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Kitchen towels

My kitchen towels are getting worn out, and I was at Ikea for something else and stocked up on what I thought looked like some nice but cheap linens they had. Unfortunately, I hate them -- they absolutely don't absorb any water and are worthless. So, thought I'd throw it out here to see what people's favorite kitchen towels are. I am desperate to replace the ones I have.


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  1. Bamboo rayon towels are not too bad. Cotton is always good.

    1. I have these (http://www.amazon.com/DII-Microfiber-...). They're a bit on the small side but very absorbent, working better than any other towel I've used. They come in a variety of colors.

      1 Reply
      1. re: MFalk

        Those microfiber towels are great. I bought the 24 pack and use it for everything. In my experience cheap towels usually leave lint behind and not absorbent.
        I found myself use less chemical for cleaning because a dry microfiber towel picks up dirt and oil very well.

      2. By chance, yesterday my sister was telling me how much she loves her Williams Sonoma towels. Some she's had for years and she'd never buy anything else. They were very nice, soft.

        A couple of years ago I bought a couple of bath towels at Ikea and my reaction was the same as yours. I hate them, not absorbant at all. I finally stuck them in the garage.

        4 Replies
          1. re: junescook

            Yes to the WS towels. Now, where can we get the open weave cottondishclothes? I got mine in Europe, they are now falling apart and I cant find any reasonable substitutes here. The open weave makes them really effective scrubbers and they dry in a flash.

            1. re: painperdu

              I have a lot of luck finding these kinds of things at the Dollar or similar store. Not what you find at WS. But I love the WS towels.

              1. re: painperdu

                I get mine from my aunt who crochets. She has a gigantor spool of "kitchen cotton" yarn and works them when she gets fidgety. You might be able to find these little hand-made wonders at craft fairs, holiday bazaars, and that sort of thing, or if you're at all handy with that sort of thing there are patterns to knit or crochet them yourself.

              1. re: CindyJ

                I have been buying these WS towels for years and absolutely love them. The colors hold in spite of bleaching them every time I wash them. I replace them every so often and keep the older stained ones for rags. They never really wear out, they just start looking a bit tired, but that's after several years of use.

                1. re: pcdarnell

                  I'm with the WS crew. Mine last a long time, and I only replace when I don't like the look of them anymore.

                  1. re: pcdarnell

                    Hmmm, I could have written your post, pcdarnell. Some of mine are twenty years old; granted, they've graduated to rag status now but every once in a while, I have to squint to see if it is a rag or the kitchen towel.

                    When I think I need new towels, I head to WS for replacements (and pick up a package of their pop-up sponges at the same time).

                    I also have old family linen towels that I use for crystal. It's likely more of a sentimental gesture than practical one because I can "see" my mother and her mother polishing glasses for important family holidays and I'm comforted by these happy memories.

                    1. re: Sherri

                      One more vote in the WS camp. You can sometimes find the on sale in a bin between seasons.

                      1. re: Sherri

                        Trader Joe's pop up sponges are a lot cheaper if that's convenient.

                    2. re: CindyJ

                      I bought a couple dozen of the WS kitchen and dish towels in various colors on sale over 22 years ago and love them; am still using them regularly. Don't know if they've lasted so long because I have so many to rotate them or if they're just durable. I buy more whenever I see them on sale.

                      My husband bought a bundle of "automotive detailing shop clothes' from Costco also years ago. They're absorbsent whte cotton terry squares with hemmed edges and have also held up well to regular wear, easy to wash-bleach, etc.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        Funny... my mom has those, and when I first moved out she gave me stacks and stacks of those.... I HATE them, they aren't absorbant, dry exceptionally slowly and the waffle-weave ones are even worse IMO.

                        To the OP, I would go with 100% cotton flour-sack towels. Lint-free, dry fast, super absorbant and can be sued for a dozen other things -- need to drain yogurt? squeeze grated onions? etc., use a flour-sack towel! The only issue is that they don't wear too well, they are thin and stain easily (white). But are generally really cheap, so it's not a big deal.

                      2. Elegant (yes, really!), beautiful, expensive, French (but of course), launder beautifully & last forever...I treat myself to these tea towels when I'm feeling rich...small works of art for the mundane chores of the kitchen


                        9 Replies
                        1. re: fauchon

                          I have these too, and I adore them! But going from the sublime to the ridiculous, I also find that the all-cotton Martha Stewart towels at K Mart are pretty darn nice too.

