How to Clean Stained Kitchen Dish Towels

Do you have dingy kitchen towels? Learn how to get stains out of dish towels with bleach. Whiten your dish and kitchen towels and get them fresher than ever.


My dish towels and cloths can become quite stained from cooking, etc. What can I use to get them really clean? I have been using other detergents, but they do not come spot-free.


Dish towels definitely are a cleaning and whitening challenge given all the different ways they are used in a kitchen and the wide variety of stains they can pick up. Multiple factors play into how clean they get, too. It’s not just what products you use (although that is important!); how you wash them also matters. Here are some considerations to help you get better results.

  • Pretreat any stains. Cooking stains often have an oily component, so pretreating first with liquid dishwashing detergent (the kind you use for handwashing dishes is really helpful at breaking up the oil. It is also very important to do this while the fabric is dry [that is, don’t rinse the stain first]). All you have to do is apply a little detergent to the stain and thoroughly massage it in. Wait 5 minutes, and then rinse the treated area with warm water. Dish detergent doesn’t belong in a clothes washer because of its high sudsing qualities, so rinsing is important.
  • Combinations stains that have both an oily and a colored component should be treated again, this time with a product that will help with the stain color.
    1. For white cotton dishtowels, presoak with bleach and water solution made with ¼ cup Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach per gallon of water. Fully submerge the dishtowel for 5 minutes, then pour off the soaking solution before machine washing (step 3).
    2. If you have dish towels with color, then use liquid Clorox 2® for Colors Stain Remover and Laundry Additive to pretreat the remaining stain. Apply the product full strength and gently rub in. Wait 10 minutes before machine washing. Use a timer if it helps you keep track of the time so the product doesn’t dry out on the fabric.
  • Machine wash: select hot water and the heavy duty cycle. The hotter the water the better the cleaning.
    1. For white towels, use detergent and ⅓ cup Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach.
    2. For colored dish towels, add a little more Clorox 2® along with the detergent.
  • Air dry the towels—make sure the stains are all the way out before machine drying.

I also wanted to mention that if you have towels that are mostly white but have some color, you may be able to safely bleach them with Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach, but you should test first. To do this, add 2 teaspoons Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach to ¼ cup water and apply a drop to a hidden part of the towel (the underside of the hem is a good spot). Wait 1 minute and then rinse and blot dry. No color change means you can safely launder the towel with Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach as directed.

Many dish towels actually are made with bleach-safe dyes because dish towel manufacturers understand that kitchen towels really benefit from the cleaning and sanitizing you get from Clorox® Disinfecting Bleach.