Welcome to Coming Clean, a monthly column where writer Lauren Viera finds the best products for the toughest-to-clean parts of the kitchen. Along the way she just might convince you (and herself) to actually enjoy this whole cleaning thing.
I’m constantly looking for ways to avoid using sponges. They’re prone to collecting bad smells and bacteria, and they need to be replaced frequently. So when Epicurious editor Emily Johnson forwarded a tip about towels made of mesh for cleaning dishes, I was intrigued yet skeptical. Can a towel actually do that? The buzz-worthy mesh dish towels were primarily produced by Norwex, a company that makes everything, including face cream and shoe polish, and sells its wares at Avon-style home parties where you push products on your friends. My mind raced: Would I have to attend one—or, worse, a Zoom version of one—in order to get these towels? Fortunately, I did not, and neither do you, though beware that when you purchase them online, you’ll be connected with a “consultant” in your area. (I still haven’t returned the follow-up text messages from a presumably nice lady named Susan. Sorry, Susan!)
Luckily, if you're not up for Norwex’s Tupperware-esque marketing structure, these towels are made by a few other brands. After testing them I've decided they're a welcome addition to my cleaning-tool arsenal. Be aware: Mesh dish towels are not complete sponge substitutes (they’re predictably useless for mopping up spills since the fabric contains tons of holes). But these cloths are excellent for scrubbing tough baked-on matter from your cookware or dried sticky messes off countertops. They're way more abrasive than your average sponge. The polyester material and mesh design make them fast-drying and surprisingly effective against stuck-on gunk. But since they don't contain any bristles or wire-y bits, they're also more gentle on surfaces that are prone to scratching than a Tawashi brush or a stainless steel scoring pad. And key for those of us grossed out by sponges, the mesh knit leaves no crannies for food or liquid residue to collect and fester.
I tested a few brands of mesh dish towels over several weeks. Here’s how they stacked up.
A brand that claims “There's Clean and Norwex Clean” obviously has confidence in its product, and Norwex's tightly netted polyester power cloths really do stand up to heavy-duty scrubbing. The steel gray color also looks at home in modern kitchens. Of the three I tried, these are the largest—about 18x18"—and by far the most expensive.
Similar to Norwex, Sunland’s cloths feel strong and sturdy. I found the size—12x12"—made them much easier to wield in the nooks and crannies of dishes. These cloths did a particularly good job cleaning a stainless-steel coffee mug that my husband insisted was “fine,” despite the perma layer of coffee oil coating its base. Now it looks brand-new. Sunland specializes in microfiber and wicking fabrics, so it’s no surprise these are effective. The price is nice too.
At 12x12", S&T’s cloths are like Sundland’s, nimble and easy to bunch up into a size that works for scrubbing. But they couldn’t feel more different. S&T’s cloth is 100% polyester like the others, but the double-weave design results in a cloth that's softer and spongier. This means the material was more prone to absorbing odors and less abrasive. Those factors, and the lime green color, were dealbreakers for me.
Originally Appeared on Epicurious