Dish towels are so much more helpful than they get credit for; they’re a lifesaver. Take a look at the top tips on getting the most out of your dish towels.
You may not be aware of it yet, but dish towels are some of the most helpful kitchen supplies. They’re always there when we need them, waiting in the background for their time to shine. Dish towels are the secret weapon in every kitchen mission.
If you haven’t discovered how kitchen towels can get you through a culinary crisis, read on to learn how to get the most out of your dish towels.
What Are Dish Towels?
In the world of kitchen linens, there are a few different types of towels: kitchen towels, dish towels, tea towels, and chef’s towels. Although they all get slotted into the “linens” category, towels are extremely useful and versatile kitchen tools that help us cook, clean, and decorate. Don’t worry; we’re about to give you a run-down on all things kitchen linens. You’ll be a pro in no time and more than ready to share your new knowledge by the next time your friend hosts brunch.
- Kitchen towels are probably the default that comes to mind when anyone says anything about a towel in the kitchen. Kitchen towels are simply any towels intended for tasks done in the kitchen. They’re incredibly versatile and suited for a wide variety of purposes. Given they’re intended to get down and dirty with some pretty serious tasks, these towels are thicker than others and often have hemmed edges to provide extra strength and durability. Try to find kitchen towels that are strong enough to withstand harsh scrubbing and rubbing but also soft enough to absorb spills and be kind to your hands.
- Dish towels are the most niche type of towel within the world of ‘kitchen linens,’ with their primary use being drying dishware and cookware. Dish towels will be highly absorbent to speed up the drying process, lint-free, and incredibly soft. Because they’re intended to only serve functions like these, most dish towels are made from 100% tightly woven cotton. Since dish towels are constantly in contact with cutlery, dinnerware, and cookware, they should be kept distinctly separate from kitchen towels to ensure no cross-contamination.
- Tea Towels were historically used for decorative purposes such as wrapping up a fresh loaf of bread, wrapping a hot teapot, or adding a splash of color to a set dinner table. Today, tea towels are just another kitchen linen ready to serve many different kitchen needs. They can still be used to serve hot pastries and add a splash of color, but they’re suitable for many other functional purposes, too. They’re slightly thinner than others, but with a quality set of Tea Towels, you’ll be ready to take on several kitchen tasks just the same.
- Chef’s towels are the last kitchen linen we’ll introduce you to today. Chef towels are the type of towels used in professional kitchen settings, like your favorite afternoon cooking show, in every restaurant, and famously draped over the shoulder of every chef in every movie (even though it isn’t sanitary practice, just saying). The stakes, temperatures, and messes are high in a chef’s environment, so this type of towel is extra strong to endure repeated abuse and countless uses. Chef towels will almost always be a plain white color, making it easy to spot bits of food, spices, and splatters of anything else.
Reasons to Keep Dish Towels Close By
Here’s how to get the most out of your dish towels and all the ways they can work to serve you.
1. Drying, Cleaning, and Polishing Dishes
Surprise, surprise, dish towels are exceptional at drying dishes. And cleaning and polishing them, too.
Dish towels are designed to be highly absorbent, lint-free, and soft to touch. This makes them perfect for drying off soaking wet dishes, spot cleaning dry ones, and polishing dinnerware.
Dish towels aren’t dish-exclusive (their dirty little secret), so go ahead and use them to dry cutlery, cookware, and other kitchen tools, too. You don’t want your favorite Sauté Pan sitting around with remnants of last night’s casserole left behind. No matter how easy-to-clean your cookware can be (and our versatile Sauté Pan is among the easiest), there’s always the possibility that you’ll need to spot clean your pots and pans with a trusty dish towel.
Keep in mind that dish towels are being rubbed all over the very tools that will be in contact with your food. You probably don’t want to double duty your dish towel as a counter wipe and run the risk of cross-contamination.
2. Straining and Drying Food
Wonderfully soft and absorbent, dish towels are great for straining and drying food.
Dish towels can function as a makeshift cheesecloth and come in handy for making homemade cheese, straining stocks and custards, making tofu and ghee, and more. Oh, and not everyone has a fancy salad spinner or other kitchen gizmos to dry their produce; good thing dish towels can also be laid out flat on the kitchen counter and be used to dry lettuce, herbs, and berries.
3. Makeshift Placemat and Pot Holders
Ideally, whenever something hot needs to be moved, you can reach for your trusty Oven Mitts or Pot Holders. But we know times in the kitchen can get hectic, and sometimes we find ourselves in a pinch. Dish towels can be strategically folded to makeshift Pot Holders and placemats, too.
Obviously, dish towels aren’t designed to handle hot pots and pans, but when we really need them to, they’ll suffice. When you need them to stand in, be sure to fold or ‘wrap’ them over as many times as comfortably possible to put as many layers as possible between you and the hot dish in question. Dish towels can also be folded over once or twice to act as a placemat or hot pad in the dining room to protect the table from hot dishes.
