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What is a Kitchen Towel?

Tricia Christensen
Updated May 16, 2024
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A kitchen towel can refer to numerous types of towels that can be found in or purchased for the average kitchen. Typical towels, especially those called dishtowels, are rectangular in shape and may be approximately 24 inches by 18 inches (60.96 cm by 45.72 cm). Size can vary greatly, and since many towels are made of absorbent cotton and subject to hot water washes, shrinkage is common and expected.

Sometimes people label various kinds of towels that may be used in the kitchen, which include dishtowels, tea towels, hand towels, and larger towels that may clean up counters. Paper towels count too, though these can have numerous uses. They are considered more sanitary by some and preferable because they are disposable and a single towel won’t be employed for multiple tasks.

Though a kitchen towel may come under different labels, people shouldn’t be discouraged. Choosing those that look absorbent and seem the right size for intended use is usually the best bet. In many cases labels are ignored and people use personal preference to choose towels for various applications.

Some people argue there is advantage to keeping towels separate. They don’t want to wipe their hands on counter towels. This is largely a matter of preference, and provided the towel is clean, and hasn’t been used to mop up things like chicken blood, it’s usually fine to use it. Cycling any size or type kitchen towel through a washing machine and dryer is likely to remove most dangerous contaminants that the towel would have been in contact with before machine washing. It’s simply important not to spread potential contaminants by using the same kitchen towel for a lot of tasks without washing it in between these tasks; don’t employ a used counter towel to dry clean dishes, for example.

One of the main things people do look for in kitchen towel design is absorbency because these towels may be required to mop up or dry wet things. A number of fabrics are more absorbent and these would include 100% cotton towels in waffle or flat weaves or made of terrycloth. People may prefer flat weaves for applications like drying dishes because they are usually free of lint, but waffle weaves may be better for drying the hands or cleaning spills. Terrycloth towels are good for many purposes.

Another element people may look for is design, and here they’re unlikely to be disappointed. Kitchen towel varieties exist in numerous patterns, colors and prints, and it’s fairly easy to find some that will coordinate well with kitchen décor. However décor may be less important than function ultimately. It’s probably better to have kitchen towels that aren’t perfect matches to the kitchen but that are most effective, than it is to have those that are pretty but don’t work very well.

There are numerous people who prefer using paper towels as kitchen towels, and there can be considerable advantage to this choice. There are disadvantages too, including continued cost factor. Paper towels are undoubtedly convenient, but they are used and then must be replaced. Moreover, consumption of paper bothers many people as not a “green” method for running a kitchen. In the end, cloth kitchen towel types are usually more economical and kinder to the environment.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
By Buster29 — On Mar 07, 2014

I have an entire drawer full of used kitchen towels. I've had some for over 35 years. I keep a hamper in the kitchen so I won't forget to run a load of nothing but towels once a month. If I can't find a usable cloth kitchen towel, I'll use the sturdier kitchen wipes. Paper towels tend to fall apart too easily if I'm trying to wipe down a large counter.

By Cageybird — On Mar 06, 2014

We tend to keep one cloth kitchen towel wrapped around the handle of the refrigerator. It comes in handy whenever I need to dry off my hands after prepping food for a meal. The problem is I forget the towel is there and it rarely makes it into the dirty laundry basket. I tend to use paper towels for spills and drips, but cloth kitchen towels work best for handling hot foods and wiping off dirty knives.

Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a HomeQuestionsAnswered contributor,...
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