanitary but a build-up of stains from past uses doesn’t look that great!

If you are wondering how to get washcloths white again, a simple dishwasher tablet is your answer. You would think that dishwasher tablets are only good for the dishwasher, but they also have many more uses including the ability to whiten dishcloths.

Here’s how to whiten your dishcloths with just a dishwasher tablet.

  1. Add your dishcloths to a large bowel or use your bathtub.
  2. Add hot water.
  3. Dissolve a dishwasher tablet in the water.
  4. Add your dishcloths.
  5. Soak for several hours or until your cloths are stain-free.

You could also use your washing machine to soak the dishcloths too. If you don’t have a soaking cycle, put your washer on a hot wash and when it reaches temperature simply turn it off for a couple of hours. You might wish to turn it back on now and then to agitate the load.

How to get the sour smell out of dishcloths with just boiling water

If you don’t have anything suitable to hand for cleaning your dishcloths, did you know that just boiling water can do a great job of removing odors too?

dishcloths in boiling water

If your dishcloths are clean but they have a dingy sour smell on them, boiling them on your stovetop is the answer.

Here’s how:

  1. Cover your dishcloth with cold water.
  2. Bring the water up to a boiling point.
  3. Continue boiling for 15 minutes.
  4. Let the water cool.
  5. Wring out the cloths and then allow to dry.

Frequently asked questions

How often should you wash dishcloths?

I recommend that you wash your dishcloth once per day and air it in-between uses. Leaving it on the side of the sink will encourage bacteria to grow on it. Wring it out and then hang it somewhere airy such as on the handle of the oven.

Can I boil wash microfiber cloths?

Washing above 90c is not recommended for microfiber cloths because the heat can damage the tiny fibers.

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Sparkling Penny

Penny | Sparkling Penny

Penny’s expert cleaning advice has been featured repeatedly by Homes and Gardens Magazine, and also at wikiHow, The Daily Express Newspaper, and Glam Magazine to name a few! was founded in 2019 and has since helped millions of people achieve a cleaner living space.

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