Unstink my washcloths!
April 2, 2024 5:31 PM   Subscribe

I have a couple of kitchen washcloths that have been, shall we say, exposed to ghee (and in some cases, hot milk). Even after running them through the washing machine two or three times, they still have kind of a cheesy funk to them that is especially pronounced when they get damp. What can I do to unstink them?
posted by DoctorFedora to Home & Garden (20 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Since they are just washcloths, so nice and small, I'd soak them right in a bowl with vinegar.
posted by ReluctantViking at 5:40 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

Ammonia works for me. (Don't mix with bleach, or use with any detergents that contain bleach!)
posted by paper scissors sock at 5:41 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: I have vinegar! Maybe I should try this. I also have a bamboo cutting board that needs unstinking from alliums (I love onions but also don't love when sliced strawberries taste like onion) but that might require an additional Ask post
posted by DoctorFedora at 5:51 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

Here are some options that have worked for me for various stinky bath towels, kitchen cloths, sports clothing, stinky athletic clothing or t-shirts.

Try an extra-long deep-clean cycle if your washer has one. My washer has a sanitary cycle that works well. If not, use the hottest water and longest cycle and extra rinse available.

Conversely, do not use too much laundry detergent as residue left in the cleaned cloths will hold odors. Do an extra rinse if necessary.

Buy a laundry additive that is specifically for removing odor. Some are branded for sports materials and some are just general. They go where you add fabric softener. Some work better if you air dry or in the sun instead of the dryer.

Lay the washed, not dried, cloths in the sun if possible. This works well for all odors.

Spray with unscented Fabreeze.
posted by RoadScholar at 6:00 PM on April 2

My first attempt to unstink any kitchen fabric is to microwave it wet (not sopping but more than damp) and then allow to dry thoroughly. It'll come out very hot so be careful when handling, but that's what you want to purge it.
posted by teremala at 7:10 PM on April 2

Are they cotton? If they are, you could boil them on the stove, or pouring boiling water over them while they are in the sink would probably be okay even if they are not cotton. You could soak them in some very hot water with oxiclean. If they are white, or you don't care about color changes, you can soak them in some water with a little bleach.
posted by Sar at 7:11 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

I know that my response is not an answer to your question but I love these so much that I take any opportunity to tell people about them: Swedish dishcloths. I'll never ever ever ever go back to using the regular cotton dishcloths, ever. Odors often happen because the cloth stays damp for quite some time which allows the smell to set deep in the fibers. These swedish dishcloths dry in 20 minutes.

I also second laying your stinky dishcloths out in the sun, if you have any of that where you are.

With regard to your bamboo cutting board, i've had success with lemon juice - just spread it around on the bamboo, let it sit for 10 minutes, then rinse but of course I'm going to recommend that you get a glass cutting board for your onions and garlic; easy to clean and your strawberries won't taste like onions.
posted by ashbury at 7:21 PM on April 2 [2 favorites]

I would soak them in bleach water and then wash in their own cycle.
posted by DarlingBri at 7:23 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

When I worked in an ice cream shop in high school all our wipe down rags were in a bucket of dish soap and bleach. I think a bleach soak, regular wash with light(!) detergent and drying in the sun will help quite a bit
posted by raccoon409 at 7:46 PM on April 2

Put them in the dishwasher. Dishwasher detergent is hyper aggressive on anything fat/oil based, and it sounds like your smells may be.
posted by ixipkcams at 8:25 PM on April 2 [1 favorite]

I would boil them in a pot of water with Dawn. Stay close so you don't boil the pot dry and start a fire!
posted by nouvelle-personne at 9:47 PM on April 2

Response by poster: Unfortunately I enjoy having sharp, non-damaged knives too much to consider using, much less buying, a glass cutting board! I may try the lemon juice option, though. At worst, the cutting board will then smell like onions but also lemon juice, and lemon juice smells good, so it's at least a net improvement, right?

I currently have the washcloth soaking in a glass of vinegar, and have for a few hours, so we'll see what happens. We may be seeing a follow-up "how do I get vinegar stink out of a washcloth" post. Might also try the "lay it out in the sun for a few days" option, depending on factors like "will it ever stop raining?"

oh, I should probably mention for context as well:
• I am in Japan so I don't have a dishwasher (nor a washing machine that does hot water)
• the washcloth in question is colored and has a nice pattern that Mrs. Fedora likes and would prefer be unharmed overall
• it's cool to disregard these things in answers in case someone has a similar predicament but without these considerations
posted by DoctorFedora at 2:12 AM on April 3

Strangely, someplace recommended Borax to remove odors from cloth. Worked for me!
posted by tmdonahue at 5:52 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]

For the cutting board, are you washing it with a soapy sponge/dishcloth? Because if you aren't, you absolutely can. Just dry it thoroughly afterward.
posted by cooker girl at 6:42 AM on April 3

Baking soda is a go to for removing odours, but it might be more to do with bacteria in the towels in this instance so vinegar or bleach (as others have said obviously not both) might be the way to go to disinfect them. Baking soda soak afterwards might be a good idea too.
posted by chives at 7:44 AM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Boil them!
posted by hydra77 at 8:29 AM on April 3

When my kitchen sponges & scrubbies get stinky, I soak them in a tub of oxygen bleach dissolved into warm water for a few hours (like Oxiclean, though it looks like there are lots of detergents with 酸素系 (さんそけい, sansokei). Then I toss them into the washing machine and I generally use the tap cold cycle to wash everything instead of the warm cycle, despite being in the U.S.!
posted by spamandkimchi at 8:54 AM on April 3

Coming in with another vote for vinegar. I put dish cloths/towels in a load of laundry with bath cloths/towels (and sometimes bed sheets), and along with the usual detergent I pour a pint or so of white distilled vinegar into the washing machine. Everything comes out smelling fresh and clean, no lingering funk or vinegar smell.
posted by Greg_Ace at 11:39 AM on April 3

i use vinegar but i always do a baking soda soak after which makes a big difference in odor removal. use extremely hot water for both!
posted by crime online at 2:09 PM on April 3 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: CRITICAL UPDATE: I soaked the washcloth in a glass of vinegar for a couple hours yesterday, and after a rinse it has lost basically all of the cheesy funk of the ghee. It smells a little like vinegar now, but not nearly as prominently, and also that feels like it's within acceptable parameters for "washcloth" overall I think

Thanks for the recommendations!
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:59 PM on April 3 [4 favorites]

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