I’m one of those people who grew up using sponges to wash the dishes. But when I started crocheting, I remember seeing so many cute dishcloth patterns that I could make. But are dishcloths any good?
Many crocheters swear that crochet dishcloths are superior to sponges and brushes in scrubbing power and funky smell prevention. Since so many people wash dishes in different ways, the trick to the perfect dishcloth is to pick the right yarn weight, material, and pattern to suit your dish cleaning methods. By giving crochet dishcloths a try, you might make your kitchen chores faster and easier.
A quick trip to most crochet forums or groups can uncover thousands of comments heaping praise on the crochet dishcloth. But upon closer inspection, you’ll find that crochet dishcloth can encompass so many different types.
So if you tried one ages ago that didn’t work perfectly for you, don’t write crochet dishcloths off entirely! The beauty of crocheting your own is that you can customize it to suit your needs.
Variations in Absorbency
There’s your basic thick, absorbent dishcloth made out of worsted weight medium cotton yarn. On the other end of the spectrum, there are very thin, drapey, open-holed dishcloths that were crocheted with either thin polyester scrubby yarn, OR two strands of thin number 10 cotton thread held together. These may be less absorbent if the thread is made up of mercerized cotton.
Whether or not you’d prefer they be absorbent depends on how you use dishcloths. Some people use dishcloths to wipe down the tabletop and counters, in which case they may prefer an absorbent. I use mine almost only for washing dishes, so I prefer they not be as absorbent.
Some people use dishcloths to dry dishes instead of air drying them in a rack. Depending on your household, you may want to crochet dishcloths specifically with absorbent cotton just for drying.
If you prefer an absorbent dishcloth, and find that the regular big box store cotton isn’t cutting it, you may be buying the wrong type of yarn! Ask or look for “Kitchen cotton” or “Handicraft yarn.” This type of yarn is very sturdy, absorbent, and inelastic – all while being machine washable. These will sometimes be labeled as dishcloth yarn, and are generally more “matte” in appearance.
On the other hand, if you prefer less absorbent yarn, there’s mercerized cotton which has been treated specifically to be slightly more shiny, but much less absorbent. Using liquid softener on your towels or dishcloths also decreases absorbency.
Some brands of yarn carry “scrubby” yarn, often 100% polyester and very thin. This is not very absorbent, but is perfect for scrubbing hardened or dry bits of food. This is probably my favorite type of yarn for dishcloths.
Another point of contention is dishcloth thickness. I personally dislike thick dishcloths, because they’re harder to push down into a skinny cup for scrubbing due to their thickness. Also, because they’re so thick, they’re generally a little stiffer and less drapey, so it takes more force to push them into small cups.
I’m a big fan of thinner dishcloths that may even have holes in it, because I find these scrub into smaller crevices more easily.
How Scrubby Do You Need It?
A crochet dishcloth can have much better texture than the regular dishcloths you buy at the store. This is great for removing tough, stuck on dried foods from pots, pans, dishes and countertops. They’re also too soft to scratch your items, unlike many regular abrasive pads or sponges.
You can also make numerous dishcloths for multiple uses. You can make a super scrubby potscrubber out of tulle fabric, polyester scrubby yarn, or even acrylic.
And for your fine china with a fancy metal trim, you can make a gentle, soft cotton dishcloth.
I don’t soak my dishes before washing, so I encounter a lot of stuck on, hard, dried foods. As a result, I almost rarely ever use soft cotton crochet dishcloths. I prefer the more textured cloths made from scrubby yarn.
As a general rule of thumb, thinner thread will yield a more scrubby cloth. Some people don’t even use yarn. Instead, they’ll use cotton embroidery floss, or they’ll hold two threads of size 10 cotton thread together and crochet with that.
Preventing Funky Mildew Smell
I love using sponges, but my biggest complaint about them is they seem to always develop a mildew smell after about a week or so, regardless of how diligently I squeezed them dry, or ran them through hot water.
My kitchen is very humid, and that increased moisture is ideal for microbes to grow in my sponges.
This is one of the biggest reasons I love crochet dishcloths, because I can customize them to be less prone to funky smells by carefully selecting the type of yarn and the pattern.
I aim for less absorbent, thinner yarn. This means less water needs to evaporate before the cloth is dry. A thinner yarn combined with a more open-work pattern means my dishcloths dry faster, thanks to increased surface area and greater air circulation.
Unlike a sponge, you can hang your dishcloth up to dry by crocheting a loop into it. Or, you can hang it over your faucet or the side of your drying rack to dry.
Probably the best way to battle mildew, though, is to crochet a bunch of dishcloths, and use one for every day of the week. At the end of the day, you can add the used one to the laundry hamper (or hang it up to dry, if you live in a humid climate) and in the morning, you use a fresh, clean dishcloth. This way, none of them are wet for more than a day. This inhibits bacterial or mildew growth.
