You Should Be Using This Product Instead of Paper Towels—And It's Not a Sponge

person spraying a counter top

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We strive to rethink everyday living with a more eco-friendly perspective, which is why The Spruce has partnered with Treehugger, a modern sustainability site that reaches more than 120 million readers each year, to identify the products that are leading the charge in cleaning products that are less harmful to Mother Earth.

Everyone’s green living level is different, but most of us can agree that keeping more things out of landfills is better for us and for Mother Earth. 

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says the biggest source of refuse lingering in our landfills is paper products. Think about all the paper plates, magazines, excess packaging, and the ubiquitous workhorse: the paper towel. In fact Ocean Conservancy says in the United States alone, we use 13 billion pounds of paper towels each year. That works out to 45 pounds per person! 

So what if you could keep your home clean while also keeping the garbage can a little less full?

Enter the Swedish dishcloth. This hot ticket in home care has come on strong in recent years, but it isn’t a new concept, at least outside the United States and in certain green circles. So here's everything you need to know about the amazing Swedish dishcloth.

What Is a Swedish Dishcloth?

Swedish engineer Curt Lindquist created this special cloth back in 1949 out of all natural materials (70% cellulose and 30% cotton). Because it is biodegradable, you can pop it right into your compost pile when it has served its purpose. And that day will come much later than you might think. Each Swedish dishcloth can last nine to 12 months!

How Do You Use a Swedish Dishcloth?

So, what can you do with a Swedish dishcloth? Let us count the ways.

Many Everyday Uses Around the House

You can use this wonder cloth to replace the work currently done by your paper towels, sponges, dish towels, microfiber cleaning cloths, and chamois. In fact, just one Swedish dishcloth replaces 17 rolls of paper towels, For routine wipe-downs, just wet the cloth and go. For other purposes, you will want to add a dab of your environmentally friendly cleaner of choice.

The cloths clean glass without leaving streaks, and with a dab of dish soap, you can remove just about anything your pile of dishes throws your way. The cloths aren’t really made for clearing off a lot of grease or scrubbing off baked-on food, but they handle the rest of your mess like a boss.

Swedish dishcloths also baby your stainless steel appliances. “Regular cotton cloths can scratch stainless steel,” says Swindlehurst. “Swedish dishcloths are sensitive enough to clean appliances without harming the surface.”

person using a Swedish dishcloth to wipe down a kitchen island

Studio Firma / Stocksy

Cleaning and Bathing Children

And parents, rejoice. They make kid cleanup a breeze, according to Leanne Swindlehurst, owner and curator of The Rosy Nook, which sells a variety of these dishcloths. “Swedish dishcloths are extremely soft and safe on skin! After meals and treats, my kids never pull away when I wipe their little dirty faces with a Swedish dishcloth,” she says. “This may sound trivial, but I promise, this small task can feel unattainable at the end of a very long day. Thankfully, I don’t have to fight my boys to clean their faces since switching to Swedish dishcloths. These cloths are used during bath time for children and as a soft face wash and makeup remover option for adults.”

Swedish Dishcloths

The Spruce / Melissa Breyer

They Key Is the Quick-Drying Materials

These workhorses are incredibly absorbent and can hold about 15 times their weight in water. You’d think something that porous would stay sopping wet forever but they dry super quickly so they can get back to work. And, unlike sponges and regular dishcloths, the Swedish variety doesn’t get moldy or full of mildew. “Because they dry so quickly, I can feel very comfortable knowing they contain far less bacteria than a normal sponge or conventional washcloth,” Swindlehurst says. No mildew means no smelling up the kitchen like regular sponges tend to do.

How Do You Clean a Swedish Dishcloth?

With such high absorbency, the natural fibers in the cloths will obviously grab onto all the dirt and grime you tackle. So how do you clean your Swedish dishcloth? Simple: These cloths can go straight into the washing machine or the top rack of your dishwasher. Don’t have either of those? You can boil the cloth in water for one minute or pop the dampened cloth into the microwave for the same 60-second time frame. 

Worried about lingering stains? A Swedish dishcloth easily releases whatever you’ve wiped up with it. If a bit of stubborn yuck sticks around a while, cleaning the cloth as mentioned above will send it packing. 

As if durability, sustainability and top performance were not enough, Swedish dishcloths also are adorable. You can find them in hundreds of designs. Check out the huge variety at Cose Nuove, where you can also have the dishcloths custom-made to perfectly fit your space. Even shopper favorite Target has joined in on  the fun, selling a selection of sweet styles on its site (they are not yet available in stores). Prices, of course, vary but in general, each Swedish dishcloth will run you just a few dollars. 

Give Swedish dishcloths a try this Earth Day and you can make the world a little greener—and save a little green yourself.