I use white cloths for wiping countertops and drying dishes, but they get stained so quickly. I throw them in the wash, but they don't come out clean. I guess I need to soak them in something ... ??? Bleach is unhealthy, right? I think one of the problems is that I use an all-natural laundry soap, which doesn't actually work all the well when something is really dirty.
How to clean dishcloths???
Yes, I think there is a difference between being clean and being stained. I wash my dishcloths in hot water, sometimes soaking them in a vinegar or borax solution first. Some of them are stained, but it doesn't bother me.
If you really want "whiter than white", you could try soaking in hydrogen peroxide. It doesn't have the same harmful effects as chlorine bleach.
I wash mine in hot water with a 1/4 cup white vinegar and laundry detergent. Periodically if they are really stained I soak them in hydrogen peroxide. I add the hydrogen peroxide to the washing machine, let it fill and then before the wash cycle starts, I shut it off and let them soak overnight. I add laundry detergent when I restart the cycle in the morning. They are clean and smell good. DH occasionally get squicked out by the stains and bleaches them when he is washing his martial art uniform. Since he's gonna bleach the uniform anyway, I feel a little bit better about it. I can't convince him not to bleach it.
I add 1/4 cup baking soda to the detergent sometimes and always wash my kitchen stuff on hot. It also gets a monthlyish soak in Oxyclean and hot water overnight with the rest of the stained stuff.
Line drying in the sun is an excellent stain remover/bleacher that is wonderful for planet.
I'm the same way. I don't use very much and make sure to give them a second rinse to get all of it out.
I use a little bit of bleach too when I wash mine. I use our dishtowels for everything in and around the house from dusting/cleaning, wiping hands, using them as napkins for my face when I eat, to wiping up cat puke. If I didn't use bleach I'd be tempted to throw the towels away when I have a really gross mess or use something else like a paper towel (which we don't buy) and I feel like it would defeat the whole purpose of using them. Most of mine have some small stains but I keep them under the counter in the kitchen and no one really sees them so it's not a big deal. If we are having guests over I will use nice cloth napkins so everyone isn't using my stained dishcloths though :)
I rarely have meat in the kitchen, so not as germy as it could be, so I don't feel a need to bleach, though I purposely pick dark colors to limit stains. I use cotton bandanas with prints to further limit noticeable stains, though I do have "good" napkins and dish towels when having formal guest
To those using bleach - you do live in America, right? Soap and water and vinegar &/or hydrogen peroxide in extreme cases (like raw meat) are all that's really necessary for keeping a germaphobe sanctioned kitchen. You're not working in a restaurant where things are really super gross due to the sheer amounts of food passing through them. Using lemon & vinegar in a water mixture will clean your fruits and veggies. Keeping a bottle of 50/50 vinegar & water will clean pretty much every surface in your house. If something is super duper gross, vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in succession will wipe out as many bacteria as bleach. Vinegar alone does 90%. And yet it's food safe and doesn't destroy ecosystems. Plus it's cheap and if you're really in all this crunchy stuff because you selfishly believe that your children deserve better than the rest of the world, then you still come out ahead with the added benefit of not hurting the world.
I knit my own dishcloths in bright colors to avoid stains and soak them in vinegar with baking soda before washing. Rags I keep under the sink separately and who cares what they look like.
I love that you knit your own dish cloths. I'm new to knitting, what kind of yarn/ needle combo do you use? Do they work as well as traditional cloths?
They work better than regular dishcloths. I still use scotch pads for scrubbing, but for wiping, etc., these are great. I use a worsted weight cotton on I think a size 6 straight needle. It's a great way to practice. Originally, I just made up patterns, but then I started making these: http://www.ravelry.com/patterns/library/ballband-dishcloth
I have given those as gifts as well with some fancy soap for the holidays. Cotton is cheap and it's beautiful and homemade, so always appreciated. I started knitting washcloths because my mother likes knit rags. I gave one of those to a friend and she framed it for her kitchen wall. Go figure.