Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Washcloth

So somehow the subject of washcloths came up recently, and it occured to me I had not written about this racially charged household item. I thought the racial divide was a given: Black people use them. White people don't.

But when I googled "the washcloth," the first link took me to a Paul Davidon post, and subsequent caucasian comment party. And not one person mentioned race, i.e. "what do we know, only black people use these things." Paul seemed to be under the impression that there was a cult of washcloth users, presumably a swath of people that cut across lines of race, gender, religion. After reading the post, I was disappointed. Like hip hop, Oprah, and Dave Chappelle, had the washcloth crossed over and gone mainstream?

But then I looked more closely at the comments, and it turned out no one was advocating for the washcloth. And this is what I would anticipate at a caucasian comment party. And then I noticed the one person who was advocating usage of the washcloth was suspiciously named Keef Keith. Hmmmm, I smell melanin ...

So I looked at Keef's Keith's blog, and immediately noticed usage of the word "peeps." Eureka!! We've struck gold!! Racism is alive and well!!! YES!!! *fist pump* Turns out a black guy was in fact the only person advancing the washcloth movement. At least, I hope he’s black, otherwise I might have to smack him for trying to act cool.

(Looking closer, this site will require further examination, cause reality remixed is like the real assimilated negro. This ni**a confesses to using J-Date. Holla! And E-Harmony. Double-Holla!!! Peep this:
In other news, most of my subscriptions will expire within the next few days to the various dating sites I signed up for last month in a frenzy. I will not renew them. As with the other dreaded Site That Shall Not Be Named, it’s been much effort and zero return.
A negro getting zero return off of J-Date? Color me flabbergasted. Time to remove that picture homey, or photoshop it for that Black. White. treatment.)

So back to the washcloth. Of course the problem with the washcloth, as many of the commenters on Paul's post point out is it's just plain nasty. The cloth serves as a four-star hotel for germs, dirt, and bacteria. It's like going from a room in a Hilton Hotel, to a room in Paris Hilton *rimshot*.

But Mirabella ends the washcloth debate here. The washcloth is best if you can, one, have a bunch of them, and two, wash the washcloths all the time. Tough task perhaps, but not impossible if you have the resources.

For the record, I don't know any caucasians who use them. I know some black folks who do, and some who don't.

As an aside, one of the trackbacks for this post goes to QueerMind. And forget race, I could never see a gay guy using an old washcloth. Way too potentially dirty, right? But it might make for an amusing scene in a movie, where some down-and-out gay guy has had his whole life torn asunder. And to demonstrate that he's hit the bottom of the barrel, he sacrifices that last vestige of decency, picks up the dirty washcloth, and begins to bathe. And gaydom cringes in horror. That would be hot.

Feel free to provide more demographic info on washcloth usage.
This has been a TAN public service announcement.


  1. A data point of two: I am white, I use washcloths. In fact, I can't stand NOT using them; I feel like I'm not getting clean. My mom is white, she uses washcloths.

    Maybe I'm part of some weird caucasian sub-culture? Because one of the things that drove me nuts about my hubby is that he doesn't use washcloths when he to me, using is the norm, so I must have been surrounded by it as a child.

  2. Anonymous9/21/2006

    washcloths are one of fthe most disgusting things known to man. they shold all be burned immediately.

  3. When growing up, my parents preached to me about the use of washcloths ad nauseum. They always warned me, "you have to use washcloths, only nasty people don't." Their particular obsession was the back of the neck. I went to grammar school and washcloths came up in conversation and kids looked at me like I was crazy. Definitely a black thing. I've met Dominicans who use them as well.

  4. I use a loofah, on occasion. Otherwise just soap/bodywash, usually in a liquid form.

    I might use a washcloth for my feet, if I had one, but then couldn't imagine using it on the rest of my body.

    if it's a black thing, and I could get in trouble for asking this, if so please save me TAN, do black people not care about the germs and such involved?

  5. Anonymous9/21/2006

    if a washcloth can get germy, why can't a loofah? and what the hell is a loofah anyways? those should be eliminated justb ased on the name.

  6. My family uses Salux. It dries in a snap and therefore does not harbor any more (probably less)dangerous bacteria or germs than oh, say... A TOWEL. Or A TOOTHBRUSH! Ever thought about that, anonymous? Guess what race I am!

