Kitchen towels are home staples you probably reach for at least once a day. And with all of the demands we put on these essential towels, it's easy to understand why.
There are many different types of kitchen towels on the market, but not all are made equally. Some are designed for specific functions, whether it's drying dishes, drying hands, or sopping up spills. Furthermore, there's a wide array of styles, including tea, decorative, embroidered, and flour sack.
With all of these options, it's easy to feel overwhelmed on your quest to find a reliable and efficient kitchen towel for your particular needs. Never fear: I've done the research for you, testing a variety of towels and looking at things like durability, absorbency, ease of cleaning, and versatility.
Based on my findings, here are my picks of the best kitchen towels in multiple categories.
Food52 Five Two Essential Kitchen Towels
What We Love: Versatile, modern and stylish design, utility towel air-dries quickly, has hanging loops
What We Don't Love: Pricey
If you're looking for the kitchen towels of your dreams, then look no further than Food 52’s Five Two Essential Kitchen Towel set. Food 52 listened to feedback from their customers on what they were looking for in reliable kitchen towels and created an unstoppable duo: a towel set that includes a gentle and lint-free flour sack style and a plush and absorbent utility towel.
The flour sack design is great for drying delicate glassware and cleaning up crumbs and flour from counters quickly while baking. Due to its thin and breathable texture, this towel works great as a reusable cover for rising dough. I used it while proofing dough for soft pretzels and was impressed with the results. I'll definitely reach for this flour sack towel next time instead of a single-use cover.
The utility towel is the heavier-duty option of the pair and is made to clean up spills and messes, but it also has a soft fabric that makes it an excellent choice for drying hands. Due to its cotton design, this towel not only effortlessly absorbs liquids, but quickly air-dries afterward, so you don't have a soggy towel hours later. You can also use this towel to remove hot glasses or bowls from the microwave, but I'd caution against using it as an oven mitt because it's a bit thin for that.
Along with being dependable, these towels are crafted with a simplistic yet stylish design in seven different colors to fit any kitchen decor. Both even include a hanging loop for easier drying and storage.
The only downside to this towel set is the higher price tag. If you're looking for a comparable option that is less expensive, Sur La Table's Organic Cotton Kitchen Towels come in a close second to Food52’s Essential Kitchen Towels. While Sur La Table's set includes only one type of towel, it's versatile and great for everything from wiping up spills to drying dishes.
Price at time of publish: $30
Material: 100% cotton | Dimensions (LxW): 20 x 30 inches | Machine-Washable? Yes
Zeppoli Classic Kitchen Towels
What We Love: Very absorbent, versatile, doesn't leave behind scratches, quick-drying
What We Don't Love: May not be as long-lasting as others on the list
If you're looking for a budget-friendly kitchen towel, you can't beat Zeppoli's Classic Kitchen Towels. Each set comes with 15 towels that are ultra-absorbent and perfect for drying dishes. Due to being made from 100% soft cotton, you can count on these towels to delicately dry fine silverware and plates without leaving behind scratches.
Though smaller in size than many of the other towels on this list, don't count them out. When I first received these towels, I was skeptical they would stand up to their positive online reviews, but I was pleasantly surprised: They worked just as well as the thicker and more expensive towels, especially in the drying department. Since they're smaller, they could also double as a simple reusable napkin or cleaning cloth.
I'd highly recommend these towels not only for their excellent price but also for their ability to absorb and dry quickly. My only hesitation is that, because they're thinner, they may not last as long as thicker options and may stain more easily. But overall, these are a solid choice and ones I'm excited to throw into my kitchen towel rotation.
"I found the material quite durable and very absorbent! I was looking for something close to the commercial towels used in restaurant kitchens, and these towels deliver something close to that quality. When they arrived [at the lab], they were stiff (I had complete doubt), but surprisingly, I remember using one to wipe something (while it was stiff) and was amazed that it actually picked up everything." — Felisia Tan, Test Kitchen Assistant
Price at time of publish: $22
Material: Cotton | Dimensions (LxW): 14 x 25 inches | Machine-Washable? Yes
Anthropologie Lillian Dish Towels, Set of 3
What We Love: Bright colors, soft, gradient design could go with almost any kitchen decor
What We Don't Love: Not very versatile
Anthropologie is known for its chic clothing, but did you know it also makes swoon-worthy homeware items? When looking for kitchen towels with the best design, its brightly-hued Lillian Towels easily take the cake. Their gradient design with a subtle frayed edge gives any kitchen a nice pop of color without being too in-your-face. But are they beautiful and functional? You bet!
