Knitted dishcloths are a great alternative to disposable cloths. Here are some tips on making and using knitted dishcloths, including how to clean them.
The first time I heard of knitted dishcloths I thought ‘why would anyone want to knit dishcloths?’ Even taking into account the environmental benefit of ditching disposables and reusing the same cloths over and over, surely, I thought, it would be easier to just recycle rags.
Then I got my first dishcloth in an internet swap and promptly fell in love. The knitted texture makes the cloths great for cleaning. So if, like me, you’re wondering why you would bother, try one out. You may be surprised like I was.
What are knitted dishcloths used for?
Knitted dishcloths are great for handwashing dishes because the knitted texture helps with the cleaning.
But beyond washing dishes, dishcloths also make great cleaning rags for wiping down benches and cleaning the bathroom.
Why use a knitted cloth over a microfibre cloth?
When you use a knitted dishcloth made from cotton, microfibres aren’t being shed into the waterways. Microfibre is made from plastic, and the accumulation of microfibres are becoming an environmental problem.
And while cotton isn’t a perfect option either, it’s not plastic and it can be composted at the end of its life, reducing waste. If you can opt for organic cotton.
I like to colour code my cloths so I’m not cleaning the toilet with the dishcloth (eeeewww). Yellow cloths are for bathroom cleaning in our house.
Making your own dishcloths
If you are wanting to learn how to knit, dishcloths make an excellent first project.
It doesn’t matter if your knitting looks like the dog’s breakfast (as many of my first attempts did), you are only cleaning with them anyway.
If you prefer not to knit at all, you can make great cleaning cloths by recycling old towels. Here’s a tutorial on how to make double-sided cleaning cloths.
What yarn is best for knitted dishcloths?
The best yarn to knit dishcloths is organic cotton yarn or regular cotton if you can’t get that.
Cotton blends also work well; a cotton bamboo blend is nice. Another option is mercerised cotton used for crocheting doilies. This is a stiffer yarn.
Ideally, you want to stay away from acrylic yarn because the acrylic sheds microfibres and it can’t be composted at the end of its lifecycle.
However, if you have a cotton acrylic blend already, it’s best to use up what you’ve already got on hand. On the upside, the acrylic blend dries quickly.
The worst choice is wool because it can felt when exposed to lots of water and scrubbing.
How to knit a dishcloth
If you’re new to knitting, start with an easy pattern. You can find a bunch of dishcloth patterns here.
You will need some yarn, knitting needles (or crochet hook if you prefer), and a darning needle. To choose the right size needles, check the recommendation on the yarn wrapper.
The great thing about dishcloths is that it doesn’t matter how rough the knitting is because you’re only cleaning with them. It’s a great first project to get started with knitting. Or crocheting if you prefer.
Knit the pattern on repeat until the dishcloth is square. You can check it’s square by folding it in half on the diagonal. Once the sides match up, it’s square.
Cast off, tie off the yarn, then using a darning needle, weave then loose threads into the dishcloth to hide.
How to clean and sanitize dishcloths
It’s a good idea to start a new day with a fresh new dishcloth. That way, you don’t have germs building up and the dishcloth getting funky.
To avoid funk, rinse out your dishcloth each time you use it in cold water and hang to dry. Don’t leave it in a crumpled ball in the sink.
Bacteria loves hot moist environments to grow, so rinsing it in cold water and then hanging to dry will help keep the dishcloth from going yucky.
If you’re wondering how to teach the rest of the family not to leave the dishcloth in a wet pile in the sink, then I can’t help. We haven’t managed that in our household yet either.
At the end of each night, either hang in the laundry to dry or put in a bucket of water that has nappy soaker or oxy bleach to sanitize them.
Then, when it’s washing day, wash in the washing machine with other items to make up a full load. I usually wash mine with the towels.
Dealing with stinky dishcloths
Dishcloths can get stinky even if you’re careful with drying them. You have a few options for restoring their clean, fresh smell.
The first option is to boil them in a pot of water for 15 minutes. Boiling will sanitize and deodorise.
Another option is to leave it to sit in a solution of water, vinegar and bicarb soda. Add 1 cup of vinegar and 1/2 cup of bicarb soda to a bucket of water, leave to soak for an hour or so. Rinse the dishcloths and wash in the washing machine as normal.
Don’t leave them to sit in vinegar overnight, because the vinegar can go mouldy, especially when it’s hot and humid. I learned that from experience.
The final option is to soak the dishcloths in a solution of water and bleach. Chlorine bleach (normal household bleach) is cheap and easy to get but NOT environmentally friendly, but it is cheap. If your dishcloths are coloured, the colour will fade if you bleach them. It’s important that you DON’T mix bleach with other cleaners or vinegar. It can create toxic fumes.
A more environmentally friendly alternative is hydrogen peroxide, which you can find in the chemist. It also disinfects and removes odours.
Do you use knitted dishcloths? What are your tips for using dishcloths?
Melissa Goodwin is a writer and the creator of Frugal and Thriving who has a passion for living frugally and encouraging people to thrive on any budget. The blog is nine years old and is almost like her eldest baby. Prior to being a blogger and mum (but not a mummy blogger), she worked as an accountant doing other people’s budgets, books and tax.