Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Eco-Friendly Swedish Dishcloths

A Drop in the Ocean Zero Waste Store: The Ultimate Guide to Swedish Dishcloths
This post first appeared in our weekly Make Waves Mondays email series on May 1, 2023.

Happy May, friend! So last Tuesday I was invited to set up a booth at Starbucks HQ in Seattle for their Sustainability Fair, and it. was. amazing. 

I LOVE events that are specifically sustainability-focused.

I LOVE the energy around these events and that everyone there is always so excited and dedicated to making a positive impact on the planet.

It’s a completely unmatched experience that I look forward to every Earth Month.

So, of course, for this event I had to bring all of my favorites. Refillable laundry detergent, wool dryer balls, shampoo and conditioner bars, reusable beeswax wraps, and Swedish dishcloths were the highlights of the show this time around.

And after the event, I realized I could make a whole blog post just based on questions I got that day about our Swedish dishcloths.

So that’s what we’re gonna do today. We’re gonna take a DEEP dive into Swedish dishcloths and answer every question you’ve ever had about them. ‘Cause they’re really freaking cool and I think everyone should have at least two in their home - if not more than that.

So let’s get into it!

What are Swedish dishcloths?

First and foremost, Swedish dishcloths (also sometimes called European dishcloths or Swedish dish towels) are essentially what you would get if a sponge and a paper towel had a baby.

Made from a blend of cotton and cellulose, Swedish dishcloths are a reusable, washable, super-absorbent spongy cloth.

How do you use a Swedish dishcloth?

When you first buy a new Swedish dishcloth, it’s gonna be a rigid sheet. To use it, you’ll first need to get it wet. 

Just run it under the faucet for a second and give it a couple squeezes until it absorbs enough water that’s it’s soft and feels like the perfect combination of a sponge and a towel.

Wring out any excess water and you’re ready to go!

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop Swedish Dishcloth Gif

What’s so great about Swedish dishcloths?

If you asked me in person, I could probably talk about all of the benefits of Swedish dishcloths for hours. I love them so much, and this is why:

They’re super absorbent.

You know those Bounty paper towel commercials where the family dog knocks over like a whole gallon of milk and everyone freaks out until mom comes in with the roll of Bounty paper towels to clean the mess?

Yeahhhh…Bounty ain’t got nothin’ on Swedish dishcloths.

One Swedish dishcloth can absorb up to 20 times its weight in liquid, and if you’ve got a real big mess, they’re ridiculously easy to wring out and keep using until the mess is completely gone.

The general consensus is that a single Swedish dishcloth can replace up to 17 whole rolls of paper towels, which means it’s not just saving you paper towel waste, but a ton of money in the process.

They’re washable and reusable for 9+ months.

If something is gonna be replacing 17 rolls of paper towels, you’d hope it’s easily washable, and I think it’s safe to say Swedish dishcloths are one of the easiest things to clean (keep reading for all the tips!), and they’re so sturdy they’re gonna keep going strong for hundreds of washes and many many months.

They’re more sanitary than sponges.

You know how after a few uses sponges get that gross smell that only sponges can get? That smell that just screams, “Don’t you dare use me again - I need to go in the trash can right now.”? 

Yeah, that’s bacteria that’s making that smell. And that bacteria is living its best life, absolutely thriving in your sponge because the sponge takes so dang long to dry. Especially in the kitchen, if you’re using it regularly, it’s probably not getting the chance to fully dry so the bacteria are just setting up house in there 🤢

But a Swedish dishcloth dries like freaking magic. Sometimes I’m still amazed that I’ll use a Swedish dishcloth, hang it over my kitchen faucet, and 30 minutes later grab it again and it’s completely dry.

And since they dry so fast, bacteria don’t have a chance to latch on and grow their colony, making Swedish dishcloths WAY more sanitary than traditional sponges.

They’re totally eco-friendly.

Since they’re made from a blend of cotton and cellulose with water-based inks, Swedish dishcloths are totally compostable and biodegradable at the end of their life.

So they’re not just replacing paper towels and sponges with a reusable alternative, when they do reach the end of their usable life, they can be composted in your backyard and returned to soil.

Zero plastic involved. All natural materials, all totally biodegradable.

They’re wildly versatile.

On top of all of this, the best part about Swedish dishcloths is how insanely versatile they are. I use them ALL OVER my apartment. There’s not one room that’s been untouched by a Swedish dishcloth.

So let’s talk about some of the many ways to use ‘em…

12+ Ways to Use Swedish Dishcloths

Like I said there are basically unlimited ways to use Swedish dishcloths in and around your home, but these are some of the top ways I’ve used them or know others have used them.

  1. Wiping down kitchen countertops - no extra cleaners necessary!
  2. Washing dishes (especially glassware!)
  3. Cleaning up spills on ✨ all ✨ surfaces - not just countertops. Sauce splatter on the wall? Dropped a glass of oat milk on the floor? Leaking leftovers in the fridge? Swedish dishcloths for the win.
  4. Dusting everything. Baseboards, house plants, TVs, bookshelves…everything.
  5. Cleaning beeswax wraps. Use a little natural dish soap, a Swedish dishcloth, and cool water to clean your reusable beeswax wraps and keep them in tip-top-shape.
  6. Cleaning the bathroom. Pro-tip: Choose a dedicated Swedish dishcloth design for the bathroom if you don’t want it mixed up with the kitchen cloths.
  7. As an alternative to wet wipes - messy hands and faces don’t stand a chance.
  8. Detailing the inside or outside of your car.
  9. I can’t speak from first-hand experience for this one, but I bet they’d work awesome on a Swiffer WetJet.
  10. Wiping dirty paws when your dog comes in from the rain.
  11. Cleaning mirrors and windows.
  12. Polishing stainless steel appliances - again, no extra cleaners necessary!