The Lillian Towel set comes with three towels made from soft cotton and is an exceptional option for quickly drying hands and dishes, though they did take a bit more time to dry than other towels on the list. To clean them, throw them in your washer and dryer, and they'll come out good as new.
Overall, if you're looking for a rave-worthy housewarming gift or a moderately priced way to spruce up your kitchen, these are an excellent and durable option.
"They are cute and can go with almost any kitchen decor. They're also very soft to the touch and don't scratch your hands." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $24
Material: Cotton | Dimensions (LxW): 28 x 21 inches | Machine-Washable? Yes
Related: The Best Placemats
Williams Sonoma Super Absorbent Waffle Weave Multi-Pack Towels, Set of 4
What We Love: Thick, highly absorbent, versatile, comes in colorful matching designs
What We Don't Love: Fabric is rough before the first few washes
Williams Sonoma is a kitchenware and home decor wonderland filled with goods and gadgets to make your cooking adventures more enjoyable. It's no shock that their Super Absorbent Waffle Weave towels made our list as the best-textured kitchen towel. These thick waffle weave towels are made from Turkish cotton, making them highly absorbent and long-lasting. Though their texture is a little rough at first, they become softer after a few wash cycles.
These towels come in packs of four in varied yet synchronous colorful designs. Not only are they a reliable option for drying hands, dishes, and spills, you can also use the towels folded up to remove hot items from the microwave or oven in a pinch.
Though they take a little longer to dry due to their thickness, their ability to swiftly absorb liquid makes the wait worth it. After handwashing a cookie sheet, I was pleasantly surprised at how easily this towel absorbed any remaining liquid, allowing me to store the sheet away without a drop of water landing on the floor.
Another noteworthy waffle-weave textured towel our Editor in Chief, Emma Christensen, recommends is Crate & Barrel’s Textured Terry Brick Red Dish Towels. These terry-cloth towels feature two dynamic sides: Its textured flat-weave side is ideal for drying sturdier kitchen tools like pots and pans, while the other is better for drying more delicate silverware and glassware.
Price at time of publish: $27
Material: Turkish Cotton | Dimensions (LxW): 20 x 30 inches | Machine-Washable? Yes
Sur La Table Dual-Sided Kitchen Towels, Set of 3
What We Love: Simple yet chic design, soft and very absorbent fabric, can be used as sustainable cleaning rags
What We Don't Love: Too small to use for drying hands
I recently jumped on the Sur La Table bandwagon after years of looking on from afar, and its dual-sided kitchen towels are one of the reasons why. Though these towels may be too small to be used for hand-drying, they are the perfect size for drying plates and glasses. They are made with luxurious Turkish cotton, making them a gentle and absorbent kitchen staple. I also love the subtle weave detail that gives them a classic and elegant design along with their dependability.
Their dual-sided design helps clean up small to large spills and worked well to wipe my metal KitchenAid mixing bowl dry without leaving any lint or scratches on its surface. Not only is this towel handy for drying dishes, but I was also able to safely use it folded up to remove a hot bowl of boiling water from my microwave without burning my hands. Because they are thinner, I’d recommend only using them to remove hot items from the microwave and avoid oven use. Reviewers rave about their longevity, and some even use them as reusable cleaning rags in place of paper towels.
"For how simple these are, they are still a stylish and reliable towel for any kitchen." — Kelsey Graham, Product Tester
Price at time of publish: $22
Material: Turkish cotton | Dimensions (LxW): 19 inches x 16 inches | Machine-Washable? Yes
Related: The Best Dish-Drying Racks
For a classic towel set that has everything you need in the kitchen, try the absorbent and versatile towels by Food52 (view on its site). The set includes a flour sack and a utility towel. Looking for something to perk up your kitchen, or to give as a cute housewarming gift? Anthropologie's Lillian Dish Towels should do the trick (view at Anthropologie).
How We Tested
Our tester and writer Kelsey Graham sifted through dozens of highly rated kitchen towels and towel sets, closely looking at consumer reviews and available manufacturer information, to choose her top picks. We then purchased these products for Kelsey so she could put them to the test in her home kitchen. She spent several days using each towel in her day to day cooking and other kitchen tasks, looking at each towel's design, how their material held up and whether they were linty or scratchy, how thoroughly they dried different kitchen items and hands or wiped up spills, whether they were versatile enough to use for other tasks like covering proofing dough, and how well they held up and performed after washing and drying.
