Do you use a washcloth?
December 17, 2007 6:56 PM   Subscribe

Is using a washcloth in the shower a cultural thing?

Those little towel squares.... Do you use them and, if so, where (roughly) are you?
posted by Morrigan to Health & Fitness (117 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Uhh...I always have. I'm in Missouri.
posted by limeonaire at 6:59 PM on December 17, 2007

I was raised in Illinois, US, and we always had them around the house, but I don't really remember being made or taught to use one, specifically, especially once I was old enough to take showers. I believe my mother bathed me with a cloth when I was little. Nowadays, I use bare hands or those scratchy exfoliating gloves.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:04 PM on December 17, 2007

Used them when I was a kid (in Hawaii); now I use one of those net shower pouf things (California), which I started using when living on the East Coast (New England, Mid-Atlantic).
posted by rtha at 7:09 PM on December 17, 2007

from the South (Georgia, dad from Arkansas, mom from NY)...yeah, I always thought they were gross and I've only used them a few times.
posted by melissam at 7:11 PM on December 17, 2007

I use a washcloth or a loofah, and I was raised on Long Island and then Western Massachusetts.

Nowadays I also use a plastic shower poof, but those didn't really exist 10 years ago.
posted by explosion at 7:12 PM on December 17, 2007

I've heard that it's cultural... but not regionally so.
posted by nadise at 7:13 PM on December 17, 2007 [2 favorites]

Yes. In fact, I have a whole three-washcloth system, plus scrubby-poof. Born & raised in the mid-Atlantic US.
posted by brain cloud at 7:14 PM on December 17, 2007

I was raised to use them (in southern California) by caucasian German/Anglo-Saxon parents from SoCal and Illinois. My girlfriend was raised without them in Southern California by caucasian German/Polish parents, as was my roommate in college from northern New Jersey, raised by German/Italian caucasians. My roommates from Westchester County NY (Italian), and Fairfax County, VA (Korean) however, both used them.

I don't see a pattern here.
posted by LionIndex at 7:14 PM on December 17, 2007

Not all cultures have washcloths. Not all cultures have showers.

Therefore, using a washcloth in the shower is a cultural thing.
posted by yohko at 7:14 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

My Mom uses one and gets a little twitchy when she can't use one (I got one special in my house for her when she visits). I grew up having them but think of them now as inconvenient and a little gross -- likely to get mildewey. I use my hand and/or one of those loofah scrubbits. I grew up in MA, my parents are from NY.
posted by jessamyn at 7:15 PM on December 17, 2007

I was not raised using a washcloth. I adopted later in life, of my own volition, because it allows me to clean my back and gently exfoliate my skin. I did not learn this from anyone else. Therefore, at least in my case, it is not cultural or regional.
posted by alms at 7:15 PM on December 17, 2007

Well, pretty much my whole family used/uses them, and I'm from Ireland.
posted by jamesonandwater at 7:18 PM on December 17, 2007

I also have a system (high-five, explosion--I thought I was the only one) that incorporates a mesh shower poof (for most washing) and a washcloth. I used the washcloth as a child, and added the poof as a teen. Born and raised in Los Angeles.

(In the last few years, I've come to the realization that some people don't use anything at all--I honestly don't understand how they bathe successfully, what with the soap sliding all over. But they're not dirty, so I know it has to work somehow.)
posted by tyrantkitty at 7:19 PM on December 17, 2007

I don't but my boyfriend does. Probably because he uses hard soap and I use liquid body wash (I'm allergic to soap). We call them flannels. We're both in NZ, both brought up using them and both white (no clue if that matters over here?). Motels and friends houses being visited tend to offer a flannel as well as towels and sometimes a hand towel so I'm guessing it's pretty well spread over here.

No reason for it to be gross if you wash it out well each time in hot water and have somewhere to hang it up to dry. But part of the reason why I don't use one is I don't like having the wet cloth hanging around in the bathroom dripping on stuff.
posted by shelleycat at 7:20 PM on December 17, 2007

I'm from the South and never used one until recently. My ex turned me on to them; my bits have never felt cleaner!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:21 PM on December 17, 2007

Yes. Location in profile.
posted by flabdablet at 7:22 PM on December 17, 2007

Me: Native Californian, sponge and rectangular Japanese nylon washcloth* user.

SO: Native Californian, square washcloth user.

*this kind dries within an hour and doesn't get mildewy but feels more or less like getting cleaned by a very large cat's tongue. More of a rasping than a washing.
posted by jamaro at 7:22 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Hilarity ensued when I was in Thailand and my friend could not get her brain wrapped around the idea that the nice, Westernized hotel did NOT provide washcloths. She spoke no Thai; the maid spoke no English, and there I was in the middle trying to head off, well, something.