                          1. re: fauchon

                            Ohmygoodness, Alice in Wonderland and The Little Mermaid! I love the colors in the Tissage Moutet category, too. Those truly are worthy of being framed. Simply beautiful. Thank you for the info!

                            1. re: kattyeyes

                              I really like the Tissage Moutet line too, but they look too nice to use! and for 21 dollars a piece, I'd only bring them out for special occasions.

                              1. re: cuccubear

                                Way to watch, brotherbear. I opened the "once upon a time" category first--those are $12 instead of $21. I didn't click through the other line to see they were almost double the price. Either way, they're too rich for my blood right now, but I still wish I had them.

                                The good news is, quality towels seem to last forever. Most of my Marshalls finds date back to '94 when I first set up house and they're still nowhere near retirement. My other "good" towels are from the Coca-Cola store.

                                1. re: kattyeyes

                                  That's great! We do have a couple Welsh tea towels that are rarely used, but my el cheapos are getting pretty ratty, and I will not go to "wally world" for replacements!

                                  1. re: cuccubear

                                    See if you get lucky at TJMaxx, Marshalls or Homegoods (whatever of those options may be available near you). :) I won't go to WW for replacements, either!

                                    1. re: cuccubear

                                      What's wrong with the WalMart dish towels?

                                      1. re: c oliver

                                        c oliver, I don't know that there's anything wrong with the towels at Wal-Mart, it's a personal choice for me. I don't like the store, and avoid shopping there if I can.

                                        1. re: cuccubear

                                          Oh, I thought there must have been something specific about their towels rather than a general indictment. Sorry.

                            2. centralpadiner: "... what people's favorite kitchen towels are. I am desperate to replace the ones I have."


                              Not cotton blend.

                              100% real cotton.


                              6 Replies
                              1. re: Politeness

                                I too, have Williams Sonoma towels - they are the best I have ever used. The label reads "100% cotton. Made in Turkey." I also have a couple of bath towels that have the same thing on the label - I think it may be the Turkish cotton????

                                1. re: Politeness

                                  I knew I wanted cotton, but not all are created equal.... I want white - I use bleach to sanitize. I want them to hold up and not have the hems fray after just 3 washes. Absorbent, lint free, good size. Thanks to everyone for the suggestions... especially intrigued by the success with Martha Stewart??

                                  1. re: centralpadiner

                                    centralpadiner, I have to tell you that the best kitchen towels that we have -- tanuki soup probably can confirm this -- are cheap: we get them free -- except that the place you need to go to get them adds considerably to the price.

                                    If you go to any hot spring resort or hotel in Japan, when you go to the baths, you will be issued a long thin cotton terry towel that serves the dual function of modesty protection as you stroll around the bath (you drape it strategically over a well-positioned arm) and for swabbing and scrubbing while in the bath area (traditionally, after washing and rinsing, while soaking, many bathers fold their towels and put them atop their heads). The towels are saabisu ("service": that is, free), and you take the towel home with you when you leave the resort or hotel.

                                    We have quite a collection of them, each with a hotel's name printed on them, and they are the very best kitchen towels that we have. Acquiring them was the fun part.

                                    I am unsure if this will aid in your search, however.

                                    1. re: Politeness

                                      Politeness, are you talking about this? I do not mean the guy but the towel:)


                                      1. re: hobbybaker

                                        hobbybaker, that one looks pretty typical. Ours are typically about a foot to 13" or 14" wide and about four times as long as they are wide, and made of soft thin cotton terry. They absorb several times their weight and volume of water but wring out almost dry with a hard twist.

                                        1. re: Politeness

                                          This is interesting: Identical towels are used in Kerala, as bath towels (in that humid tropical climate, regular terry towels won't dry, but will get mildewy and musty). These towels are super absorbent, yet fast drying, and are 100% cotton.

                                          I have several, but use them as cheesecloth in the kitchen.

                                2. I've been using cotton dishtowels from Crate & Barrel for almost 20 years, and they mostly look and work good as new. I prefer the cotton stripes, but there are numerous styles, weaves and patterns (plus the 100% cotton towels from Portugal are a good price at $3.95 each).


                                  1. I used to look for thick nice towels for the kitchen--and now I have quite a few stained-beyond-help ugly towels too good to throw away, but hated. So now I buy thin cheap cotton ones--brand name "Ritz" They absorb instantly, and even nicer they *dry* practically instantly. And I don't feel I have to be careful with them in any way.