After testing, Kelsey submitted feedback about what she liked and didn’t like about each towel and rated each one on the following features: Material, Absorbency, Versatility, Ease of Cleaning, and Overall Value. Learn more about how we test products.
What to Look for When Buying Kitchen Towels
There are various types of kitchen towels, all made for different purposes. Some of the most common ones include the following:
- Dish: Designed for drying dishes and are often made from a variety of highly absorbent kinds of cotton.
- Tea: Thinner than dish towels, tea towels were initially designed to dry dishes and utensils and were first used in the 18th century. Since they’re made from soft cotton or linen, you can also use tea towels instead of paper towels on windows and tables without the risk of leaving streaks.
- Flour Sack: These towels are more versatile than tea towels and are made from 100% cotton. You can use flour sack towels for drying, wiping, polishing, or as a cover for proofing dough.
- Decorative: Made for looks rather than utility. They tend to be less absorbent and are best just for display.
- Embroidered: These types of towels vary between being used for decoration or a specific purpose, like drying hands. You can embroider many different towel fabrics, including cotton, terry cloth, and microfibers.
Kitchen towels are not one-size-fits-all. Some are made with fabric and materials to increase absorbency. If you’re looking for highly absorbent towels, cotton reigns supreme. One con of cotton, however, is that it tends to shrink, so look for pre-washed towels to avoid additional shrinkage. If you’re looking for a softer cloth to clean delicate silverware and plates, go for a tea or flour sack towel made from cotton or linen.
Washing and Drying
Because kitchen towels come in many different fabrics, there is no one way to clean them. Some towels can go through the washer and dryer but may need to go on a cold or warm cycle. Others can be cleaned in the washer but must be hung to air dry. Some kitchen towels are pre-washed to avoid shrinking after their first wash, while others may lose some surface area after initially running them through the dryer. It’s essential to read the manufacturer’s guidelines to care for your towels properly.
Along with various cleaning methods, kitchen towels have specific purposes, so you’ll want to make sure you do your research before adding them to your cart. For example, some towels are made with softer materials that make them great for drying dishes, but not the best for drying hands. Others are also thick and absorbent but may scratch glasses and bowls if used for drying. Make sure to check the product description to make sure your towel choice is the right one.
What is the difference between a tea towel and a dish towel?
Tea towels are thinner towels made from cotton or linen and used primarily for drying dishes. In contrast, dish towels tend to be more versatile and absorbent and made from various materials, including cotton, linen, and terry cloth. Traditionally, dish towels were made specifically for drying dishes, but nowadays, they are used for cleaning up spills, drying hands, and sometimes as an oven mitt in a pinch. If you’re using your dish towels for multiple purposes, make sure to keep your dish-drying towel separate to avoid spreading germs.
What's the best way to wash kitchen towels? (And can I wash them with regular laundry?)
It's best to follow the manufacturer's instructions and guidelines on the best way to wash and care for individual towels. Since kitchen towels are made of different materials and for different purposes, their care will vary. Their instructions should also say if you're able to toss them in with your regular laundry or not, so make sure to check out the fine print before throwing them in.
Where is the best place to hang or store kitchen towels?
Finding the best spot to let your towels dry depends on two factors: proximity and space. When choosing a place to hang your towels in the kitchen, you’ll want a spot that’s accessible from all points in the kitchen in case there’s an unexpected spill. It’s also a good idea to have hand-drying towels close to the kitchen sink to avoid dripping water on the floor.
You also want to ensure your towels have enough space and ventilation to dry properly. Make sure wherever you hang them, whether on a hook, oven, cabinet handles, or drying rack, is high enough so your towels won’t touch the floor.
Is Turkish cotton different from other types of cotton?
Turkish cotton is made from extra-long fibers that originate from, you guessed it, Turkey. Turkish cotton is similar to Egyptian cotton in that it tends to dry faster and has a more gentle, luxurious feel than organic or microfiber cotton blends. Though Turkish cotton may dry more quickly than other types of cotton towels because it’s usually thinner, it tends to be slightly less absorbent than Pima or Egyptian cotton.
Why Trust Simply Recipes?
Kelsey Graham is a freelance writer specializing in food, kitchen, and restaurant topics. She’s an amateur chef but a master mess-maker in the kitchen, so she always has a kitchen towel close by for inevitable spills of all kinds. She enjoys researching, testing, and reviewing the best kitchen products that are reliable and stylish to spice up her kitchen.
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