One other thing-here in NC we have been known to call them washrags. When my cousin asked for them by that name up in New Jersey, let's just say she had a wee bit of difficulty in communicating the idea.
posted by konolia at 7:26 PM on December 17, 2007

I was born in the former Soviet Union, where we used sponges, and switched to the poofy things upon arrival to the US. Currently living on the East Coast, and most people's houses I visit seem to have the poofs, even if as a guest I get offered a washcloth. I think of washcloths as a hotel thing.
posted by Mr Bunnsy at 7:26 PM on December 17, 2007

Same as jessamyn - I get a few for when my parents visit because they freak out a little when there isn't one around. I don't use 'em, I just lather up with Doc Bronner's and rinse. In the winter I use a scrub mitt about once a week. I do use a cloth for my toddler, but usually only in the summer for actual dirt scrubbing. In the winter we use it as an eye mask while rinsing his hair. Grew up in and live in the northeast.
posted by cocoagirl at 7:26 PM on December 17, 2007

I use a washcloth when washing my face in the sink, never for anything in the shower. From MN.
posted by yogurtisgenocide at 7:27 PM on December 17, 2007

Very rarely, and only when I feel like I need a good exfoliating.

As far as I know my parents use them daily, and I'm not sure why the same habit didn't get instilled in me.

Grew up in NJ; parents grew up in NY and Philly.
posted by amro at 7:30 PM on December 17, 2007

I was raised using them, and still like to. I never before today thought of them as gross; maybe that's because I end a shower with a good lathering and rinsing of the washcloth. In other words, I guess I wash them each time I use them? Also, I don't typically wash my face with a cloth.

I grew up in western MI, in a very white, upper middle class town. My mom, sister, stepfather also all use washcloths if observation of their showers indicates anything.
posted by Stewriffic at 7:30 PM on December 17, 2007

I was raised to use washcloths, and I still always do (a clean one for each shower). I grew up in Atlanta. My husband, who also grew up in the southeast, will use the same one for multiple showers, which gives me the willies to the extent that I tend to replace his dirty washcloth with a clean one on the sly.
posted by paleography at 7:31 PM on December 17, 2007

here in NC we have been known to call them washrags. When my cousin asked for them by that name up in New Jersey, let's just say she had a wee bit of difficulty in communicating the idea.

Hmm, I was raised in NJ by two lifelong Mid-Atlanticans and taught to call them washrags. However, I rarely call them that anymore because at some point I realized that they were more commonly called washcloths among my peers. So, maybe my folks were anomalies.
posted by amro at 7:33 PM on December 17, 2007

Yes, for soaping up my nether regions in the shower* prior to rinsing. I also use the nylon scratchy thing for exfoliating, and a Wonder Cloth for my face over the sink. Raised in Chicago, live in Los Angeles.

*and then they go straight into the wash- no poopy washcloths hanging around my shower stall thankyouverymuch
posted by maryh at 7:36 PM on December 17, 2007

I grew up (in TN) using washcloths (washed after every use) but my mother started buying shower poofs when they became available, and that's what I continued to use after I became an adult. Now I only use washcloths to wash my face at the sink.
posted by frobozz at 7:37 PM on December 17, 2007

amro, my dad called them 'washrags' too. He also called hankies 'snotrags', because he was super-classy that way.
posted by maryh at 7:39 PM on December 17, 2007

i grew up in tennessee and never used a washcloth. ever. i occasionally exfoliated with some kind of sponge or pouf for cosmetic reasons or to get rid of a peeling sunburn, but i usually just soaped up my hands. i don't think anyone else in my family uses them, either. we put them out for guests, but they never use them, either.
posted by thinkingwoman at 7:41 PM on December 17, 2007

I was raised to use them but I don't use them now, I use the poofy, scrubby things. My dad, who was from Indiana, was in the Navy so I grew up all over the place (Hawaii, Maryland, Germany, etc.), and oh my mom was from Oklahoma.
posted by govtdrone at 7:42 PM on December 17, 2007

Grew up in Denmark. My parents have always used washcloths, but I never have. To this day my mom will still include a washcloth with the stack of clean towels I get when visiting. I have, however, since i married started using a loofah on a regular basis.
posted by AwkwardPause at 7:43 PM on December 17, 2007

Definitely remember being taught to use one as a child, but that seemed to be something you used when bathing in the tub. By the time I jumped to showers, those little plastic net "poofs" were on the scene (late eighties/early nineties) and I just used those. Nowadays I don't use anything except during exfoliation.
posted by SassHat at 7:43 PM on December 17, 2007

Always use one. I'm from NC, and yes--I have been known to call it a washrag.
posted by sonic meat machine at 7:44 PM on December 17, 2007

I never heard of washcloths for washing skin and it didn't occur to me to use anything but my hands until those round things got popular. But they're kind of a pain too. I just don't see the benefit? And how do you use a little towel with soap?? I thought towels were for drying. I'm not even sure how it's supposed to work. Maybe I'll get one from the dollar store and try it out.

