Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Secret to Non-Greasy Dish Towels

I watch a LOT of food television and I've always marveled at how all the TV chefs use and abuse their dish towels with reckless abandon.  They use them as potholders.  They use them to wipe up spills of all kinds, including oil and grease.  I've even seen them used to hold and flip a butter-coated turkey halfway through roasting.  If you've ever tried this yourself, you know that such use renders them completely unable to soak-up water the next time you're trying to dry a plate.

So what gives?  How do they do it?

After working in food service for a short time, I finally got the answer:  Bar mops.  Bar mops are inexpensive white terry cloth towels (bordering on rags) that most restaurants get from their local linen supply company.  They're named as such because they're also used by bartenders as general-duty dish cloths behind the bar.  However, restaurants use them to pick-up hot trays, sop-up spills, even mop up puddles on the greasy kitchen floor.  They then toss them into the linen bin and send them back to the linen company where they get magically cleaned using toxic commercial cleaners and heavy duty washing equipment.

Well that's nice...then what do I do in my home kitchen?  Even if you could walk into Target's kitchen department and pick-up some bar mops (you can't), you can rest assured that you'd still have trouble getting them clean and they'd be too expensive to dispose of when they just get too dirty.  The solution, believe it or not, is found in the automotive department.

White Terry Cloth Automotive Detailing Towels, like these,  are available in most discount, big box, and automotive stores (and apparently, on Amazon even cheaper than I usually find them...good to know).  Usually, you can find them in packages where they cost less than $1 per towel.  Here's why I like them:
  • They're cheap enough that you can throw them out if one or two get ruined and not feel much more guilty than tossing a half-roll of paper towels.
  • You can afford to buy enough to be able to do a full laundry load of just bar mops.  If you've ever washed a single greasy towel with anything else (like your good bath towels), you know why this is important.
  • They're cotton, so they're biodegradable when you toss them.  Heck, you could probably even compost them.
  • They're white, so you can bleach, Oxyclean, or stain-treat the heck out of them without consequences.  I usually put mine on a hot wash cycle with a heavy dose of bleach.  If they're exceptionally dirty, I soak them overnight.  If they're extra greasy, try using a small amount of dish soap instead of laundry detergent.
  • If I end-up with one that is stained and looks grungy but is still reasonably absorbent, I often downgrade it to a rag for the workshop or garage.  This way, I get double the use out of them.
Needless to say, bar mops are my friend in the kitchen and they keep my regular dish drying cloths clean and absorbent--just the way they should be.

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