Paper towels are useful for cleaning up spills, keeping herbs fresh, and lots of other kitchen tasks, but they’re pretty wasteful. It takes a lot of water and trees to make single-use rolls that will go straight in the garbage. There are lots of eco-friendlier paper towel alternatives available, though, and one of the more popular styles is the Swedish dishcloth.
This Nordic wonder is kind of a hybrid between paper, sponge, and cloth that’s machine-washable and reusable but also compostable when it’s worn out. It’s more absorbent than even the best kitchen towels in your rotation. Made from a combination of cellulose (aka wood pulp, the same stuff that makes up paper) and cotton, Swedish dishcloths are stiff like cardboard when dry but soften into the texture of a regular paper towel when wet. They’re as hard to tear as cloth and can be reused dozens of times.
Was it actually invented in Sweden?
The Swedish dishcloth is indeed Swedish: According to original maker Wettex, an engineer named Carl Lindquist invented the material in the 1950s by running a sponge through a meat grinder and then mixing it with cotton. Wettex and similar brands have been commonplace in Sweden ever since, but the Swedish dishcloth has only become popular in the U.S. in the last few years. Despite that, there are now lots of options available, in all different sizes and formats, with countless fun colors and prints to choose from.