  7. I'm Indian and I've never used a washcloth. Don't know many others that have, though to be honest, I've never really asked.

    Actually, how do you even use a washcloth? I've never understood the mechanics/physics of it.

  8. Anonymous9/21/2006

    why do black people use washcloths? i'm a curious white girl from CT.

    and no, i don't use washcloths..mostly b/c then i'd have a lot more laundry to do.

  9. hi, my name is carol, and i'm a caucasian washcloth user.

    (audience: hi, carol)

    by the way, you use it ONCE, then wash it. and you start with your face and work your way down. using puffs with shower gel is disgusting unless you wash it every time, which no one does. and how do you wash the middle of your back with that thing, anyway?

  10. OJ Mayo9/21/2006

    I'm black. I grew up in a washcloth-using home. I almost never use them anymore. If I do, it's just for the face, and I never re-use them until they've been laundered (I don't see how I could use that thing for my crotch, then bring it back to my face the next day. I know it's MY crotch, but still).

    I thought that washcloths were the norm until I saw that hilarious Chappelle episode. Since then, I've noticed that almost all the black people I know use them--some re-use, some don't.

    Here's a related racial stereotype that I hope someone can clear up: racial preferences for mayonnaise. I was raised thinking that white people had a penchant for (the absolutely disgusting) Miracle Whip, while black folks preferred regular mayo. Then, I would see black comedians say that white people eat a ton of mayonnaise or like to eat mayo plain. My informal polls have yielded inconclusive results. I'm seriously confused.

  11. I've always been confused about the mayo thing too. I saw Undercover Brother and they made jokes about white folks loving Mayo and blacks not liking it. But in the hood bodega when I was younger, black people loveloveLOVE slathering mayo on the hero sammich. So yeah, I'm confused too. Even now in Bed-Stizzle I still see the mayo getting love.

  12. Word song I feel the Mayo issue way too storngly also I thought it was a demographic thing.

    Brotha's in the north cant feel the mayo love, but down here in the dirty we get that janx by the gallon. Then put it on some pig feet.


    TAN you must clear up this issue your fans obviusly demand it

  13. OJ Mayo9/21/2006

    and to complicate matters, i my white euro friends tell me that they dip their french fries in mayo instead of ketchup.

  14. Who on earth DOESN'T use a washcloth?

  15. I'm white and I use a "bath puffy" (a ball of nylon netting) when I shower. You reach your back with the back brush (stiff bristles please, I love the back scratch aspect).

    I also use a washcloth when I'm doing what my grandma charmingly called a "spit bath". Y'know... wash the really smelly bits quickly in front of the sink when you're too rushed to do a real shower and too funky not to do something.

    This does not include my face, BTW.

    Don't know where all this puts me on the racial divide.

  16. Anonymous9/21/2006

    how would you use only soap to wash? how do you remove dirt without some kind of abrasion? is the school of thought that the dirt, cells, etc will be dissolved by the soap? i just want to know...

  17. Hate to ruin your thesis here, but Keith actually is a white Jewish guy.

    Apparently all we got over at is a caucasian comment party.

  18. I had no idea the washcloth was the site of a) so many germs (thus requiring daily washing) or so much, like, racialism and shit. Down here in Australia, we all just get along and are happy all the time, with or without our washcloths

    My whole family (except me because I seriously do think dirt will dissolve given enough water) uses washcloths. I thought teh usage of them was an old person/new zealand thing actually.

  19. Migital9/22/2006

    My entire family is white, and when I was growing up, my parents would tell us that we need to use washcloths because it's rude to just go rubbing the bar of soap all over you and then expect everyone else in the family to use that same soap to wash their face with. I mean... it's soap, it's self-cleaning, but still.

    if my parents instilled the washcloth useage in me, my two brothers, and my sister, than you can only assume that their parents did the same for them.

    Your theory has holes, TAN, holes like my washcloth

  20. Paul beat me to telling you that I am, in fact, a Caucasian-American. Sadly. And as far as the smack goes... well, I don't have to try to act cool... I *am* cool!

    I'm intrigued as to why you thought I wasn't white -- Keith is a Celtic (Irish) name, and the three other Keiths I've met in my entire life are also white.

