Saturday, October 27, 2012

Dish Towel vs. Dish Cloth - there is a difference

dish towel

dish cloth

I'm standing at the kitchen sink, my hands submerged in hot, soapy water. I'm using a dish cloth to wash my one-quart capacity measuring cup. I rinse it under hot water and then reach for a dish towel that's lying on the counter top a few feet away. I shake it open to begin to dry the measuring cup.

"Ugh!" This comes out somewhere between a groan and a yell and definitely expresses exasperation.

Hidden in the folds of the cloth I have found chunks of tomato, ground beef, and pasta. A large section of the center of the towel is red and stiff with what appears to be dried up lasagna soup from last night's dinner. Maybe half a bowlful.

This is gross.

"Who does stuff like this?" I holler although I'm the only one home.

Big sigh.

Now to deal with this. Half of the chunks of food have hardened and stuck to the towel. Half are loose and have fallen to my just-mopped kitchen floor. I clean up the floor and then shake and scrape what's left on the towel into the garbage. I submerge the towel in the hot soapy water of the sink, then I wring it out. I take it to the laundry room. Might as well put a load through.

Boys and Girls, there is a difference between a dish cloth and a dish towel.

Would you take a bath towel or even a hand towel into the shower with you, soap it up and scrub with it?

No, you wouldn't.

Because a towel is not meant for that. A towel is meant to dry stuff off that is wet. Stuff that's wet from water.

You might, however, use a wash cloth in the shower. Then you would dry the water off of yourself with a bath towel.

In the kitchen, it works the same way. We wash things with a dish cloth. Then we dry them with a dish towel.

Let's practice a bit, shall we?

Scenario #1

You're making mac and cheese from a box. Somehow (although I can't understand it) you miss the plate and dump mac and cheese from the pan onto the countertop. You really don't want to, but you know you should at least make an attempt to clean it up. You reach for a dish towel...


Now let's think this through. Remember, towels are for drying off things that are wet from water. Is the counter top wet from water? No, it is not. The counter top has chunks of food on it. You should go to the sink and find a dish cloth. Run the dish cloth under hot water and wring it out. Even better, you could make some hot, soapy water, submerge the dish cloth in it, and then wring it out. But I realize that's asking a lot.

Now, using the dish cloth, carefully wipe up the mac and cheese, gathering the pieces inside the cloth. Carry the enclosed pieces to the garbage and dump them in. Return to the sink with the dish cloth and run it under hot water again, rinsing it well. Take it back to the location of your spill. Wipe the spot thoroughly. Repeat until the counter top is clean. Give the dish cloth a final rinse and hang it somewhere to dry.

Scenario #2

You're making yourself a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Somehow (although I can't understand it) grape jelly drops from the knife you are using onto the kitchen counter. It's just a little bit so you reach for a dish towel...


It doesn't matter that it's just a little bit. Is it water? No, it is grape jelly. You should go to the sink and find a dish cloth. Run the dish cloth under hot water (again, hot soapy water would be better but...) and wring it out. Wipe up the jelly with the damp dish cloth. Rinse under hot water. Wring it out again. Wipe the counter top until it is no longer sticky. Rinse and wring out the cloth one more time and hang it somewhere to dry.

Scenario #3

You're pouring yourself a glass of Sprite. Somehow (ahem...) you manage to spill it all over the counter. It runs down the fronts of the lower cabinets and onto the floor. You reach for a dish towel because this time it's clear like water...


Now, come on. Really?

First of all, get some paper towels and soak up what's on the floor. Throw them in the garbage. Get the mop. Mop the floor. It's the only way you're going to get it clean. (I hope you know how to mop.) Then get a dish cloth and run it under (this time you've got to do it)  HOT, SOAPY water. Wring it out. Wipe the counter top and the fronts of the cabinets. Better get the back splash too - the stuff probably went everywhere. Rinse the dish cloth in the hot, soapy water and wipe everything again. And one more time. Then give the dish cloth a final rinse and hang it somewhere to dry.  

Scenario #4

You are trying to pour water into your bowl of instant oatmeal. Somehow (sigh) you miss the bowl entirely and dump it all on the counter top. You know you should clean it up so you... Hey! This time it's just water! For once, it's just plain old water! You can reach for a dish towel and proceed to sop up the spilled water and feel perfectly good about it. Just remember to hang the towel when you're done so that it can dry.

Remember, just ask yourself:

 "Is it plain water?"

If yes, you can use a dish towel. If no, please use a dish cloth and follow the outlined steps above. Please don't leave surprises hidden in dish towels for unsuspecting mothers, wives, or other probably female people to discover. 

We will be happy. 

You like it when we're happy. 

We like it when we're happy.

 Win/ Win. 

Thanks for listening.


  1. You read my mind!! This is exactly what I go through with 2 men in the house!!!!!

  2. Thank you for clarifying this pesky problem. I am e-mailing this link to my entire family. Especially helpful is the distinction between cloth and towel and rinse and repeat. Maybe this post will be better than my nagging?

  3. Amen! I have had the same thing happen too many times. Never could understand what people were thinking! The only thing I would add is that after using the towel to mop up the water, PLEASE don't just leave it on the counter!

  4. Melinda, are you still happy to be here? I have been anxiously awaiting your next post. Please oh please continue posting.

  5. However, there are terry cloth towels for wiping wet hands and flour sack towels for wiping dishes without leaving residue. This is a distinction that is real and bears a better nomenclature. Jane

  6. I thought I was going crazy. I have a vacation rental and 95% of the time when I collect the towels, the nice white embroidered dish drying towels is full of spaghetti sauce, ketchup, mustard, etc. They must be drying their dishes with paper if you can write a post about how guests should NOT use a bath towel to wipe off their makeup. I actually had to write "bath towels are to be used for drying off only." Use the washcloths to remove makeup. Still everyone's bath towels are stained. I don't understand it.