But again, better safe than sorry. Whenever possible, always reach for your Oven Mitts or Pot Holders first.
4. Dusting and Window Cleaning
For the same reason dish towels won’t leave streaks on dishes, they’re great for cleaning and dusting windows. They’re specifically designed to be in contact with water, dust, and dirt, and this unique construction helps them clean surfaces spotlessly — not a kitchen-item exclusive!
Your dish towel will be great for removing debris from mirrors, windows, and other glass surfaces without leaving any scratches behind. Dish towels are starting to seem more and more useful, aren’t they?
5. Light Hand Towel
Of course, any towel can serve as a light hand towel. We’re putting this use last because, ideally, you have distinct sets of towels for different kitchen needs. It’s best to keep Tea Towels, dish towels, and standard kitchen towels separate and differentiated. We’re only a stickler about this because when a towel is used for something like cleaning up after raw meat or has even been used to wipe fingers covered in meat juice, the matter becomes a health risk.
However, as long as you’re mindful and all kitchen members know which towel gets used for what, go ahead and use your dish towel as a light hand towel (like, only after a quick fingertip rinse).
Ok, now that we’re all going to be using our dish towels a whole lot more often, let’s get into how to care for them.
Start with the Best Set Available
There are a lot of towels on the market. We know it can be tricky navigating all the details and figuring out which factors are important to pay attention to, and this is where we come in. Hi! We’re here to help.
The first thing to look for is the material of 100% organic premium cotton. Pure cotton is by far the top contender because it’s highly absorbent and soft. Cotton like this is also suited to endure years of use, quickly absorbing liquids and dissipating heat. This set of towels is made from a lightweight, ultra-soft material designed to become even softer and more absorbent after every machine wash.
Size is another factor to consider. Often, bigger is better because more surface area allows for more “clean areas” of the towel to be used during each rotation. No matter how much use you can squeeze out of a single towel, we still recommend each towel only having a few days of shelf life before you rotate it out (but we’ll talk more about washing soon).
Other features to look for are a hanging loop and that any towel is machine wash friendly, because why work harder than we have to? A hanging loop is a small detail that can go a long way in helping with convenience, and when your hands are full with 15 other things mid-recipe, you’ll be happy a towel is hanging nearby. And being machine washer friendly? This should just be a given for any type of kitchen linen.
The smart way to store dish towels (and all of your kitchen linens) is, first and foremost, always dry.
Whatever you do, do not leave your towels wet and crumpled. Bacteria thrive in warm, damp environments, and a crumpled-up towel makes for the perfect breeding ground. This is an excellent example of why a dish towel with a hanging loop is ideal; storage and drying are made easy.
Before your dish towel makes its return to its proper kitchen home (nicely folded in a drawer, perhaps), it needs to be 100% dry. Once towels are dry, the only thing left to do is make sure they’re kept separately or are visibly distinct from your other types of kitchen towels to avoid confusion.
Wash and Care for Them Properly
Step one: always wash new towels before using them. A synthetic coating is added to new towels during protection to add shine factor, which looks nice, but we don’t want this chemical coating rubbing off on our dinnerware, which would be not so nice. This coating also adds softness for in-store appeal but also has the effect of reducing the towels absorbency potential. The takeaway? Wash your new dish towels before using them.
Vinegar is a household secret weapon that does a great job at removing any synthetic coatings. Vinegar is also an all-around superstar in the laundry department with mold and odor deterring properties, making it your secret weapon for keeping towels and other linens smelling fresh.
It’s recommended to skip the fabric softener when it comes to washing towels. This is because most fabric softeners are silicone-based, and over time, towels develop a build-up of product and become crusty, less absorbent, and even develop an odor.
When it comes to washing frequency, it’s up to personal preference and (maybe) accessibility, but washing them relatively often is preferable. It depends on factors like how much your dish towels are being used and which tasks they’re being used for. Generally, any towel being used in a kitchen setting should only be used for three to four days. Since it’s probably safe to say laundry doesn’t get done as often as every three or four days, so it’s best to have a collection of towels so they can be rotated frequently.
Get the Most out of Your Dish Towels
See what we mean when we said dish towels are small but mighty? Totally a kitchen essential, a kitchen lifesaver, and a kitchen superhero.
Now that you have a new appreciation for dish towels, you may want to get yourself a new set. A new set of premium towels is a great way to freshen up your kitchen and can be a fun way to add a splash of color, too.
How to wash new towels: The secret to fresh, fluffy, soft towels | Better Homes and Gardens
7 Ways to Use Cheesecloth (That Aren't Cheesemaking!) | Taste of Home
How Germy Is Your Kitchen Towel? | Cleveland Clinic