Always Do This One Trick With Your Dishcloths

Updated: Apr. 12, 2024

Sterilize dishcloths by boiling them.


If you had to guess which room in your house is the germiest, what would you pick? If you answered the bathroom, guess again. The kitchen is by far the filthiest space. For instance, there’s more E. coli bacteria in your sink and sponge than there is in your toilet bowl.

While sinks can be scrubbed down and sponges can be swapped out, it’s that wet, grimy dishcloth—the one you use over and over to dry your dishes and wipe down the countertops—that’s the real hidden culprit in the kitchen. And, it could even be making you sick.

In a recent National Sanitation Foundation (NSF) International survey, 86 percent of dishcloths contained yeast and mold, 77 percent had E. coli, and 18 harbored—gasp—Staph bacteria! But we know a trick for keeping your dishcloths germ-free, no washing machine required. You just need to know how to boil water.

According to experts, you should make a habit of boiling your dish cloths in a sauce pan to sterilize them. Just fill a pot with water, bring it to a rolling boil, add the rags to the water, and keep them in the boiling water for about 15 minutes. This will kill off anything nasty that’s living inside the towels. Try adding about 1/8 cup of baking soda to the water to help eliminate odors, too. Then, remove the cloths with tongs and hang them up to dry (or pop them in the dryer).

A few pro tips? Don’t combine dark- and light-colored dishcloths in the same pot (just like laundry). And if you’re using baking soda, keep an eye on the pot, as it might froth over. Doing this boiling process on a regular basis will even prolong the life of the dishcloths, so you won’t have to replace them as often. Easy and cost-effective: just the way we like our household hacks.

Another way to make dishtowels last longer? Use them less. Invest in a great dish drying rack—we handpicked these 10 just for you.