Swedish dishcloths: if you haven’t already used them, then you’ve probably at least heard someone sing their praises. They’re the thin squares that—thanks to their ability to wash or dry dishes, absorb spills, and clean countertops—threaten to replace or at least take market share away from Big Sponge and Big Paper Towel.
Swedish dishcloths are made from a combination of cotton and wood pulp, a.k.a cellulose, a fibrous material that is derived from trees. (Most of the brands we tested were 70% wood pulp and 30% cotton.) This combo allows them to be rigid when dry and pliable when wet. And because most Swedish dishcloths can go in the dishwasher or washing machine, or be boiled to clean and disinfect them, you can use the same ones for months. Plus, they’re way more durable and absorbent than regular paper towels. And even if the thought of being kind to the environment and using fewer natural resources doesn’t move you, they’re also more cost-effective than buying roll upon roll of the single-use stuff.
To find the best Swedish dishcloths, we evaluated how much liquid each cloth could absorb, how well they washed and dried dishes, how fast they air-dried, and how they stood up to disinfecting.
The Winners, at a Glance
These dishcloths’ ability to sop up big spills, dry dishes with just a few swipes, and air-dry faster than the competitors helped them edge out a win. It also doesn’t hurt that they are fairly affordable at $2.16 a cloth.
At $1.70 a cloth, a set of 10 will only set you back $16.95. These performed well in our tests, but not as well as the winner.
If you’re looking for bright, colorful patterns on your dishcloths, we recommend these. Although printed-on patterns seemed to slightly hurt the efficacy of each cloth, these seemed to be affected the least. And for $1.26 a cloth, the cheapest we tested, the pros still outweigh the cons.
- Absorbency Test: We looked at how well each cloth soaked up 1/4 cup of water (59 grams) on a quarter sheet tray by weighing the cloth before and after mopping up the water to see what percentage of water each picked up.
- Drying Time Test: We timed how long each cloth took to air-dry, wringing out as much water as possible and laying them on the counter until they were dry to the touch. We also did this after washing them in the washing machine and dishwasher.
- Dish Washing and Dish Drying Tests: We washed and dried two drinking glasses with a wet, soapy cloth and a dry one from the same set, noting how well they performed.
- Disinfecting Test: We washed two cloths from each set on the top rack of a dishwasher on normal cycle and a “warm” wash cycle in a washing machine. After they were sanitized, we noted any wear and tear.
What We Learned
Diamond vs. Ribbed Textures
How did the textures woven or stamped into the cloths help or hurt them in our tests? We noticed that dishcloths with a diamond texture on one side (including Now Designs, Swedish Wholesale, and FEBU) tended to be better at sopping up water off a just-washed drinking glass. Our favorite cloth, from Swedish Wholesale, has a ribbed texture on one side and diamonds on the other side. The model from Now Designs is also double-textured with diamonds and ribbing, and was by far the fastest air-drying, coming in first where Swedish Wholesale came in second. Nordhus, also with a double-sided texture, was the other cloth that had 100% absorption besides our other (ribbed and diamond-stamped) winner from Swedish Wholesale.
That being said, two of our high-performers, Wettex and Superscandi, only have one ribbed side—no diamonds.
Patterned vs. Plain Dishcloths
We found that, on dishcloths with printed-on patterns, the patterned side wasn’t as good at drying wet dishes and seemingly pushed water around instead of soaking it up. Also, three out of the top four fastest-drying dishcloths had no pattern, which led us to believe patterns might hinder the cloth’s ability to air-dry.
What’s the Best Color for Swedish Dishcloths?
Though we didn’t test the cloths on how they stain from potential messes, I can say from personal experience that while colorful patterns on white backgrounds look cute, they will show stains eventually, even after washing in the dishwasher or laundry. Just like regular dishcloths, darker shades and intense colors will be more forgiving of stains.
The Criteria: What to Look for in a Swedish Dishcloth
The Swedish dishcloths that performed best in our tests shared a few key attributes. We liked that our winner from Swedish Wholesale had both ribbed and diamond-patterned sides. Dishcloths with textures on both sides not only tended to absorb the most water, but they also air-dried the fastest. Plus, diamonds were the best at mopping up water droplets from wet dishes. We preferred models without any designs as those performed poorly drying dishes, pushing water around instead of soaking it up. They also air-dried slower (the one exception being Now Designs, which dried the fastest). All the Swedish dishcloths we tested were made from a combination of cellulose (wood pulp) and cotton—the five brands that mentioned a ratio all said about 30% cotton and 70% wood pulp. They are all basically the same size at seven-by-seven or seven-by-eight inches. And since eventually, after many, many uses and washes, you might need to buy news ones, you’ll want Swedish dishcloths that are affordable.