                                    1. I love these towels that I bought from costco.com. They may sell them in the store too (I never looked), but I bought them on line late one night when I was in a fit of rage over the towels that I had. There are some small, and large towels in the bunch.


                                      1. Because of the economic meltdown I searched for ways to cut my budget and realized that I was spending a fortune on paper towels and napkins that were used once and tossed on some landfill somewhere. I had a pair of jeans that had worn through beyond repair. I cut them apart and measured different square sizes. I serged the edges of these squares, (but ordinary pinking shears would have the same effect) stitched a loop at one end. Voila! kitchen towels. They are machine washed in rotation every few days. They are 100 percent cotton; very durable, but more important very absorbent. I don't know why I didn't do this years ago! For napkins, I cut 16-inch squares of pretty cotton fabric (from a summer dress that I no longer wear), rolled a hem on the edges, (a simple hand sewn hem would also work) Voila! napkins. These get tossed into the laundry every couple of days too.

                                        1. My mama used to love to embroider "flour sack" cotton (available in most hardware and old-fashioned stores like Ben Franklin, etc. Look for large, thin white towels...almost like muslin) and give them to all her children as gifts. They're STILL the best dish towels ever: durable, relatively lint-free (thus good for drying glasses), and absorbent...and dirt cheap! They work just as well without the cute little "Monday-Tuesday--Weds. etc." duckie doing kitchen chores pictures, I imagine. ;-)

                                          3 Replies
                                          1. re: Beckyleach

                                            Oh, forgot: look for them bundled in batches....they are so inexpensive they're rarely sold separately. They may be near the canning supplies, and so forth. When they finally do wear out ---took at least ten years!--they make excellent dusting and polishing rags, as well.

                                            1. re: Beckyleach

                                              A big thumbs up for flour sacking towels. My local supplier is Bed Bath and Beyond. The towels are huge (I call them Pavarottis) and very absorbent and best of all, cheap.


                                            2. re: Beckyleach

                                              Another vote for flour sack towels. Once they're too frayed for the kitchen, they make great pressing clothes when ironing wool.

                                            3. I have a deep love for Gillett's Bar Mop Towels. 100% cotton, white, not too expensive and super absorbent. I have at least 40 and I keep buying more! I think I have an unconscious fear that they will one day discontinue production and I need to have a lifetime supply to shore up against that day!

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: knet

                                                I like those towels too. I have a couple of them and a bunch of industrial knock-offs.


                                              2. responding to "nice but cheap" element here: if you have a restaurant supply store locally just get the pack of pro-grade white cotton towels, they are absorbent, lint resistant, hard wearing and you can use them instead of potholders. if you don't have a restaurant supply store nearby, one of the best places to go would be an auto parts store-- or the auto aisle of a place like target, etc-- buy the cheap cotton towels used in detailing/car wash. they are often thicker/sturdier/better quality than the cloths sold as dish towels, at a fraction of the price. just one color--white, though. or maybe blue. no cutesy patterns or embroidery or details. never hurts to have about a zillion of these towels around. like tongs. can't have too many :)

                                                2 Replies
                                                1. re: soupkitten

                                                  thank you, soupkitten, that is an excellent suggestion. I prefer white - I am not the cutesy pattern type. It never occurred to me to look for "shop towels" as I always heard them called. :)

                                                2. Does some one use linen 100% towels? I got a set of two of those towels with easter bunny printed from my coworker. Looks very expensive ones, but she said she found them at sale section of WS outlet. This is my first linen kitchen towels and I am just curious how it can be different:)

                                                  1 Reply
                                                  1. re: hobbybaker

                                                    I have pure Irish linen towels that a roomie gave me 30 years ago--she didn't like the color--and they have worn like iron. Lint-free drying. And of course you can bleach linen. My other favorite towels are hand-woven by a weaver friend who uses towels to fool around with weaves (if you know any weavers, suck up!).

                                                  2. Has any tried/used the Marimekko tea towels? 50% linen/50% cotton...they look good but how do they perform?


                                                    1. Not cheap, but I have four of these and love them--tea towels by Coucke. FWIW, though French in theme, they are mfd in Portugal and Turkey. 100% cotton.


                                                      1 Reply
                                                      1. re: nofunlatte

                                                        Love these, too. I have some of similar style from (of all places) Marshalls years back. Some are Egyptian cotton.

                                                      2. Flour sack towels are great, but my all time favorite is cotton baby diapers. Sew a loop at the corner and they are perfect. They're very cheap, sturdy, widely available and absorb everything.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: shelbyeileen

                                                          I agree. I have a few in my drawer, and they constantly get pulled out and used. Great for cleaning up kitchen and baths.

