Organizing dish towels

Dear Kathi,

I need to find a new system for organizing my kitchen dishtowels. What should we do with slightly dirty dishtowels still in use so that family members will not use them for hands or drying clean dishes? They are not dirty enough to throw in the wash but too dirty to use for clean dishes.

Peter, Leucadia


Hang two hooks. Use one for the soiled tasking towel and one for the super clean towel for dishes and hands. Educate your family members to think in the pattern of clean hook, dirty hook. Smaller children, and everyone, will benefit from a visual cue.

Hang a sign by each hook in the beginning of this re-education process to help everyone remember which hook to use. Label one hook clean, one hook dirty. You probably only need to post this sign for the first thirty to forty days. This is typically the time that it takes to develop a new habit.

Once everyone automatically knows which hook is clean or dirty, they will hang the proper towel on each hook. Make sure they are aware that the clean hook towel is the only option for drying dishes and hands.

Another option is to use a different color of towel for each activity. Keep only two colors of towels in your kitchen. White is the obvious choice for the clean hand-drying towel. Use an alternative color for the towel that supplements the cleaning process.

You could also keep the cleaning towel under the sink on it’s own hook next to the cleaning supplies. This method provides visual hints that each type of towel has a different purpose based on where it lives.

Your family will automatically reach for the convenient visible towel for everyday drying hands and dishes. They will also learn that they should reach for the towel by the adjacent cleaning supplies to begin a clean-up job.

Some people prefer to use a towel for drying and a sponge for wiping up messes. To each his own, there is no perfect way. The key is to find the solution that you will use consistently over time with the least effort.

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2 Responses to Organizing dish towels

  1. Gwynn Best says:

    Dear Kathi,
    My boyfriend, two toddlers and I are moving into a two bedroom two bathroom apartment. The kitchen does not have enough cabinets for dishes and things like canned goods and cereal. There is no pantry. We are waiting to hear if we can put some kind of shelving up or our own cabinets. Do you have any suggestions for us?

    • Kathi says:

      Hi Gwynn,

      When I first moved to California, I had the same challenge with my incredibly small kitchen. I found a free standing wood book cabinet that was very tall and narrow but had 12 inch deep shelves. This became my makeshift pantry.

      After a few months, I became tired of the visual clutter, so I attached a beautiful tapestry to the front. I was able to attach the top of the fabric with a staple gun and fold it over to hide the staples seamlessly. When it was time to cook, I simply flipped the tapestry over the top and when finished, simply closed it up by hanging it back down.

      The beauty of this solution is you do not have to install anything to your rental unit and you can re-purpose the shelf later. My shelf is now in my bedroom actually holding books!

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