  21. Am I the only person old enough to remember Keith Sweat? :)

    Oh, and, by the way ... I'm versatile. My preference is a washcloth. But, I've been known to get down with a little scrubby fluffy pink thing. And, for the record, I have never (and I mean NEVER) just showered with some soap and water and thought that it would magically dissolve the dirt on my body. :)

  22. Peeps in the UK use them, regardless of race, but they are called either a "facecloth" or a "flannel".

    I call mine my ladycloth - I use a scourer and shower gel for everything else (cause my skin gets dry and needs to be exfolliated), and my ladycloth for my lady bits!

    Maybe we are missing out on a marketable source "ladycloths - making your pink bits fresh".

  23. Cheers to washcloths!

  24. Anonymous9/26/2007

    I'm light brown (mostly Italian) and love both washcloths AND mayo. I buy the washcloths at the $ store, rewash them every time. And only use real Hellman's mayo.

    Good Italian joke: Why do Italians grow mustaches?
    Answer: To look like their Mamas.

    Love everybody! :D

  25. Anonymous12/18/2007

    Washcloths are required. Nasty? I doubt any nastier than my @#!$% mouth! :-)) Never tried those puffy things. Cheap washcloths are better, they are rougher.

    Mayo? Is there life without mayonnaise? My dad loved it, I love it. Required on beef sandwiches, and I've learned to love it on fries(which originates in Belgium. You don't dip the fries, you must apply the mayo on top when they are hot!).

    Oh, yea, I'm white, but spent a year as a juvenile mainly under the supervision of black adults. So some kind of cookie-effect may apply :-O

  26. Whoah. I'm a white girl from Virginia, and my whole family uses washcloths and always has. Until I read this post, I didn't realize that there were any people who DIDN'T use washcloths, much less that it's supposed to be a racial divide thing. The hell?

    So, if you don't use a washcloth and you don't use a plastic mesh puff thing (how long have they been popular, anyway?), how do you shower? Really just rubbing yourself with soap? That...totally doesn't work. eek.

    Oh, and of course we eat mayo. (Real mayo.) EVERYONE eats mayo here -- don't think I've ever seen Miracle Whip outside of a grocery store.

  27. I'm white, and I've used washcloths at times, but not currently. As for those people arguing that dirt doesn't come off otherwise - do you use a washcloth when you wash your hands, or do you think your hands are always dirty, or what?

    If I used a washcloth here in Denver, my skin would be unbelievably dry.

    Maybe this is why Denver is so freakishly white.

  28. Anonymous2/25/2008

    So, if you don't use a washcloth and you don't use a plastic mesh puff thing (how long have they been popular, anyway?), how do you shower? Really just rubbing yourself with soap? That...totally doesn't work. eek.

    You'd use a scrub brush! How have they not come up yet? Exfoliating (usually faux these days) boar bristles, good for scrubbing, has a long handle so you can get your back. I only use a washcloth for my face and don't reuse more than 1-2 times before throwing them in the wash.

  29. Anonymous2/25/2008


    I'm very, very white but I use washcloths... I wonder if it is a regional thing as well? I was raised in South Louisiana. I never really heard of people *not* using washcloths... of course I don't grill people on their bathing habits.

  30. White washcloth-usin' guy here. I wish I could argue for some demographic confusion, as I was raised poor in an almost all black neighborhood, so I may have been acculturated into it, but my girlfriend, raised in the suburbs of mid-Michigan, also uses washcloths. As did all of my white roommates over the several college and post-college houses I've lived in, usually with one washcloth per roommate left in the shower forever. A brief discussion with my brother and his wife's family and we're at about fifteen white folks who have always used washcloths and didn't realize there was anything racial about it.

    Honestly, when I saw this linked from Metafilter, I thought "washcloth" was some sort of white people euphemism for doo-rag.

  31. Anonymous2/29/2008

    I use a washcloth, too, although I also use one of those puffy plastic things. They lather up really well, and that's the only reason why. I grew up using washcloths. I use them for my face. Oh, and I'm "caucasian," too (I prefer "mostly Norwegian-Irish American" :D).

  32. Anonymous3/02/2008

    Wow. I never thought about this question before. My husband and I are both white. He doesn't use washcloths, just scrubs with soap and his hands. My whole family always used them, and still do, though we called them facecloths. My mother was from Newfoundland and my father from Brooklyn. I have really dry skin though and someone in Denver said her skin would be too dry if she used a washcloth. Why? I could (maybe) learn to give mine up if it would help my dry itchy skin.