                                                        2. If you like microfiber towels and are a member at sams club, these are worth a try. http://www.samsclub.com/shopping/navi...

                                                          Also, if you are a member at Sam's and like regular kitchen towels these are worth a try. They come in a variety of colors.

                                                          1. Contrary to your experience, I love love love my ikea kitchen towels. Not so much their bath towels though. These are the ones I have: http://www.ikea.com/us/en/catalog/pro...

                                                            1. I'm in the group of Williams Sonoma towel fans as well! I've had a couple of mine for at least 20 years, and recently when I needed more, I headed over the WS outlet and bought a couple of big bunches for a very reasonable price. Then I kept them in the laundry room and threw them in with my loads of whites for a month or so, to get them nice and soft. They are absorbent and look great!

                                                              1. Despite I have a few kitchen towels, can someone tell me what is the importance of kitchen towels? I think I originally had one or two just because I want something to dry my hand and using paper towels to dry my hand every so often seems wasteful. Lately this year, I have bought a few towel to help our knife sharpening because I need to constantly dry and wet the knives.

                                                                I have to say that I solely relied on paper towels for much of my earlier life and not only a year ago did I got a few towels here and there.

                                                                What do people use their kitchen towels for?

                                                                9 Replies
                                                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                  I'm the sort of brow-beaten by my parents <g> frugal person who TEARS paper towels in half, or smaller....washes and re-uses Glad bags till they fall apart, etc., so I could never feel comfortable using paper towels when a dish towel would work, instead. We lay them out on the table to air dry dishes (no counter space) that don't go in the dishwasher. We dry our hands on them--ostensibly NOT on the same ones we just used on the table, under dishes. We hand dry some things with them---hopefully not the same ones we just used for our hands! I use them as impromptu pot holders. I use them for draining cheese curds and similar activities. I cover my bread with them, while it is rising. I wrap wet salad greens in them, for faster drying. When they get old and groady they become dust clothes and bike wiping rags...etc., etc.

                                                                  1. re: Beckyleach


                                                                    Yeah, that is what I do to. I tear my paper towels into piece and then use them. My dad certainly washed and reused those Glad bags. I mostly threw them away except in few exceptions. I read somewhere that the electric or gas cost for weekly washing and cleaning them is actually more than the cost of paper towel. I have to sit down and do that calculation one day. Not sure, but I can see that statement being true.

                                                                    To be honest, I used to use my pants as my drying towel for my hands. It is just so convience.

                                                                    1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                      Actually, so do I...my tee shirt, that is. There's a rather dampish quality about the practice, however, especially in the summer--at least when I'm in the kitchen and washing my hands a lot. Sometimes I'm quite soggy by dinner time, in fact!

                                                                    2. re: Beckyleach

                                                                      yes, yes, yes and yes. Use them for all those things.

                                                                    3. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                      Wow -- I find so many uses for kitchen towels. There's always one for hand-drying hanging in front of the cabinet at the sink and one for catching spills in front of the cook top. I use them to dry dishes, pots and pans that need to get put away before they can air-dry and as an absorbent "cushion" when I'm hand-washing stemware. I use them to squeeze excess liquid from potatoes when I'm making latkes, and to hold cabbage leaves when I make stuffed cabbage. I use a kitchen towel to grasp the cork when I open a bottle of champagne. I use them for place mats when I'm too lazy to grab a tablecloth and to wrap stemware for picnics. I could go on and on...

                                                                      1. re: CindyJ

                                                                        Here's another: Wet a kitchen towel in cold water, wring out, wrap around a bottle of wine & place in freezer. Presto, cool wine in 10-15 mins.

                                                                          1. re: CindyJ

                                                                            A similar use is for chilling bottles while on the road. Wrap bottle in towel, hold bottle out the car window while the vehicle is in motion(don't drop it) and in a little while you will have a chilled bottle.

                                                                    4. 100% cotton bar mop towels, $10 - $12 a dozen at the restaurant supply. Use them for drying dishes, hand, pots, pans everything, great for wiping up spills, straining broth and stock and as pot holders. When they get stained they’re re-tasked for other household cleaning, once they’re tattered they get tossed. Haven’t bought paper towels for more than years.

                                                                      1. I am of the opinion that old towels work better than new ones. They absorb better, rather than just redistributing the liquid.

