Entertaining Rule No. 11: Put Away Your Washcloths

New rules for guests and hosts.
Sept. 16 2013 8:00 AM

Rule No. 11: Put Away Your Washcloths

The washcloth is dead. Long live the microfiber mesh scrubber!
The washcloth is dead. Long live the microfiber mesh scrubber!

Photo illustration by Lisa Larson-Walker. Photo by George Marks/Retrofiile/Getty Images

You’ve got houseguests coming over! Hooray! Hosting friends, family, or strangers you met on the Internet is one of the most civilized, rewarding things you can do with your home. Your house is becoming a haven for weary travelers, providing them sustenance and warmth, strength for their future journeys, companionship for a night or two. (What’s that? Three nights? Well, OK, but ...)

Dan Kois Dan Kois

Dan Kois is Slate's culture editor and a contributing writer to the New York Times Magazine.

And so you prepare! You change the sheets on the guest bed, or at least pile clean sheets at the foot of the futon. You dust the bookshelves and stock up on hummus and get out the playing cards. You change your Wi-Fi password from “ilikebigbutts123” to something innocuous. And in your freshly cleaned bathroom you set out a fluffy towel and a matching washcloth.

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But wait! Put away that washcloth. No one wants it, no one needs it, and you’re wasting space, energy, and money by buying it. Here’s why:

Washcloths are the least efficient, least useful, least effective cleaning devices known to man. They waste soap and waste time. And when they’re done not quite getting your guests clean, your guests will dutifully hang them over the shower rod or the faucet, where they’ll drip drip drip drip all over everything.

Once upon a time, washcloths were the only way to wash your body. Those who could not afford servants to draw scented baths scrubbed miserably under the low-water-pressure drizzle of cold showers, trying to use a soft, dripping scrap of fabric to get themselves clean. The cloth held a minuscule amount of suds, forcing reapplication of soap after every microsector of the body was cleaned. Left upper chest: Check! Time to reapply soap. Left midchest: Check! More soap. This wasteful choreography was exhausting, not to mention unsuccessful: Eventually the hot water runs out, and whatever hasn’t yet been washed simply stays dirty until the next day.

And this is not even to mention the problem of body hair, which sticks fiercely to washcloths, weaving itself into the warp and weft of the accursed square, so that when the guest takes a second shower—or, heaven forbid, a second guest takes a first shower—the short-and-curly evidence of previous scrubbing awaits them, clinging to the cloth like a tick. Hi there! the hairs say. You may think you’re getting clean, but really you’re just rubbing someone’s back hair all over your face!

Gross.

These Dark Ages lasted from exactly 1200 to the 1990s, when someone finally invented the synthetic shower scrub, that poof of nylon mesh that hangs in civilized bathrooms. Available in many cheerful bright colors, these scrubbers hold on to soap—whether bar soap or, ugh, shower gel—with a vengeance, allowing an average-sized person with an average number of nooks and/or crannies to wash his entire body with just one application. They squeeze out with little effort and come with twine loops for easy hanging on hooks which you will thoughtfully install inside the shower. Best of all, they rinse clean in seconds, sending body hair down the drain where it belongs.

So instead of spending $16 on a plush washcloth, get 10 colorful mesh scrubbers for less than 14 bucks. You’ll have 10 clean and happy guests, and you’ll have done your part to convince America’s skincare-industrial complex that washcloths are a needless waste of our world’s resources. In with the new! Wring out the old! Down with the washcloth!

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