(I was raised in the States by parents from Hungary).
posted by Salamandrous at 7:44 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, and sorry - location. Canadian/American, father Canadian of mick descent, mother American of yankee descent.
posted by SassHat at 7:44 PM on December 17, 2007

I'm in Kansas, and I use a washcloth on my face and an exfoliating scrubby thing for my body (it's not a poof, it's more spongy).
posted by amyms at 7:45 PM on December 17, 2007

I'm from Bosnia and we didn't use them. I still (now that I'm the US and encounter them sometimes) think they're impractical and a bit nasty. We used sponges (natural) or those plastic spongey-like things that are brightly colored and sell for about a dollar.
posted by Dee Xtrovert at 7:49 PM on December 17, 2007

we put them out for guests, but they never use them, either.

Oddly enough, I will sometimes use a washcloth (or at least make it look used) if I'm staying at someone's house and one gets put out for me, depending on the host -- ancient auntie? oh yeah. It must be some bizarre "when in Rome" table manners thing, like using a shrimp fork the same way the other diners do so that you don't look like a slovenly rube.
posted by FelliniBlank at 7:50 PM on December 17, 2007

Growing up in Chicago we always had them, and I think my dad used them but I'm not sure about my mom and I know I never have. I've always bought them just because, you know, they're part of the set and I'm a completist, and I figured guests might want to use them. But they always seemed like wet lumps and they aren't particularly ergonomic to use. In my formative years I was always most comfortable using my hands to spread the lather, and although exfoliation wasn't anything that was stressed in the 70s/80s, they aren't particularly exfoliating (I like my towels very soft, thank you) so they just seemed unnecessary.

Nowadays I use different loofah type things, though not loofahs specifically. Right now I use this mitteny product, and I use it because in my old age I've found that daily exfoliation is necessary, or at least, it's very very nice. And the material that loofahs are made of dry quickly and aren't wet lumps. This is used for washing my body, though I use my hands for my face (my facial wash is exfoliating) and for my delicate parts.
posted by iguanapolitico at 7:52 PM on December 17, 2007

my mother is horrified that I stopped using washcloths, but I got out of the habit when I no longer lived in a house with a free washer/dryer. raised in rural-ish Illinois, second generation Chinese.
posted by dropkick queen at 7:53 PM on December 17, 2007

I use one everytime I shower/bathe. When I'm done I lay it out to dry, then throw it in the hamper to wash. I don't re-use it until it's washed. I have about 20 of them. My 8 year old daughter uses them as well, and I use one on the baby when he gets a bath. My spouse prefers that poofy thing. We're in Texas.
Oh, and I call it a washrag too.
posted by PossumCupCake at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2007

I do (poof or loofah). I'm in Mexico.
Traditionally, people in my country used dried grass (zacate in náhuatl), and we still use the same word to call most bath scrubs. I have used zacate too.

I remember bathing in a river when I was little, and my uncles, who had been raised in the area, taught me to shower using some herbs that also serve as soap (they get bubbly). Very cool.
posted by clearlydemon at 7:56 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Born in Québec, now in Ontario. I used washcloths in the tub as a kid, but once I started showers as a teen, the washcloth was used only to wash my face at night over the sink. I use a long handled plastic pouf in the shower and that's about it.
posted by maudlin at 7:57 PM on December 17, 2007

No - Midwest
posted by jpdoane at 7:58 PM on December 17, 2007

No. I use a sea-sponge or a loofah, depending on how much exfoliation I want. (If I feel really rough I bust out those plastic scrubby pads that are similar to what you use to clean a sink.)

I'm from and in Florida, raised by a non-washcloth-user from New Jersey.
posted by cmyk at 8:05 PM on December 17, 2007

I was raised using them in the tub by my Irish/English parents. As an adult I don't use them but my children sometimes ask for one in the tub (probably because their nana has indoctrinated them). I remember reading back in the mid-nineties that when body wash/gel in the shower was first marketed in North America it didn't sell until they packaged it together with the net poofy things (do they have a name?) because North American's do not like touching their own bodies in the shower with their hands. I thought that was a bizarre idea. I'm in anglo Ontario.
posted by saucysault at 8:11 PM on December 17, 2007

+1 yogurtisgenocide : I use the washcloth when washing my face at the sink, but not in the shower. If I didn't have it at the sink, I'd get water all over the place when I'm rinsing. Having had really oily skin when I was young, I washed my face at least three times a day to avoid feeling greasy/slimy.