                                                                        3 Replies
                                                                        1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                          I am of the same opinion. I have found that new towels need to be washed a couple of times before they become usefully absorbent. It’s almost as if they have a pre-consumer coating.

                                                                          1. re: cuccubear

                                                                            I suspect many cotton items have some residual oil on the fibres.

                                                                            For soaking up spills etc I find nothing beats those sham-wowwy things. They are available at our dollar store. 2ft square in a particularly lurid orange.

                                                                            But I can't hang around all day telling you about them.

                                                                            1. re: Paulustrious

                                                                              "lurid orange". congrats. that's a new shade for me... but -oh--so accurate

                                                                        2. It's funny to me that so many people in this post love their WS towels, because I searched "best dish towels" on Chow specifically to find recommendations to replace my WS towels. I have the red-and-white-striped ones (they're about 3 or 4 years old), and they do a decent job of drying, but they leave little fibers all over EVERYTHING, and it's really frustrating to put just-washed white dishes on the table that aren't actually clean because they're covered in visible fuzz! A while back, I read in Ruhlman's Making of a Chef that the CIA actually imports some exclusive brand of dish towels from Europe because they dry really well and don't leave behind fibers -- does anyone know what these are?

                                                                          2 Replies
                                                                          1. re: freelancer77

                                                                            If you don't want fibres on your washed dishes and glasses you have to use linen tea towels. But why are they so expensive? Years ago I was able to buy 100% linen toweling from the Czech republic and sew my own.

                                                                            1. I have 3 favorites, depending on the task at hand: bar mops for basic, microfiber for lint free, and flour sack for everything in-between.

                                                                              1. I really love microfiber kitchen towels. (I actually gave some to my friends as little "bonus" presents together with their Christmas gifts this year.) They dry things quickly and thoroughly and don't leave any lint or streaks. They also dry out fast when you hang them up (or in the drier) and don't get musty or smelly. Super cheap.

                                                                                PS. I should specify that I'm talking about knitted microfiber towels (like regular cotton towels, only made of microfiber), not the ones that are smooth felted microfiber (like the ones they sell as sports towels or for drying your car).

                                                                                PPS. I couldn't stand the WS towels I bought. Even after they were put through the washing machine a few times, they still seemed to be better at putting lint on dishes than taking water off dishes.

                                                                                1. I buy kitchen toweling off the web and sew my own (selvages already hemmed). That way I can get quality fabric. Fabricfarms.com has lovely linen/cotton blend from Ireland, it's quite nice. I try something new every time I need to freshen up my supply of towels, there are tons of places on the web to buy toweling. Have a huge stack and hamper for them, and they all go in my washer on the NSF cycle (used to bleach them occasionally which is hard on the fabric, but the NSF cycle treats them better).

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. My absolute favourite tea towels are bamboo terry cloth towels from Wal-Mart. I get the black ones so my husband can't ruin them. They are really absorbent and the colour does not fade like cotton.

                                                                                    Also look for linen towels. They are very absorbent. They are often heavily starched when new but soften up when washed.

                                                                                    1. I have two things I really like--both are French. One is vintage towels that I think are linen or linen/cotton (I have probably 15 or so). They are extra long & have loops in either end for hanging. I installed a special high hook by the sink just for these towels. If one end gets damp, you can reverse it. You can get them here: http://www.patinagreenhomeandmarket.com/

                                                                                      I also like new French cotton serviettes that I buy at a restaurant here that sells vintage/antique/cool imported goods from France. http://www.antiqueharvest.com/rise/co...

                                                                                      I've bought kitchen towels from all the high end shops here, and these are just way better.

                                                                                      1. I've never gotten a bad one from Crate and Barrel.
                                                                                        These if you like big and heavyweight:

                                                                                        These if you like waffleweave and lots of colors:

                                                                                        And their plain waffleweave if you want white.

                                                                                        All are super duper absorbent.

                                                                                        OTOH, my random purchases from Marshalls/TJX, etc. have been VERY hit and miss. Some go right to the rag bin after one wash. YMMV.

                                                                                        1. I'm a big believer in useful souvenirs, and realize that my pet towels are those bought on vacation as gifts for folks and then for various reasons not given. Waterford Crystal patterns on a towel? Welsh dragons? Right in my towel drawer. At least 15 years old, both linen, wear like iron.

                                                                                          BTW I do not machine dry my dish towels. The toss-in fabric softener sheets (actually half-sheets: I, too, tear things in half) inhibit the drying properties.