What we liked: We loved how fast this cloth dried—and how fast it dries; it made drying just-washed drinking glasses a breeze, mopping them up in just a few seconds with no fogginess or droplets (we attributed this to the diamond pattern it features on one side). It also air-dried quickly: it was the fastest to dry after being run through the dishwasher and rung out, the second-fastest to dry straight out of the washing machine, and the second-fastest to dry after simply being saturated and then wrung out. It also showed no visible wear and tear even after all this washing.
What we didn’t like: It’s hard to find something we really didn’t like about these, but it would have been nice to get to 100% water absorbency (they came in at 98%). Some of the dishcloths had bits of white material that seemed to be unincorporated cellulose or cotton. This didn’t really affect their performance, but it looks a little odd.
Price at time of publish: $22 or $2.16/dishcloth.
- Materials: Cotton and cellulose (wood pulp)
- Size: 8 x 7 inches
- Set includes: 10 cloths
- Cleaning: Machine wash, per manufacturer
- Features: Ribbed and diamond texture sides; multiple colors available
What we liked: SuperScandi was one of two models to score 100% absorption. They sopped up water droplets instead of pushing them around. After being saturated and then wrung out, they air-dried fairly quickly, too.
What we didn’t like: We wish these cloths had a diamond texture on one side, since diamonds proved to be the best at drying dishes. We also noticed that, after running through the laundry machine, the cloths picked up some very small bits of debris from the rest of the load.
Price at time of publish: $16.95 or $1.70 /dishcloth.
- Materials: Cotton and cellulose (wood pulp)
- Size: 6.75 x 8 inches
- Set includes: 10 cloths
- Cleaning: Washing machine or dishwasher; brand claims they can be washed up to 200 times
- Features: Ribbed texture, multiple colors available
What we liked: These cloths were on par with most of the contestants in the absorbency round, soaking up 98% of the water. They were also the best-performing patterned cloths—besides those from Now Designs, which are just too expensive to justify. Wettex, on the other hand, are just $12.60 for a set of 10 cloths ($1.26 per cloth).
What we didn’t like: When drying a just-washed glass, it was too rigid to get all the way down to the bottom. It didn’t soak up all of the water droplets either.
Price at time of publish: $12.60 or $1.26 /dishcloth.
- Materials: 70% cellulose and 30% cotton
- Size: 7 x 8 inches
- Set includes: 10 cloths
- Cleaning: Wash them in the washing machine at 140° F (60°C), per manufacturer
- Features: Ribbed texture, multiple colors and patterns available
- Now Designs Compostable Swedish Dishcloths: We were impressed by how well these dried wet dishes, as well as how they air-dried faster than any other model. But even their cute designs couldn’t get us over the hefty price tag of $5.99 a cloth.
- Nordhus Design Swedish Dish Cloths: The other model besides Superscandi to achieve 100% water absorption, these cloths were let down by their poor performance elsewhere. They pushed water droplets around on wet glasses, leaving behind a foggy finish, and were some of the slowest when it came to air-drying.
- The EcoGurus Swedish Dishcloth: These were the lowest-scoring set of towels in the absorbency round, soaking up 96.6% of the water and leaving behind a noticeable amount of droplets. We also weren’t impressed with their dish-drying abilities.
- FEBU Swedish Dishcloths: We liked this colorful, floral-printed set, but were disappointed by their slower air-drying times. And at $3 a cloth…not worth it.
- Remagr Swedish Kitchen Dish Towels: While very, very similar to the FEBU cloths, these had no diamond pattern, and their printed patterns hindered their ability to dry dishes. They were also some of the slowest when it came to air-drying.
How do you clean a Swedish dishcloth?
Ultimately, follow the manufacturer’s directions, but in general, Swedish dishcloths can be cleaned by running them through the washing machine (Wettex recommends a temperature of 140°F) or on the top rack of the dishwasher. They can also be sanitized by dunking them, briefly, in boiling water. Don’t run your Swedish dishcloths through the dryer; simply wring them out and let them hang dry.
How long do Swedish dishcloths last?
Most brands claim their dishcloths replace up to 15 rolls of paper towels and can last for many months or even more than a year, withstanding hundreds of washes. (Superscandi says their cloths last for 200 washes.) But these numbers also depend on how often you’re using and washing them.
Are Swedish dishcloths compostable?
Yes, Swedish dishcloths at the end of their life can be composted commercially or in your home compost system, as they are made with biodegradable cotton and cellulose (wood pulp).