Background: Caucasian Southern US mother, Caucasian Northern US father, grew up all over (military brat). I don't think of this as cultural, rather practical -- though I do remember Mom using the term "wash rag" when I was young.
posted by Robert Angelo at 8:15 PM on December 17, 2007

I grew up using washcloths. We lived in Montreal, but my parents are from New York. We didn't have a shower when I was little, so I used them in the tub. I still like them for the exfoliating action, but I don't use them very much because I take showers now and I think they're better suited to baths.

I was taught to spread the soap on by hand, then rinse it off with the cloth. If you're going to use the cloth again, you make sure to rinse it out thoroughly with hot water and immediately hang it to dry.

I've heard "washrag" somewhere, probably from my Southern U. S. grandfather.

Oh, and those scratchy Japanese cloths Jamaro mentioned are fantastic.
posted by tangerine at 8:19 PM on December 17, 2007

My mom taught me to use one when I was a kid in Arizona, but now I find them very unsatisfying. Not scratchy enough. My dad's from Italy, and his whole family is very anti-washcloth, favoring the (even less useful) bath puff.
posted by arianell at 8:21 PM on December 17, 2007

Also, I still use them at the sink for my face.
posted by tangerine at 8:21 PM on December 17, 2007

I was born and raised in Kansas and I never used a washcloth. Now, I use one to wash my face. I use a sea-sponge on the rest of my body.
posted by whatideserve at 8:24 PM on December 17, 2007

I use a bath poof. I've never liked the feel of washcloths, although my family used them.

My husband uses a washcloth, which he then HANGS UP OVER MY POOF! Honey, if you're reading this, please stop doing that.
posted by bibliowench at 8:25 PM on December 17, 2007 [1 favorite]

Raised in GA.. Have used one all my life. I can't bathe without one. I don't feel clean without it.. I use one on my children and get a clean one every time. We have about 25 and they get washed with everything else. And we also call them washrags, or just rags.
posted by pearlybob at 8:25 PM on December 17, 2007

I grew up with my parents making me use them. I don't use one now. I do a mixture of hand, scrubby gloves, and poof thing. I may or may not use them all in one shower.

I live in Tx. Grew up in MS and TN.

My father is from MS and my mother a military brat from TN, HI, GA, and maybe more.
posted by likesuchasand at 8:33 PM on December 17, 2007

Yes, though mainly for my face now. But I grew up using them. I'm from NYC.

I'm liking the look/sound of that Japanese rectangular one though.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:37 PM on December 17, 2007

Yes. Particularly I like to use a non-soapy one to rinse my face. I was brought up in New England.

My husband and I lived together for over a year before he finally asked me what it was. He was brought up in Calcutta.

Relatedly: my mom is all about using homemade knit washcloths to wash dishes. If I don't have one, I "need" some, according to her. For some reason, she's very anti-sponge. My favorite to wash dishes with are the sponges that have attachments so you don't have to touch the dishwatery sponge. So I guess the point is, I inherited washcloths for bathing, but pretty much rejected washcloths for dishes.
posted by lampoil at 8:40 PM on December 17, 2007

I never used one when I was younger. It was only about two or three years ago I decided to try it out and see what the big deal was. It was ok...but I just didn't like the idea of drying them/making sure they were clean to re-use. I still stick to just lathering up with soap and my hands.

Raised in a foreign country, NYC, and Florida. Could be that since I was raised in a poor family, it would seem like a luxury for every person to have several wash cloths in the family. So we just stuck with 1 bar of soap.
posted by spacesbetween at 8:47 PM on December 17, 2007

Same as yogurstisgenocide here as well-- for washing face but not for showering. At least I used to until my skin got too sensitive for the exfoliation...

I grew up in Colorado, both parents from there as well.

I honestly until this moment had no idea anyone ever used a washcloth for something beyond washing the face. I just never thought of it.

I also thought everyone used loofahs with liquid soap-- how do you get it to foam up otherwise?
posted by nat at 9:04 PM on December 17, 2007

New England boy here.

No, no, a thousand times no. Washcloths are nasty. They feel nasty. They look nasty. They are nasty. I'd rather wash without soap than with a washcloth.
posted by Justinian at 9:14 PM on December 17, 2007

I grew up using washcloths (Texas), and I still use them on my face. In the bath or shower I use a scrubby thing.