  33. I'm another white washcloth user from a washcloth using family. We're urban midwesterners, if it's a regional thing. I use them to wash my face, not my body - my washcloth hangs next to the sink and I use it when I wake up and before bed. My face just doesn't feel clean without it.

  34. Anonymous3/21/2008

    I'm a white guy, and while I don't use them, it's been my experience that all my white girlfriends have used them, so I started getting the impression that most white girls use them. I was surprised to see this perspective on wash cloths.

  35. Why is there the assumption that washcloths must automatically get nasty? You're applying soap to them every day!

    I've used the same washcloth every day for extended periods. It gets soaped and rinsed with hot water every day, then wrung out and left to dry on the shower curtain rod. It never smells like anything but soap, nor does it get dirty. Of course I'm not 100% sure it's germ-free, but I'm pretty confident it's sanitary. Someone should do a study.

    I'm white, BTW. I use them because I need something to scrub off the dead skin cells, and I'm not a girl so I don't use a lather thing.

  36. Anonymous4/13/2008

    mexicans use them too!

  37. wow, i can't believe there are so many people who don't use them. i grew up using them and i still use them. i don't feel clean otherwise and it's good to get the dead skin off. i start with my face and work my way down, doing the bum last. i NEVER re-use it until it's laundered. my husband doesn't use one and neither do his parents. i'm part black and my husband is all white. maybe it is racial. i dunno. i just find it gross to not use one personally.

  38. Anonymous5/16/2008

    White guy here who was taught to shower using a washcloth all my family on both sides use a washcloth, its just wrong not to use one for many for cleaning the washcloths, one you buy a shit load of them they arent expensive, two only use them once and then throw them in the washing machine.

  39. Washcloths are definitely not a black thing. I'm white and my whole family (on both sides) uses them; we always have. As far as I know, most of my friends do to. When I'm done with it, I squeeze the water out of it and lay it out on its little rack. I doubt it gets too least, I've never had any problems.

  40. Washcloths aren't a racial or cultural thing and this is stupidest stereotype I've ever heard because it isn't true or funny. The only interesting point this brings up is that people nobody seems to know why they use soap or washcloths other than the fact that they were brought up to do so.

    I personally use a washcloth because it seems to help remove dead skin particles, particularly on my face where I tend to flake.

    To you washcloth people who don't believe dirt dissolves in soap: do you wash your hair with a washcloth? How could you? Is your hair caked in mud? Didn't think so? In fact, most dirt will rinse off in plain water.

    If I remember correctly what I learned from chemistry, soap contains enzymes that changes the molecular structure of the oil and sweat on your skin so that it becomes soluble in water and rinses off. It has nothing to do with dissolving dirt.

  41. Anonymous9/29/2008

    What a absurd belief!! Consider just how may washcloths are sold in the US. They are in most every retail outlet that sells any sort of bathroom items. And every hotel has them tool. With European Americans still the majority racial group in this country, it would be logical to conclude they use washcloths. A lot of them. I, as a member of this group use them and know many others of us who do so as well.

  42. Anonymous12/10/2008



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  43. I am White and Jewish and I never ever use a wash cloth! No one in my family does either. (except when we give the little kids a bath).

    To the people who say you can't get clean without one, maybe if you're a coal miner. Or a roofer. Or a 10 year old boy. How dirty does the average adult get in the course of a day? Whey do you need to scrub your neck? What is getting on your neck?

    Dirt is removed by soap.

    This blog is hilarious! Obviously there's more than one way to get clean.

  44. Anonymous3/15/2010

    black people can see there shedding skin cells and oil mixed up together on a white wash rag. They gotta see it coming off to know they clean.

  45. "Resources???"

    All you need is a bucket and some Clorox®.

  46. I ran across this post because someone on a blog had mentioned that "white people don't use washcloths", and I thought... what?

    I'm a bath pouf woman myself, but my mom (also caucasian) has always used washcloths and I grew up with these happy squares of terrycloth.

    At any rate, this blog entry is hilarious and you rock.

  47. Anonymous10/02/2011

    I not only use washcloths, I steal them from everywhere I can, hotels, hospitals, you name it...they are coming with me...I consider them on the house.

    As for melanin content, let's just say, they ran out the day I showed up.


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