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How To Clean Stinky Norwex Microfiber Cloths

The microfiber rags in my sink somehow piled up, wet and stinky. No doubt there was some serious bacteria growing in them and I knew that a regular wash in cold water just wouldn’t be enough to de-stink these kitchen rags. Since bleach breaks down microfiber (and Norwex is expensive to replace), I had to get rid of the awful smell and built up bacteria another way. Thankfully, my embarrassing stash of nasty Norwex rags came out clean and fresh!

Here’s how to clean stinky Norwex microfiber cloths using a good vinegar soak and step by step washing machine instructions, including a baking soda wash if the rags still smell. I’m not a consultant, just happy customer 😉

While I try to remember to hang dry my rags after using, more often than not the old ones end up in a pile needing some serious help.

If you’re tempted to just toss a rag because it’s too gross…try this first. Want to find this post again easily? Pin this for later!

A pinterest image of folded up Norwex microfiber cloths with text saying "how to clean stinky Norwex microfiber cloths".

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The process for deep cleaning nasty smelling Norwex rags looks like this:

  • Soak with vinegar in a pot of hot water
  • Wash with just vinegar
  • 2nd wash with just baking soda (if rags still stink at all, or if they have a vinegar scent!)
  • dry on low setting

Step 1: Hand wash in the sink to get out chunky, gunky, slimy, nasties.

If some of your wet stinky rags are sitting in the sink, they’re probably starting to smell awful and possibly even get a little bit…dare I say…slimy? Hopefully not slimy but either way, get your kitchen sink water running hot and hand wash those rags with whatever gentle soap you have.

The goal here is to get out as much of the gross stuff hiding out in there as possible before we soak it.

I generously sprayed all my smelly microfiber cloths with Branch Basics cleaner, and scrubbed them by hand in the sink. Here’s a detailed review of Branch Basics and all the things we’ve cleaned with it over the years.

Stinky, used Norwex kitchen cloths that need to be washed.

Step 2: Soak in a pot for 30 minutes with 1 cup of vinegar

I filled my largest metal bowl full of hot sink water and added 1 cup of vinegar. This makes a pretty vinegary solution and lets out a lot of yuck from the fibers.

My water was so gross after the soak, that I wanted to toss it and start new water with vinegar in the washing machine.

A kitchen pot of stinky Norwex microfiber rags filling with hot water in the sink.
A hand reaching into murkey water filled with dirty, stinky Norwex microfiber cloths and Force Of Nature reusable paper towels.

Step 3: Wash in machine with hot water & 1 cup of vinegar (no detergent)

Everything I have read about microfiber in general says NOT to use the hot water settings as microfiber is made of material that can melt at high temperatures.

However, hot wash is the official recommendation of Norwex when your rags stink to open up the fibers and get a better clean. They no longer recommend boiling their microfiber though.

Since their microfiber is some of the highest quality in the industry, I wonder if the melting point is just higher? Or possibly the hot settings in most machines isn’t hot enough to melt microfiber? After tons of searching I haven’t been able to find out the “why” for this and will contact the company to see if I can get an answer.

Here are legal terms for washing machine temps, and hot ranges from 112-145 degree Fahrenheit. However each machine and brand differs within this range.

I added the presoaked cloths to my washing machine with these settings:

  • Tossed in rags
  • Medium load with normal wash
  • Hot water
  • Added one cup of vinegar into the main drum
  • No detergent

My favorite two eco friendly detergents are Dropps pods and Earth Breeze, but for these rags I didn’t use any. You could do a separate cycle with detergent if desired but I don’t think its needed.

How does vinegar clean?

Vinegar is a powerhouse cleaner. Being about five percent acetic acid, it helps break down the structure of some dirt, oils, stains and bacteria. But the acid can harm surfaces like cast iron, natural stone, aluminum, and waxed wood.

If you are looking to completely disinfect (kill all germs and viruses), you’ll want something like Force of Nature (a safer bleach alternative to killing 99% of germs and viruses).

A1 gallon container of vinegar container in a kitchen sink used to clean stinky Norwex microfiber cloths.

Where to put vinegar in the washing machine

I dump mine right into our top loader as the water fills (no detergent, which I’ll explain why in a minute). This means it will be working during the wash cycle, instead of sprayed in during the rinse cycle.

If you have a front loader, you can put it into the detergent spot which will add it during the wash cycle, or the fabric softener dispenser which adds it during the rinse.

If you were doing a normal load (not this deep clean method), you’d use your laundry detergent like normal and put the vinegar in the rinse load (fabric softener spot). This keeps the two from ever combining so they can both do their job.

Also the vinegar in the rinse cycle would help strip any leftover detergent off the fibers. This is why vinegar is a “natural fabric softener”.

Step 4: If Norwex rags still smell, rewash with 1/2 cup baking soda

Our rags still had a faint smell when wet, even after a vinegar soak and vinegar wash. (Yep, they were pretty stank-y in the beginning). I decided to follow the recommendation to do one more hot wash with 1/2 cup of baking soda in a medium load to see if it would completely remove the last of the stink.


I even asked my husband and super, duper sensitive smell 5 year old if they smelled anything yuck, or if they just smelled “wet”. They said it smelled like nothing, so win!

I dumped the baking soda into the drum as the water filled. If you have a front loader you can put the baking soda into the bottom of your drum.

Can you mix vinegar and detergent in the same wash load?

One thing you’ll see over and over in the cleaning arena is the use of vinegar to wash clothes, but it’s usually recommended solo in the washer…so why is that?

Vinegar is a powerhouse cleaner, but you don’t want to mix it in the main drum of your washer with detergent because it will change the pH of the water. Also, it’d be dangerous if your detergent had any bleach in it because vinegar and bleach combine to create lethal chlorine gas.

Detergents are designed to work in certain pH levels, and when vinegar changes that it’ll decrease the detergents performance.

There are two ways to avoid that.

One is to add the vinegar to the rinse cycle by adding it to the “fabric softener” spot. Once your clothes drains the water and detergent, it will then add in the vinegar automatically in the rinse cycle.

The second way is to do two washes. One with vinegar, and the second wash with detergent only. I feel like this gives clothes a longer time to soak in the vinegar.

What dryer settings to use with Norwex microfiber?

I use the lower heat setting just to be careful since I don’t know the temperature that my dryer gets on the hottest setting. You can also air dry your Norwex rags if you prefer.

No dryer sheets, however we love using wool dryer balls.

Norwex kitchen microfiber cloths cleaned in a pile after a vinegar wash.

Why you don’t want to dry your rags if they smell weird

I’m guilty of doing this to “save time” if they’re just a tad off smelling. But the dry clothes (or kitchen cloths) never smell quite right when dry if they are weird when wet.

If you smell any remaining funk in a rag (or clothes) then it means theres still bacteria growing that needs to get knocked out.

I notice this mostly when I forget to transfer a load from the washer to the dryer and they start to smell off…

Norwex kitchen microfiber cloths cleaned and folded after a vinegar wash.