Washcloths are awesome.
posted by bluishorange at 9:28 PM on December 17, 2007

southwestern, pa. grew up using a washcloth (also called washrag), stopped using one when the little poofy things came around, and now use that. i still use a rag to wash my face, and if there is no poof available, i use a rag.

i don't feel clean if i just try to use my hands, there's not enough of a lather.
posted by thisisnotkatrina at 9:30 PM on December 17, 2007

Illinois here; my Mom always used them and so do I. Don't know how folks get clean without them.
posted by rockhopper at 9:52 PM on December 17, 2007

What alms said; Washington state; it's amazing what suddenly acquiring acne will do to your grooming habits.
posted by eritain at 10:04 PM on December 17, 2007

yogurtisgenocide: I use a washcloth when washing my face in the sink, never for anything in the shower. From MN.

Yup, but from east coast of Canada.

For the mildew-afeared, I would never use the same one twice before washing.

I use a pouf in the shower 'cause I use liquid soap and it would otherwise slip all down the drain -- plus I find when I have to go days without one (like while travelling, they're hard to transport) I feel all un-exfoliatey and gross.
posted by loiseau at 10:16 PM on December 17, 2007

ps. We always called them facecloths.
posted by loiseau at 10:17 PM on December 17, 2007

Nope. San Diego, CA born and bred.
posted by exceptinsects at 10:19 PM on December 17, 2007

I started using one the last year or so after going my entire showering career without using one. I can't get a good lather going with just bar soap to skin.

I suppose my parents did use them, because my mom kept "the boys'" bathroom stocked with fresh washcloths which we never used. But I never heard any complaints about not using them.
posted by mullacc at 10:19 PM on December 17, 2007

Oh yeah--Arizona born & rasied to Michigan/Canadian-born caucasian parents.
posted by mullacc at 10:23 PM on December 17, 2007

I use a washcloth in the shower, but only to clean my privates with. Can't really use a loofah down there as it's too rough, and I just don't feel clean enough if I just use my hands.
posted by MaryDellamorte at 10:30 PM on December 17, 2007

Born/bred NJ and have always called them washrags. I suspect the name started out from when my grandmother used to wash dishes with them before sponges were the norm. But then again, we always called dish towels dishrags - so who knows.

I use a washrag to rinse cleanser off my face at night, hang to dry and then use it again in the morning before it goes in the laundry. Husband (NY'er and calls 'em washcloths) uses his own to wash his face. And kids have their own for baths. We probably have about 25 of them floating around the house at any given time.
posted by dancinglamb at 10:43 PM on December 17, 2007

I use one in the shower but only for my face. And I just call it a towel. For the rest of my body I use my bare hands or a bath poof around once a week. I picked this habit (the washcloth) up myself, since no one in my family, that I know of, uses one.

I'm in Mexico.
posted by CrazyLemonade at 10:53 PM on December 17, 2007

We call them facewashers or facecloths.
I use them for my children.
I grew up using them.
I don't use them for myself but do put them out for every houseguest.

Ooooooh, I'm in Australia with Australianish parents.
posted by taff at 10:59 PM on December 17, 2007

Born and raised Oregon, & only at the sink, never for a shower.
posted by devilsbrigade at 11:08 PM on December 17, 2007

Australian. We had them, called them "washers", but they were always used in my family just to wash babies, or to help wash off mud, dirt, oil etc (lather 'em up with soap). I don't use it often, but I own one. Usually I just shower with soap.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:29 PM on December 17, 2007

I grew up using washcloths/rags (native Angelena, but with a grandmother raised in DC). Not all European hotels stock them, so I make a point of packing one in my suitcase when I travel there....and TMI, but I wash my nether regions with soaped-up hands, which I then resoap and rinse under the faucet. If I have access to a hand-held shower head, I use that-- and sometimes the other things it's good for.... ;-)
posted by brujita at 11:33 PM on December 17, 2007

Second-generation Chinese-Canadian, living near Toronto, Ontario. Used a washcloth when I was younger, stopped when I went away to university, started recently again. I find it helps exfoliate.
posted by perpetualstroll at 11:42 PM on December 17, 2007

Raised in northern Sweden, and we never used them. I don't recall even seeing one until I moved to the U.S. A loofa or sponge and/or a brush for your back was the standard growing up.

I use washcloths in hotels and when I'm a guest and don't have anything else, but I find them not scrubby enough. Since I found them the first time several years ago, I use the Japanese scrubby wash cloths, rotating between a few so they get washed every few days. With liquid soap you can make them soft and bubbly for sensitive body parts, and wash some soap off and make them scrubby for others. Scrubbing gloves are OK in a pinch.

