Thoughts on the Mighty Swedish Dishcloth

Durable yet biodegradable, these reusable cloths can replace paper towels and an array of other products.

Cute patterns on swedish dishcloths

Treehugger + Free The Ocean

Paper towels are one of the harder conveniences to forsake in the name of having a more sustainable home. They make cleaning up messes very easy, we get it. But U.S. consumers went through an estimated 362 million rolls of paper towels in 2020—which is a bit disconcerting given that the EPA "does not identify any significant recovery of tissue products [paper towels included] for recycling." Meanwhile, sponges and microfiber cloths—and their plastic components—are chaos for the environment as well.

And this is why we are so smitten with the mighty Swedish dishcloth. Invented in Sweden in 1949 by engineer Curt Lindquist, the squares are made of a highly absorbent material comprised of plant-based cellulose and cotton. Europeans have been using them all along, and finally, we are catching on here in the U.S.

Swedish dishcloths are sustainability superstars. They can absorb 20 times their weight, making them perfect for sopping up spills. Aside from being a great swap for paper towels, they also stand in for sponges, dish towels, microfiber cloths, and chamois. They can be used with all manner of cleaning products and can be washed in the washing machine up to 50 times. They are completely biodegradable and can be backyard composted.

Each cloth can replace 17 rolls of paper towels and a pack of 10 will last an average user over one year for all of their cleaning needs. They come in every shade of the rainbow, as well as an endless parade of patterns, from cute to cheery to chic.

We spoke to Mimi Ausland, co-founder of Free the Ocean, about the dishcloths available in 35 designs at the Free the Ocean plastic-free shop. Ausland says: “Using these Reusable Swedish Dishcloths simply makes me happy! I know it sounds strange to say a cleaning product makes you happy but the fun, colorful, designs of these dishcloths and the fact that they have replaced my need for paper towels does just that. Every time I use one, I feel good knowing I’m not creating any waste.”

variety of dishcloth designs
Just a few of the 35 dishcloth designs at Free the Ocean.

Free the Ocean

Ausland tells us that the dishcloths are a bestseller for them, boasting more than 500 five-star reviews, including testimonials such as:

"GET THESE!!—I love them! They’re great for doing dishes. I replaced my usual dishcloths with these! They dry much quicker and you can throw them in the wash Waaay better than gross sponges, And the best part is by buying these, you’re helping the environment!" —Paula B.

"Win-Win—I love that these dishcloths are reusable and so much better than using a paper towel. Saving lots of money by not purchasing paper towels and I’m making a difference! Great absorbency and come in a variety of patterns." —Denise B.

"Awesome! I really love these! Bought one and gave two to friends. This reusable Swedish dishcloth is really pretty amazing. These work wonders on my glass top stove. Big difference using these than a dish sponge! A+ for cleaning mirrors also! Buy these today!" - Renee B.

Swedish dishcloths are becoming more widely available; and sure, you can order them from a certain behemoth online retailer. But Treehugger is a fan of shopping at Free the Ocean because, as with all the products they offer, every purchase of a Reusable Swedish Dishcloth funds the removal of 10 pieces of plastic from the ocean. We love it when our dollars can go the extra mile, especially when it means cleaning the ocean and sparing the landfills hundreds of millions of paper towel rolls!

To purchase and for more information, visit Free the Ocean.