Crocheting a dishcloth can be a fun and quick project. And the best part is, you get a useful dishcloth out of it at the end! But can you use acrylic to make it, when almost every pattern calls for cotton yarn?
Yes, you can make dishcloths out of acrylic. Depending on how you use dishcloths, cotton may suit your needs better. The main differences are that acrylic is rougher, less absorbent, dries faster, is more affordable, and isn’t as heat tolerant as cotton.
The three most popular types of yarn used to make dishcloths are cotton, acrylic, and polyester. There’s no single “best” type for dishcloths, because everyone uses dishcloths a little differently.
Some use dishcloths for cleaning up spills, wiping down counters, and handling hot pots and pans.
But what if you intend to ONLY use it to wash dishes?
Even then, the most suitable material would depend on how you wash dishes. Do fill up one half of the sink with soapy water, and scrub the dishes in there? Or do you prefer to clean them in an empty sink, out of the water, with a wet and soapy sponge or dishcloth, followed by batch rinsing the dishes later?
And do you find yourself dealing with stuck-on foods very often? Then you might want something scrubbier. Or is this rarely a problem for you thanks to prolonged soaking of dishes?
Do you air dry dishes, or do you use a clean dishcloth to manually dry them? If you dry them manually, you’ll want something more absorbent.
With these factors in mind, once you understand the pros and cons of different materials, you best decide what type of yarn is best for you.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of each of these materials.
- Rougher than cotton, so more effective at scrubbing off stuck-on foods
- Durable, so it should last years
- Less absorbent than cotton, so it dries faster and mildew and bacteria grow less quickly
- Acrylic yarn is cheaper than cotton and polyester yarn (about $3.50 for 364 yards)
- Huge color selection, and the colors generally don’t fade with washes
- Conducts static electricity well – great for wiping counter tops and surfaces because it picks up dust
- May stretch over time and lose its shape
- Less absorbent than cotton – not good for spills
- Melts at high heats – unsuitable as a potholder or a trivet
- May pill with enough use
- May shed micro-plastics into your environment or onto your dishes
You’ll notice I mentioned its lack of great absorbency in both the pros and the cons list. Whether or not this is truly a pro or con depends on how you use dishcloths.
Some people use dishcloths as an all around kitchen cloth, so acrylic may not be for them because it doesn’t dry dishes or absorb spills as well as cotton does.
But it’s wonderful for attracting dust due to its natural static, so if you regularly wipe down your counters, acrylic might add value.
My personal preference is to wash my dishes without filling up the sink with soapy water. Instead, I wet a dishcloth or a sponge and apply a little bit of dish soap, then scrub dishes and utensils.
Because this is my style, I actually prefer that my dishcloth not be absorbent, so the soap doesn’t get absorbed into it. And, if I need to apply pressure to scrub harder, I won’t end up squeezing a lot of water out of the cloth and losing most of the soap. So for me, acrylic is slightly preferable.
Acrylic is also fairly soft despite being more abrasive than cotton, so it does a better job of getting off stuck foods, but is still gentle on your hands and your kitchenware.
It’s also very durable, and should stand up to years of being thrown into the washer and dryer. Since it’s essentially plastic, the colors won’t fade as quickly as colored cotton will.
Some people are such fans of acrylic as a washcloth, that some years ago, the crocheted “eco tawashi” from Japan became very popular. It was said due to its yarn composition of fine fibers, it could clean dishes without soap when used with baking soda.
However, one big concern is that acrylics have been found to shed a lot of microplastics, which have ended up in the ocean and in marine life. Depending on where your wastewater ends up, (possibly in a nearby body of water) acrylic may be more harmful to your local environment.
If you tend to dry your dishes manually after washing using a dishcloth, then acrylic may be leaving behind microfibers on your dishes. If the idea of tiny pieces of plastics on your dishes makes you uncomfortable, maybe skip using acrylic.
Because it melts at high heats, acrylic isn’t recommended for dishcloths if you’ll be selling or gifting them, because people may not realize that they shouldn’t use it as a potholder or trivet. If you do give these to someone else, please include a tag or label that advises them not to use it as a potholder or expose it to hot items due to the risk of melting.
- Polyester yarn is the scrubbiest of all three materials. If you encounter a lot of stuck-on food, this is a good choice for you, making it require less elbow grease than acrylic and cotton.
- Despite being rougher, it doesn’t scratch pots and pans.
- Not very absorbent, so it dries very quickly
- Durable – toss it in the wash every week or so
- Lots of bright colors to choose from, and colors don’t fade
- Less soft than acrylic or cotton
- Not very absorbent, so not suitable for wiping up spills
- Not as heat resistant as cotton, so it may melt if used as a potholder or trivet
- More expensive than acrylic or cotton yarn (about $4.60 for 78 yards)
The scrubby yarn that you have probably seen in big box craft stores is 100% polyester. This yarn is great for making dishcloths or exfoliating washcloths. It’s rather thin, with little fibers coming off the main thread, which means it can be a little tough to work with because it can be hard to tell where to insert your hook.