Fascinating question, with the answers all over the map!
posted by gemmy at 11:52 PM on December 17, 2007

Flannels/Washers/Facewashers/Facecloths... I grew up in Australia using them, and calling them any one of those names (never realised there were so many!).

Like Taff and aeschenkarnos, I think they're mostly used on kids, particularly in baths. I stopped using them when I worked out how to shower without getting water in my eyes and up my nose.

My mum always has them for washing her face in the shower after she has loofah-poofy-thing'd the rest of her body, and if I could be bothered buying them, I'd use them in the same way.

I don't think my dad uses them but I'm not sure whether it's cos he thinks they're girly or because he's English.
posted by indienial at 11:57 PM on December 17, 2007

Oh, and they are also really handy for wiping soap/shampoo etc out of your eyes when you are showering... I think I might go and buy some now. I'd forgotten how useful they are.
posted by indienial at 11:58 PM on December 17, 2007

Grew up in the Midlands, UK using a flannel. Parents still use them and bring them when they visit.
Gave them up when I moved out, now it's a poof/net or natural sponge for me, and a japanese raspy cloth for my SO.
posted by arcticseal at 1:08 AM on December 18, 2007

Heh, I'm the same as the other Aussies - I call them facecloths, and they're used by adults to wash their face, or to wash small children in the bath.
posted by jacalata at 1:48 AM on December 18, 2007

I was brought up with washclothes AKA facewashers AKA flannels. Sometimes a loofah. I only used them sporadically after I moved out of home, as I never bought myself any.

These days I use a Riffi Mitt. I am an exfoliation junkie and these things ROCK. A tiny bit of shower gel goes a long way and it's invigorating to use. Also helps to combat ingrown hairs, doesn't harbour bacteria so never gets smelly & lasts FOREVER. I think I'll go have a shower and Riffi myself right now.
posted by goshling at 2:02 AM on December 18, 2007

My black Caribbean-Canadian parents swear by washcloths, as does my Taiwanese roommate, but I've always been mildly grossed out by their potential germiness and that they always seem to be in light colours, ick! Then again, I've religiously used those bath puff things since I was old enough to know what one was, and those aren't much better.
posted by thisjax at 2:20 AM on December 18, 2007

I have never used one (grew up in Canada). I didn't realize how into using them some people are until I moved overseas and started having American houseguests, many of whom would ask for washclothes. Unfortunately, I've never seen a washcloth for sale here so on my last trip back to North America, I bought a couple exclusively for my vistors.
posted by wallaby at 3:52 AM on December 18, 2007

Raised in Michigan, where my mom called them washrags. Don't recall how much I used them, or not, growing up, but for years, I've been strongly committed to their use. I've paid attention, and can tell you: The cheap ones are best! They are rougher, so you get better exfoliation. The fancy soft ones are only suited for shaving, for which I also use a cloth (to soak the beard in hot water, and to rinse off afterwards).

In South Africa, they call them face-cloths, and some inferior hotels do not provide them (and I dump buckets of fresh-made bitching on them for it).

How can you be clean without one? I have observed that the use of shower gel (I loath bar soap, and bathed with shampoo for years, before discovering the gels in Europe) increases with the lack of a cloth. But I've noticed that soap and gel commercials on TV always show someone lathering by hand.

It's curious to note, my partner says I'm more active in the shower than almost any other time. I'm quite vigorous in my scrubbing, and love it that way. I use Neutragena face scrub on my face (by hand) but everywhere else gets the cloth. And there's nothing icky about it, thankyou ver much. The cloth gets washed once a week or so. Since it is very lathered and rinsed every use, then hung to dry, why would it get icky? Do you people wallow in filth before every shower or something?

Goodness, this response got long. Can you tell it's a bit of a soapbox issue for me?
posted by Goofyy at 4:24 AM on December 18, 2007

How can you be clean without one?

I haven't used one since I started washing myself, and I think I'm pretty clean!

Washers (another Aussie here - they are either washers or flannels) are what your mum uses to clean you when you are a baby, and only in the bath. Adults don't use them.
posted by goo at 5:08 AM on December 18, 2007

MA born and bred and I call them facecloths too. I used them as a kid but I haven't for years. They are just rather icky to me and I don't use loofahs or poofs either for the same reason. I have a fancy bar of soap and just scrub with my hands in the shower. I have specific exfoliating stuff I use about once a week.
posted by sutel at 6:09 AM on December 18, 2007

I could have written what frobozz wrote, except that I now only use them in the tub. It's so relaxing to have a steamy bath and drape a hot washcloth over your face. That's something that bath poofs will never be able to do.
posted by zebra3 at 6:27 AM on December 18, 2007

I use a washcloth when washing my face in the sink, never for anything in the shower.

