Can these sponge-cloth hybrids tackle even the toughest of kitchen messes?
Published June 16, 2023.
Swedish dishcloths, also referred to as sponge cloths, are a cross between a kitchen sponge and a paper towel. They can be used for a variety of cleaning tasks, including wiping counters and appliances, washing dishes, scrubbing stovetops, and more. After testing a range of products, our co-winners are SWEDEdishcloths and the Skoy Cloth. They’re both strong, absorbent, great at scrubbing away messes, and easy to sanitize.
Invented by Swedish engineer Curt Lindqvist in 1949, Swedish dishcloths have been prevalent in European households for years. They’ve become popular in American households as an eco-friendly alternative to plastic-containing kitchen sponges and single-use paper towels.
Swedish dishcloths are typically about 8 inches long by 7 inches wide, smaller than a regular dishcloth, and resemble flat, thin sponges. Most are composed of 30 percent cotton and 70 percent cellulose, a fiber derived from plants. Like sponges and fabric towels, they’re typically sold in packages of four or five. One company sells a version that more closely resembles paper towels; the sponge cloths come on a perforated roll of 30 and you tear them off as you need them. Most sponge cloths on the market are biodegradable, meaning they will eventually decompose naturally.
We tested Swedish dishcloths in the ways we commonly use both sponges and paper towels—washing dishes, sopping up spills, wiping down appliances, scrubbing away sticky messes on surfaces, and cleaning faucets. They were excellent replacements for all these tasks and helped us reduce our traditional paper towel waste. However, they dry out completely in between uses and become much harder and more rigid than a typical kitchen sponge. It’s only when they’re damp that they become pliable and absorbent. As a result, they’re not great for drying dishes or shining glasses; dish towels are more effective there.
After using them, you can rinse Swedish dishcloths in the sink or run them through the dishwasher or washing machine and then let them air dry. You can also sanitize them in the microwave (see FAQ below for details). We tested four brands to find the best of the bunch. Overall, we found that because Swedish dishcloths are really only effective when wet, they cannot completely replace paper towels in most households. However, they are still useful for many cleaning jobs. Most of the brands in the lineup performed the same or very similarly; they were all very absorbent and excellent at wiping surfaces. Yet some characteristics helped our favorites rise to the top. Read on to see what we liked and how we chose our winners.
The mission of America’s Test Kitchen Reviews is to find the best equipment and ingredients for the home cook through rigorous, hands-on testing. We stand behind our winners so much that we even put our seal of approval on them.
Sawyer is an assistant digital editor for ATK Reviews. She enjoys baking, collecting Prince records, and all things Toni Morrison.