Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Laundry Meets Kitchen: degreasing unpaper towels

I went paper-towel free, officially, about 4 years ago. I'd been weaning off them for years, but living with my Gran meant I didn't have the authority to make that decision for the house.

At the time, we purchased a 25-pack of bar towels and a bunch of cloth napkins. White, not-quite-square, durable terrycloth; and a bunch of mismatch cloth napkins ranging from "brought home some bread wrapped in a napkin from the restaurant in my purse" to "I found these 12 hand-stitched cotton napkins for a dollar and they match my kitchen." Spoiler alert, I love those matching cotton ones the best, not least because they are so clearly made with love, but also because they're so immediately absorbent so when you have greasy food on your hands it cleans right up--unlike the weird shiny ones from the restaurants that just sort of smear food around and water beads up on instead of absorbing.

We also around this time bought a pack of washcloths for cleaning to get rid of the nasty sponges molding all over the apartment. White for countertops, green for kitchen, blue for bathrooms, yellow for "Gross." They were cheap, they didn't last long, and that's okay. They all got relegated to the "gross/floor" pile when I got some replacements. Which were purple. And shrunk to 1/3 their original size when washed once. Which stained the white counter towels a lovely lavender. ARGH.

We sucked it up for a couple years, but over time even the counter cloths were getting kind of gross. Stained, and we could never get the grease entirely out from just general food cleanup. So for our wedding, we bought a new, nice white pack of bar towels, our friends who were catering used them, and then we graduated everything down a step.

But I still wanted a way to clean the gross ones. Even the icky-jobs towels don't work if they don't absorb anything, and they were transferring that grease around in the laundry to the new counter cloths and the hand towels! Regular laundry soap wasn't cutting it, homemade laundry soap wasn't cutting it, no baking soda-vinegar combo breaker seemed to help, oxyclean was just not enough, and I was getting mad. It was almost like they were absorbing more soap than getting clean.

Last night the mister said he was ready for the load of kitchen towels (which gets washed about every 6 weeks) and asked what to soak them in, so we decided to pull out the big guns. Keep in mind, we're discussing a load of laundry the size of a milk crate.

  • 1 tbls dish soap, to degrease
  • 1/2 cup baking soda, because if it works on a casserole dish it's worth trying--and to cut the suds from the dish soap
  • 1 scoop oxygen cleaner, to help break down the organic components
  • 1/2 cup homemade laundry soap (fels naptha, washing soda, borax). 
Soaked overnight, washed as a large load (for extra water) on hot. 

They came out beautifully. Sure, they're stained, they've been used and we eat a lot of tomato sauce. But they're soft instead of stiff, and they absorb water immediately. No fussing around. No excess sudsing in the HE washer, either, I'm glad to report. 
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