From MI.
posted by misanthropicsarah at 6:41 AM on December 18, 2007

Born and raised in Wyoming and I've never found a washcloth at all appealing. I think they're just sorta gross. My mom uses them to wash her face, but she's the only one in my immediately family that does. My gf will rock the luffa sometimes.
posted by Nelsormensch at 6:41 AM on December 18, 2007

Hmmm.. I use a washcloth but a new one each time.
Is that why people think they are icky? Some people reuse them??
I dont even reuse towels.
I know not very green but I need to feel clean.

Do people really reuse a facecloth???
I mean in countries with indoor plumbing??
posted by beccaj at 6:50 AM on December 18, 2007

My house in Brighton (UK) is full of them. We call them flannels.
If I don't rinse my face with a flannel after washing it with soap, there is a distinctly higher risk I'll get soap in my eyes. So I always use one, though only for this specific purpose.
posted by greytape at 7:04 AM on December 18, 2007

Southeastern US here. I grew up using washcloths and still do. I don't feel clean without them. For the non-washcloth users, try this disgusting experiment: After you've soaped up and rinsed but are still wet, take a fingernail and scrape the front of your thigh. If I don't use a washcloth, pouf or loofah, I can scrape off a layer of icky gray skin.

I don't use washcloths on my girl bits though.
posted by Evangeline at 7:38 AM on December 18, 2007

I grew up in the Midwest using them, and then in my teens switched to sponges. A couple of years ago I went back to using wash cloths and now prefer them to sponges. I use a new one each time I shower.
posted by smich at 8:11 AM on December 18, 2007

I'm in Oakland, CA, but was introduced to them in Kentucky. No one else in my family uses them.
I generally only use them when I'm covered in beer/soda, flour, or grease/grime, depending on which job I'm coning home from.
And for the record, I've never owned one made for that purpose. They are all bar towels that have come home from work still tucked into my belt loop.
posted by gally99 at 8:16 AM on December 18, 2007

I can't seem to find a story online about this, but I remember reading that shower gels were very popular & and common in Europe for decades before they caught on in North America, despite repeated product launches. The reason turned out to be that europeans don't tend to use washcloths and north americans do; until they started selling body wash with a pouf, body wash didn't take off here. Apparently, north americans don't like to touch their naked bodies with their bare hands.
posted by Kololo at 8:23 AM on December 18, 2007

Someone please, please, please make a chart or a graph or a map of all this useful washcloth data.

I was raised in TX by a washcloth-using mom and a non-washcloth-using dad. I used a washcloth till I discovered the joy of the bath pouf. Now it's the pouf or the scrubby gloves or the wonderful, wonderful back-scrubby-brush.

I just don't find it a useful implement.
posted by fiercecupcake at 8:27 AM on December 18, 2007

Raised in S.C. and family always used them. These days I like them for my face but prefer a shower pouf. At hotels or when I am pouf-less, I usually use the washcloth. I like the scrubby-exfoliating feeling thing.
posted by pointystick at 8:56 AM on December 18, 2007

Kololo: Apparently, north americans don't like to touch their naked bodies with their bare hands.

Uh, yeah, that's a little offensive to me.
I find that liquid soap doesn't lather up well by hand and I end up wasting far more just to get coverage. I can use way less soap with a pouf to better effect plus I get exfoliating effects that are noticeable. I still wash my face and my privates with my hand.
posted by loiseau at 9:00 AM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Born and raised in Southern California, now living in the Pacific Northwest. My parents use them and leave them lying around, and it's completely not something I do. It might be a generational thing, because I like scrubby gloves.
posted by lilithim at 9:05 AM on December 18, 2007

I'm from the Far East of Canada, and like loiseau, call them facecloths. I use a plastic poofy thing in the shower.
posted by fish tick at 9:08 AM on December 18, 2007

And the first time I laid eyes on one of those poofs maybe thirty years ago, my mother had been given it as a gift. "For the bath", she was told, and proceeded to use it to scrub the tub. Not as good as a sponge, she felt.
posted by fish tick at 9:10 AM on December 18, 2007

Raised in IL, and I always use one. I've tried using my hands, shower gloves, and one of those shower poof things, and I always come back to a washcloth. I feel that it holds the lather well enough that I don't run out of soap by the time I get to the last thing I wash (also a reason I use bar soap rather than shower gel - the lather), and its slight abrasiveness is enough that it exfoliates without feeling like I'm ripping my skin off. Plus, I can sling it over my back, grab opposing corners with each of my hands, and wash the parts of my back that I can't reach with my hands or a shower poof.
posted by illflux at 9:12 AM on December 18, 2007

