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With all those inevitable spills and splashes in the kitchen, keeping wipe-clean cloths stocked and ready is a breeze. But determining which are the best kitchen towels to buy is more of a toss-up. Some buyers only care about pretty patterns, while others care about no-frills utility. Our criteria for the best kitchen towels fall somewhere in the middle when it comes to absorbency and stain resistance alongside aesthetics.
When considering the plethora of options, it is important to jot down material. The most common towels (from the lightest to the heaviest fabric) are made from cotton, linen or terry cloth. Terry cloth is the best choice for dealing with heavier soiling; Depending on the weave, cotton and linen types are better suited for small stains or light drying. Once you’ve decided on the material, the next thing to consider is the design, which is why we say the best kitchen towels aren’t just barrags. Our top picks, listed below, are stylish highlights that don’t sacrifice function.
Best Overall: Hawkins New York Essential Kitchen Towels
Kitchen Towel, Hawkins ($28)
Material: Cotton | Dimensions: 21.5 x 29 inches | Set: 2 pieces
What we like:
- waffle weave (for extra absorbency)
- 6 complementary color assortments
- Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified
Why we chose it: As the name suggests, these are quickly becoming a staple in the kitchen.
Stonewashed in Portugal (one reviewer bought a set in each full-plus-pastel pairing), these tea towels are soft, lightweight, and super absorbent. Reviewers confirm that the larger size covers more surface area and the waffle fabric dries efficiently after use. After wiping down counters and dishes, these towels can be safely stacked in the wash. Washing on a cold cycle will ensure they keep their eye-catching colour.
Best value for money: Meema kitchen towels
Kitchen Towel, Meema ($25)
Material: denim and cotton | Dimensions: 20 x 28 inches | Set: 4 pieces
What we like:
- Eco-conscious and cute
- 2 patterns in 1
- Made from upcycled fabrics
- Waste from the production of these towels is given a second life as compost for coffee farmers
- Somewhat high maintenance; Gentle cycle for light colors is best
- Slightly wrinkles and creases (avoid tumble drying)
Why we chose it: A pack of four aesthetically pleasing and troublesome towels for less than $25.
With an impressive 1,000+ positive reviews, this four pack of kitchen towels offers upcycled cotton denim at an affordable price; The rustic ecru and blue palette represents repurposed denim. The checked lines and bolder stripes are a classically versatile kitchen accent – especially when hung from a hook on the wall or a pot rack by their handy corner loop. Although this product is listed as a tea towel, it has a bit more weight. Satisfied previous buyers describe the style as super absorbent and capable of handling tasks well beyond hand drying. The few negative reviews indicate a tendency for the material to wrinkle at the edges, so we recommend drying over heat.
Best indulgence: Checkered linen tea towel
Tea Towel Checkered ($25)
Material: Linen | Dimensions: 19.5 x 32 inches | set of 1
What we like:
- trendy pattern
- 100 percent linen
- Highly absorbent and naturally antibacterial
- Multiple color options to mix and match
- For color fastness, soak in cold water for 2 hours before washing
Why we chose it: Old-world details and heirloom quality that’s worth spending your hard-earned cash on.
This Minnesota-based retailer sources goods from all over Europe, and we credit more than 100 years of German weaving for the existence of this beautiful linen style. Checks, pinstripes and a hint of red accentuate the timeless but trendy pattern – and we also love this diamond pattern from Austria. The towels, while expensive, still cost less than an international plane ticket.
If you’re interested in something more than a solid color, take a look at other towels we’re fans of. From berry gingham to a French-inspired block print to a few not-so-standard stripes, these towels can add visual interest to your cooking area in an instant. Simply fold it in thirds to drape on your stove or use a knitted loop to hang from a wall hook or button.
Our shopping checklist
The typical kitchen towel is roughly the same size as a hand towel — typically around 18″ x 26″ — but we’ve come across a few others that are slightly longer (around 30″).
material and weave
“Cotton and linen – or a mix! – are the best options for kitchen towels due to their absorbency; However, we believe linen has an advantage in terms of durability. Fun fact: that’s because flax fibers, which are woven into linen, are slightly longer than cotton fibers,” says Adrianna Fie of Flotsam & Fork, a retailer of international homewares, including a range of kitchen towels. That’s why she and her partner Joe Hasler always advise buyers to double check the material content. “We’ve noticed that more and more towels are being made from a blend of polyester or other synthetic fabrics. When you use these, you’ll immediately notice that they’re a lot less absorbent,” she explains. “Another thing to note: Linen towels are often more expensive, but they make up for it with their durability. While cotton towels can begin to fade around the edges with washing and time, linen towels seem to get better with age. We love the concept of ‘price per use’ when it comes to clothing – for linen towels you can think of it as ‘price per use’.”
Like napkins, tablecloths and even bath towels, kitchen towels come in a range of styles. You’re probably fairly familiar with the standard French stripes, although towels can feature all manner of dyeing, embroidery, and block printing. Texture can also come into play – along with visual interest, certain weaves can help with fluid retention.
Q: How can I keep my kitchen towels looking new?
Kitchen towels tend to be fairly durable and easy to care for. They shouldn’t tear or fray, and you usually don’t need to think twice about tossing them in the wash with the rest of your laundry (although for most of them you’ll want to hang them dry to avoid crumpled edges and stubborn creases). And if you’re constantly reaching for your towel to dry your hands, you definitely don’t need to cycle it as often as others. “Linen is also naturally antimicrobial, which means you wash it less often,” says Fie. “We have found that our linen towels generally wash well with no spot treatments. Adding a dash of distilled white vinegar to the batch occasionally can provide extra cleanliness.”
Q: What is the difference between a tea towel and a kitchen towel or is it the same?
It may depend on who you ask, but according to Fie, tea towels are all about decoration. Kitchen towels, on the other hand, pull off double duties. “They look good while also being useful in the kitchen for holding hands, dishes and drying fruit and vegetables,” says Fie. “We like towels that look good hanging next to the sink or on the stove, but are durable enough to get the job done. For us, that is the definition of a linen towel.”
The last word
While the best kitchen towels serve a fairly pragmatic purpose, they don’t necessarily have to look utilitarian. We’ve found more than a few options that feature adorable patterns, fun colors, and classic neutrals; It’s only up to you to decide the size, material and price.
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