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop Swedish Dishcloths

How do you clean Swedish dishcloths?

I said before that cleaning Swedish dishcloths was one of the easiest things in the world to clean and I stand by it. There’s actually three different ways to clean them, and they’re all so easy peasy.

But first - after each use, rinse your Swedish dishcloth, wring out any excess water, and hang to dry. Then, about once a week or so, try one of these three methods to clean it.

Dishwasher top rack. By far the easiest way to clean a Swedish dishcloth. Just pop it on the top rack of your dishwasher with the rest of your dishes and let the dishwasher do it’s thing. When the dishwasher is done, pull out the Swedish dishcloth, wring out any excess water, and hang to dry over your faucet. (Don’t forget to turn off the heated dry setting!)

Machine wash with your laundry. This is my usual go-to for cleaning Swedish dishcloths. I just pop all my dirty dishcloths in a mesh laundry bag and wash them with the rest of my towels. I always wash on cold with our natural refillable laundry detergent and it works every time.

👉 Can you put Swedish dishcloths in the dryer? Yes, you can put Swedish dishcloths in the dryer and I have many times. However, just like any other laundry, they’ll last longer if you hang-dry them instead. So if you have the space, I definitely recommend hang-drying instead of tumble-drying.

Microwave on high. I’ve never tried this one personally, but for a quick sanitizing, just pop your damp Swedish dishcloth in the microwave on high for 60 seconds.

How long do Swedish dishcloths last?

Okay, friend, this is where I start to go back-and-forth a bit 😅

Conventional Swedish dishcloth wisdom says that one dishcloth will last you about 6-12 months, depending on how much you use it.

But I personally have a few in my collection that are many years old now.

I don’t use them as often as the newer ones, and they really should have probably been tossed a long time ago.

A couple of months ago my partner added a second Swedish dishcloth to his kitchen and when I used it the first time I literally said out loud, “Oh so THIS is what a Swedish dishcloth should feel like…” 🤣

Mine are so old they’ve lost most of their spongy-ness and are actually quite a bit rigid at this point. They’re not the cute offspring of a sponge and a paper towel anymore - they’re the old opossum in your backyard that has managed to survive way longer than most of the others of its species but is too feisty for anything to take it on.

(lolol what an analogy, Krystina…)

So yeah…I’m gonna stick with the 9 months average, and use this as the kick in the pants to gracefully let my over-worn Swedish dishcloths go ✌️

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop Swedish Dishcloth Comparison

How do you dispose of Swedish dishcloths?

Since they’re made from 100% natural materials, Swedish dishcloths are 100% backyard compostable! I recommend cutting them into strips to help them break down faster, but other than that just let Mama Nature do her thing.

What are the best Swedish dishcloths?

So, of course I’m a bit biased, but I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again - if I’m not completely obsessed with the products we sell at A Drop in the Ocean, that would be quite the red flag, would it not?

The Swedish dishcloths that we sell in our zero waste shop are absolutely wonderful.

Just like any others you find, they’re made from the same cotton and cellulose mix with water-based inks. But what makes ours really special is they’re printed locally in Seattle, by a small, woman- and family-owned business.

Their designs are created in-house, as a collaborative effort between the whole team, and they can also create custom designs, which is how we’ve ended up with our three Vermilion Sea Institute-inspired designs in our Baja Collection. Each of those prints were designed by an old zoo colleague of mine, Kathayoon of Otter and Ink Designs, who gets a commission for each dishcloth that we sell in that set 🥰

Because our Swedish dishcloths are printed so close to us, I can pick them up myself when I’m already driving through the area, offset all of the miles from that drive, and get the dishcloths without any packaging at all.

Just one of the many ways that we keep things zero waste on our end, too - never just on your end.

And if you wanna know more about the faces behind our locally-printed Swedish dishcloths, check out our Vendor Spotlight interview with Rosie and Karen! They’re such lovely humans and I had so much fun chatting with them.

A Drop in the Ocean Sustainable Living Zero Waste Shop Swedish Dishcloths

So in summary…are Swedish dishcloths worth it?

Absolutely they are. They’re so stinkin’ convenient, you can use them for basically anything in your house, they’re gonna last you for at least 9+ months, and you can finally ditch paper towels and sponges once and for all.

Let’s also do some math real quick

The average family of four uses about three rolls of paper towels every week. A 16-pack of paper towels from Amazon is about $43, or $2.69 per roll.

Over the course of 9 months (about how long one Swedish dishcloth will last you), that’s about 108 rolls of paper towels - or $290.

Even if you just use one roll of paper towels a week, you’re still looking at about 36 rolls of paper towels and $96.

So while $8-10 for one Swedish dishcloth might seem high in comparison to just using paper towels, you could buy a new Swedish dishcloth every month and still spend less than you would on paper towels.

There’s truly no downside to these guys. They’re the MVP of spring cleaning, and really for every day of every year.

So, friend, I’m curious - what’s your favorite way to use a Swedish dishcloth?? Comment below and tell me! I’m always looking for new and creative ways to use zero waste swaps for more than they’re “intended” for.

See you so soon!

1 comment

  • Bunkerintegrated

    Thank you for sharing! Your guide to Swedish dishcloths is a refreshing dive into sustainable living! Practical, eco-friendly, and charming—thank you for shedding light on this ‘clean’ solution!

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