Keep your dish cloths clean

Our ever-thrifty mothers used rags - often old singlets that could still be recycled further - for dish cloths.

These days, we rely on sponges or microfibre cloths that do not need detergent to clean our crockery and, yes, an array of pretty cotton tea towels to dry the dishes with.

Our mothers would boil their dish cloths regularly, but many of us now settle for a cursory rinse of the cloths under the tap and, often, change tea towels only when they are damp.

Now, more aware of kitchen hygiene, I soak my dish cloths nightly in detergent and change my tea towels every other day.

There are reasons for such diligence.

Dish cloths, for example, need to be washed immediately after use, especially when you have been handling raw meat.

Whether it is beef, pork or chicken, raw meat can carry bacteria that can cause serious food-borne illnesses. These can range from an upset stomach to more serious conditions.

Few of us wash our kitchen cloths in the washing machine but, if you do, make sure it is on a hot cycle.

Hot water makes detergent dissolve and work better.

Never wash the cloths with your regular laundry, in case of cross contamination, and never on a delicate cycle, which does not provide enough agitation to get the cloths absolutely clean.

And do not use fabric softener. It provides a filmy coating which may inhibit the cloths' cleaning properties.

If you wash your dish cloths by hand, it is a good practice to wash them after every use during the day and hang them out to dry.

Then, at the end of the day, soak them overnight in soapy water with a little white vinegar.

If you are bothered about stains, spray a little stain remover on them before soaking.

Or do what our mothers did in the old days and boil the cloths with a bit of dish detergent.

Our mothers knew best, after all.

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