Getting Rid of Smells in Dish Towels

Handmade cotton crocheted dish towels are my favorite.
Handmade cotton crocheted dish towels are my favorite. | Source

We've all been there. We have all reached for a dish towel in the kitchen to wipe something up only to find that the towel is sour smelling. Worse than that, the awful smell lingers on your hands and fingers. There is not too much worse than a smelly kitchen dish towel.

Fortunately, it seems the sour smell of a dish towel can be removed easily and prevented from happening again by taking a few simple steps. Learn how to get rid of smells in dish towels and how to keep your dish towels fresh smelling all the time!

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Why Do Dish Towels Smell?

Dish towels are used to wash dishes, clean counter tops, and mop up spills. They are always wet or damp. Because they are always moist, dish towels have the tendency to develop mildew. If you are like me, you may have experienced the same type of smell when a load of laundry has been left too long in the washing machine before drying. The damp smell of cloth that has begun to mildew is sour and smells to me like a dirty dog - a really dirty dog!

Dish towels also smell because they clean and mop up so many other things. Cleaning counter tops after cooking could mean your dish towel was in touch with scraps of onion, vinegar, cooking oil, olives, tomatoes, and more. Each of these ingredients has its own unique smell. These smells build up in your dishcloth between washings.

Add 2 Tbsp of liquid chlorine bleach to the bleach reservoir of  your washing machine to get rid of dish towel smells.
Add 2 Tbsp of liquid chlorine bleach to the bleach reservoir of your washing machine to get rid of dish towel smells. | Source

Line Drying Dish Towels Really Gets Them Fresh!

How to Get Rid of Smells in Dish Towels

One simple way of ridding your dish towel of smells is to wash it briefly in your kitchen sink with a dab of dishwashing liquid. Scrub the cloth into itself and lather it up really good. Rinse in cool water. When you smell your dishcloth, it will now smell fresh and clean.

When dish towels become sour smelling, it is time to pull out the big guns for getting them clean. I like to keep it simple. I don't use too much bleach in my home. But when my dish towels get smelly, bleach is the only way to go.

To get your sour smelling dish towels fresh and clean, wash them separately in your washing machine. Use laundry detergent as you ordinarily would. Add 2 Tbsp of liquid chlorine bleach to the bleach dispenser of your washing machine. Wash as usual in hot, warm or cool water. I do all of my laundry in cold water. The bleach does the disinfecting; so the temperature of the water doesn't really matter.

Once your dish towels are washed, check them for smells before drying. I have never had any that retained smells after washing this way; but I have developed a routine of smelling them after laundering - probably just because I absolutely LOVE their fresh smell!

If you are able, dry your dish towels outside on a clothes line. There is nothing better than bright sunlight and outdoor air to give your dish towels an amazing fresh scent! Even if you don't have a large yard, you can get a small rotating clothes line that will dry up to four loads of laundry at a time. That is what I use. I love it because I can remove it from the lawn and store it in my laundry room when I am not using it.

If you don't have access to a clothes line, use your dryer and a dryer sheet as usual. Your dish towels will smell very, very fresh when dry.

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Hang wet dish towels on the neck of your kitchen faucet to allow them to dry between uses.Hang kitchen towels on the bar of your oven door to keep them dry.
Hang wet dish towels on the neck of your kitchen faucet to allow them to dry between uses.
Hang wet dish towels on the neck of your kitchen faucet to allow them to dry between uses. | Source
Hang kitchen towels on the bar of your oven door to keep them dry.
Hang kitchen towels on the bar of your oven door to keep them dry. | Source

How to Prevent Dish Towels from Getting Smelly

A few ways to keep your dish towels from getting smelly include:

  • hang dish towels on sink or on the neck of the faucet in between uses to promote drying;
  • hang your kitchen towel on the bar of the oven door to allow it to dry;
  • change dish towels and kitchen towels daily;
  • when placing wet dish towels or wet kitchen towels in your laundry room, be sure to lay them flat across the washing machine or hang them on your laundry room sink until you are ready to wash them;
  • wash your dish towel with liquid dish washing detergent after handwashing dishes, wiping up spills or countertops.

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Comments 3 comments

CarlySullens profile image

CarlySullens 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri

ahhh, what a great tip, wash your dish towels with soap in the kitchen sink. I can do this. Thank you for all the great ideas.


kansasyarn profile image

kansasyarn 3 years ago from Rural Midwest Author

Thanks for the read, Carly. Glad it was helpful!


Sue Bailey profile image

Sue Bailey 3 years ago from South Yorkshire, UK

I normally just soak mine in diluted bleach for a couple of hours and then rinse them thoroughly

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