Holes or No Holes?
Some people hate having holes in a dishcloth. I personally love them, because I like my dishcloths thin, and it doesn’t get much thinner than this.
I’ve met a few people who prefer their dishcloths have holes about half a centimeter wide. For them, they find this perfect for poking fork tongs through for washing.
Holes make it easier to get bits of food off the dishcloth. A quick swish or rinse generally takes care of it.
An added bonus is that the holes make the cloth much more pliable, and therefore easier to fit into small places. And if you need to do heavy duty scrubbing, you can bunch it up for a thicker, more solid effect.
Crocheting your own dishcloth means you can customize everything from the texture, color, theme, shape, and material. You won’t even find that many choices for dishcloths or sponges in big kitchen stores.
Many of us have spent so much time designing a kitchen, color coordinating cupboards and appliances, curtains, and even kettles, only to end up with an ugly looking neon sponge, or a dishcloth that doesn’t quite match the decor.
If you crochet your own dishcloth, you decide the color and pattern.
If you plan to use two threads of number 10 cotton held together, you can use two different colors. This can yield to some beautiful effects.
Some people color code their dishcloths for additional organization. This can make it easier to assign certain dishcloths for certain uses, such as green for washing, white for drying, and blue for counter tops.
You can make dishcloths shaped like chickens, pies, or flowers to match your kitchen’s theme. Some people make holiday themed dishcloths that they pull out for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or Easter.
If shapes aren’t your thing, you can also crochet dishcloths to have words or letters on them. You can crochet words, names, or initials on dishcloths.
Size and Shape
You can also make them to be any size. They can be the same size as the little circle scrubbies intended to replace cotton rounds, or they can be larger than the average dishcloth.
I have small hands, so I do prefer that they be smaller.
Pick any material you want. As mentioned before, some people use tulle fabric. You can even use it to crochet a scrubber that resembles those stainless steel sponges.
Others re-purpose old t-shirts into t-shirt yarn, and make dishcloths out of that.
Cotton is likely your main choice, but consider other materials such as polyester, and yes, even acrylic! Even if you stick with cotton, you have multiple choices such as mercerized cotton or organic cotton.
Experiment with how textured your dishcloth turns out by using different stitches, or by crocheting into just the back loop or just the front loop. Different combinations of stitches will affect everything from scrubbing power to drying speed.
Better for the Environment
Sponges and microfiber dishcloths are both made from plastic. Sadly, microplastics in the ocean are showing up in marine life and becoming a problem for our ecosystem and our health.
Crocheting and using cotton, bamboo, or soy dishcloths cuts down on the amount of microplastics entering the environment. These materials would also be biodegradable.
Plus, you can go for organic yarn, or buy your yarn locally.
By making your own, you cut down on waste. No more plastic packaging waste to throw away, and no more discarding sponges every few weeks.
Cotton dishcloths can double as a potholder or a trivet, but don’t try this with acrylic or polyester as they may melt when exposed to heat.
Unlike with sponges, you can also use them to wipe down counter tops or placemats.
When your dishcloths are old and stained, you can still use them as rags!
They Make Perfect Projects
Dishcloths work up quickly and easily, so they make a wonderful travel project. Keep one in your purse for road trips, commutes, or to pass time in the waiting room.
They’re also fun instant gratification projects. Many of us have large unfinished projects that we’ve been working on for ages, but when you just want to start and complete something easy while watching your favorite show, a dishcloth is the perfect choice.
They’re also a great way to learn and practice new stitches.
They make great gifts, especially if you can customize them to the person’s precise needs, and make it to match their kitchen. Dishcloths do wear out after a while, so this is a practical and useful gift that you can give year after year.
I’ve also heard that they sell very well at craft shows, too!
Reusable and Easy to Care For
Having washed these quite a few times, I think they wash more readily than sponges do. They certainly hold up better. Sponges tend to lose bits of material when tumbled along with the rest of the laundry, but dishcloths actually soften up with more use and with more washing.
Just be mindful that they may shrink, so you might want to crochet a swatch, then wash and dry it to test for shrinkage. If it does shrink, you can just crochet the dishcloth slightly larger.
Crochet dishcloths generally last a very long time.
Depending on the material, the colors may fade over time. This seems to be more of an issue with cotton yarn, as I haven’t noticed polyester or acrylic fading all that much. Some people crochet their cotton dishcloths with white yarn, and then bleach them so they stay pristine.
So why not try your hand at making a few dishcloths today? If you’d like help with choosing what type of yarn to pick, check out our article on the differences between materials for dishcloths.