But if you find yourself needing something abrasive (but soft enough to use on pans) this is a great option. It dries quickly, and holds up for years.
Unfortunately, scrubbing might be all that it’s good for. When crocheted into a cloth, it’s very holey due to how thin the thread is, and doesn’t have very much static electricity. This means it’s not excellent for dusting.
Its low absorbency means it’s not great for wiping up spills, either. Personally, I love this, as it dries the fastest, which keeps mildew growth (and the resulting old-sponge smell) down.
Yet, because of my preferred method of washing dishes, its low absorbency means that I run out of grease-cutting soap sooner using a polyester dishcloth when compared to a more absorbent acrylic one. So I feel I do end up using a little more soap if I’m washing a huge batch of dishes.
However, when I visit a friend’s house where polyester scrubbies are their main dishcloth and there’s not a sponge in sight, it works perfectly because their style of washing the dishes is to fill up one side of the sink with hot, soapy water. Dirty dishes are then submerged in here, and scrubbed with the dishcloth until clean, then rinsed.
Because the dishes are submerged, there’s no need for the dishcloth to be absorbent at all, so their dish soap usage doesn’t change regardless of their dishcloth material.
- Absorbent, making it great for cleaning up spills or drying clean dishes
- Heat resistant, so it doubles as a trivet or potholder without melting
- Cheaper than polyester yarn (about $2 for 95 yards)
- Durable enough to last you years
- Absorbent, which means it takes the longest to dry, and which might mean you use more dish soap, depending on your style of dish washing
- Shrinks in the wash
- The colors fade sooner than acrylic and polyester do
- More expensive than acrylic yarn
Despite cotton being the most commonly recommended material for dishcloths, I’m not a huge fan of dishcloths made with thick, worsted weight cotton. I don’t like their absorbency, but that’s due to how I wash the dishes.
My kitchen is also humid during the summer, so the absorbency and slow-drying time of cotton means I would need to wash cotton dishcloths much more often due to mildew buildup.
Depending on your household, cotton may be your best choice.
If you tend to grab any nearby cloth to remove hot pans from the oven, or pick up hot pot handles, cotton is a good idea because the other materials will meat in contact with heat.
But. if you tend to use your dishcloths to clean up spills, dry clean dishes, or dry wet hands, then cotton is great for this.
Lastly, if you don’t really encounter stuck-on foods very often, and don’t need much scrubbing power in their dishcloth, then cotton’s softness should suit you just fine.
The colors on cotton yarn do tend to fade faster than acrylic or polyester, but if this is a big issue, you can retire your cotton dishcloths early and use them as rags, and replace them with new crochet dishcloths.
Because cotton tends to shrink the first time it’s washed and dried, you may want to crochet your dishcloth slightly bigger than the intended final size.
You can use mercerized cotton yarn, which has been processed to be less absorbent. This also means they’re stiffer, but depending on your needs and the pattern you use, this may work out better for you.
Some crocheters even make dishcloths out of cotton embroidery floss, or cotton thread. Keep in mind these are thinner than your average worsted weight cotton yarn that you commonly see in big box stores, so you may need to alter the pattern to account for this.
Cotton yarn is sometimes sold as a cotton and bamboo blend.
Bamboo is more absorbent and dries faster than cotton, so mildew may be less of an issue.
As an added bonus, bamboo contains a naturally occurring antimicrobial substance called “bamboo-kun” which may inhibit bacterial and mold growth.
Some people have asked if wool can be used in dishcloths.
This is not recommended as wool felts easily when exposed to water and a lot of scrubbing. Plus, “wet wool smell” is fairly unpleasant even if the wool is clean.
Wool is also generally very expensive, and is prone to shrink in the wash. Wool is generally not suitable for machine washing unless specifically processed to be (which is even more expensive.)
Acrylic and Cotton Dishcloths May Stretch
One last note – many crocheters and knitters have found that acrylic and cotton stretch when wet. If you find that this happens to your dishcloths, you may want to use a smaller hook (maybe going down to a 3.75 mm or a 4.00 mm for worsted weight yarn).
The outcome would also depend on your tension and how tightly you crochet. If you crochet loosely, you may encounter more stretching in your dishcloths than if you work tightly.
Another alternative is to create your washcloths in a tighter, less hole-y stitch. Keep in mind, this may result in a thicker and stiffer washcloth, so you may need to experiment by making a few dishcloths until you find one that suits your needs preferences.