I don't use one, but I've only ever known this as a cultural thing for black americans. Fascinating so many white people use 'em, too.
posted by anildash at 9:52 AM on December 18, 2007

loiseau, sorry if i've specifically offended you (which i find really quite strange), but that statement about not liking to touch yourself was part of the ethnographic research that launched the bath pouf/body wash product combo, and that launched the popularity of body wash in north america. So sorry you thought that it meant that i thought you were prudish. Silly me.
posted by Kololo at 10:30 AM on December 18, 2007

White midwestern American here who says it's not a real shower if you didn't use a washcloth. My fiance doesn't use one and it completely squicks me out. (Well, I guess not completely - we're still engaged.)
posted by desjardins at 10:55 AM on December 18, 2007

Apparently, north americans don't like to touch their naked bodies with their bare hands.

Um, I do. And other people's. A lot. Especially after a couple of glasses of wine.
posted by Evangeline at 12:16 PM on December 18, 2007 [2 favorites]

White female American, born in Mid-Atlantic region and have lived in Midwest since age 10. Started not using a washcloth, then did, then didn't again starting around middle school or something, and since giving up on the whole body wash thing when I finally had a decent soapdish for my bar soap (mid-college), I've never used a washcloth. I don't really soap the rest of my body other than what I consider the parts that actually get stinky, such as "anything with crevices." Then I give my hands a good lather and rinse off.

I'll use a washcloth if I'm, say, in a hotel and body wash is the only thing available, or if I'm trying to exfoliate before shaving my legs.
posted by Madamina at 12:32 PM on December 18, 2007

Grew up in Massachusetts and I remember my mom washing behind my ears vigorously with a washcloth. I use a poofy thing now, but I remember staying at my aunt's house (also Massachusetts)--when she asked if I needed a washcloth for a shower and I said no, she looked at me like I was just filthy. I always find them kind of gross.
posted by jdl at 1:32 PM on December 18, 2007

Western Canada. I've always heard it called a facecloth, you know, for washing your face (over the sink). I've never used one in the shower.
posted by ssg at 1:58 PM on December 18, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh, at the risk of sounding like I've got OCD, I forgot to mention that I have a separate washcloth just for my face. I won't wash my face with the same cloth I used for my nether regions unless I'm desperate.
posted by desjardins at 2:54 PM on December 18, 2007

I can see a washcloth being used in a bath, particularly on a kid, to move the soap around. I don't see much use in the shower.

I also used one as a child, and stopped as a teen, in Western New York. Now I use one only for a specific purpose, like to hit pits or other spots on a hot or stressful day.

It's my understanding that using a washcloth as a facecloth on oily skin can spread pimples and other problems, FWIW.
posted by Riverine at 7:29 PM on December 18, 2007

Wow, never thought this thread would be so fascinating.

Always called them face-cloths or flannels, never even occurred to me that people use these for body-washing. Except for babies, but I hadn't given much thought to baby washing until recently.

The revelation makes the grotty flatmate I had at University seem so much worse! He always kept The Same damp facecloth in the shower, and it never dried out. Ooh, scunge. That's why the idea of washcloths is icky to me. Also, I am so used to machine-washing my clothes with spin cycles, and soda-based washing powders, and double rinsing and such, it seems like there would have to be all sorts of soap and 'exfoliated' bits building up in a hand-rinsed square of towelling. I could be wrong.

I used to use soap directly, and now use a nylon puff* with a shower gel to save my soap-sensitive skin. I feel clean.

*Cultural consideration - NZ born, UK bred - very Scotch on paternal side, very Civil Servant-class English on maternal, and I can't say 'poof/pouf' with a straight face.
posted by Catch at 4:33 PM on January 24, 2008

Yes, white and in LA now. Grew up in Michigan. Girlfriend uses one too.
posted by klangklangston at 5:52 PM on February 25, 2008

I like to mix it up.
posted by delmoi at 12:43 AM on February 26, 2008

I use a facecloth for my face and a pouf for my boday. The facecloth on my face eliminates the need for exfoliating. For my bits I just use my hand and some Cetaphil, and then aim my detachable shower head to rinse off.

Western Canada, female, white
posted by arcticwoman at 5:26 PM on February 26, 2008

Grew up in Kansas and Texas, most of family from Texas and considers themselves southern. The washcloth was used primarily to wash one's face and a clean one was used every evening and then discarded for a new one the next night. A different washcloth was used in the shower/bath, though not by all family members. My mother even had them color coded - the white ones for the face, the ones that matched the towel set was for the tub.

And stupidly I always assumed that the rest of the world also did this, and also had a huge pile of washcloths in their weekly laundry. Silly me...
posted by batgrlHG at 8:07 PM on February 27, 2008

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