The Best Kitchen Towels Pair Pretty Patterns With Ultra-Absorbent Materials
Our favorites love a good mess.
Updated Jul 6, 2023 12:21 PM
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Reading up on Domino’s shopping guides is like having your own personal product concierge. We do the tedious part—deep-dive research, hands-on testing, and tapping experts for advice—so all you have to do is hit “add to cart.” That’s why we call them Simply the Best.
With all the inevitable spills and splatters that come with the territory of whipping up a meal, having towels stocked and ready for a wipe-down at any given moment is a no-brainer. But determining which are the best kitchen towels to buy is more of a toss-up. Some shoppers care only for pretty patterns, while others want no-frills utility. Our criteria meets somewhere in the middle, balancing absorbency and stain resistance alongside aesthetics.
When considering the plethora of options, it’s important to note material. The most common hand towels (from lightest to thickest) are crafted from cotton, linen, or terry cloth. Terry cloth will be your best bet for handling heavier messes; cotton and linen styles, depending upon the weave, are better suited for small spills or light drying. Once you’ve decided on fabrication, the next consideration is design, to which we say: The best kitchen towels are not all bland bar rags.
- Best overall: Hawkins New York Essential Kitchen Towels
- Best value: Meema Kitchen Towels
- Best flour sack: Studiopatró Flour Sack Kitchen Towels
- Best prints: Geometry Tea Towels
- Best set: Morrow Soft Goods Kitchen Towel Set
- Best splurge: Checked Linen Dish Towel
Best Overall: Hawkins New York Essential Kitchen Towels
Material: Cotton | Dimensions: 21.5-by-29 inches | Set: Pack of 2
What we like:
- Waffle weave (for extra absorbency)
- 6 complementary color assortments
- Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified
- Tumble dry low
Why we chose it: Like its name suggests, these will quickly become a kitchen staple.
Stonewashed in Portugal, these dish towels (one reviewer has purchased a set in every saturated-plus pastel pairing) are soft, lightweight, and super-absorbent. Others attest that the larger size covers more surface area and the waffle weave dries out efficiently post-use. After wiping down counters and dishes, these towels are safe to pile into the laundry. Washing them in a cold cycle guarantees they will keep their eye-catching color.
Best Value: Meema Kitchen Towels
Material: Denim and cotton | Dimensions: 20-by-28 inches | Set: Pack of 4
What we like:
- Eco-conscious and cute
- 2 patterns in 1
- Made from upcycled fabrics
- Waste produced when making these towels gets a second life as compost for coffee growers
- A bit high-maintenance; gentle cycle for light colors is best
- Easily creases and wrinkles (avoid the dryer)
Why we chose it: A pack of four aesthetically pleasing and chore-ready towels for less than $25.
Toting impressive 1,000-plus positive reviews, this four-pack of kitchen towels offers upcycled cotton denim at an affordable price; the rustic ecru and blue palette signify reused jeans. The checked lines and bolder stripes are a classically versatile kitchen accent—especially when hung from a peg on the wall or a pot rack from their convenient corner loop. Though listed as a tea towel, this product has a bit more weight to it. Satisfied past purchasers describe the style as super-absorbent and able to tackle tasks far beyond hand-drying. The sparse negative reviews note a tendency for the material to wrinkle around the edges, so we recommend hanging it dry over heat drying.
Best Flour Sack Towels: Studiopatró Flour Sack Kitchen Towels
Material: 100% cotton | Dimensions: 30-by-30 inches | Set: Pack of 3
What we like:
- Durable over a long period
- Made in San Francisco
- Made from 100% cotton materials
Why we chose it: No-nonsense flour sack towels made in the U.S.
Flour sack towels might seem like a dime a dozen, but they aren’t always made in the U.S. or look beautiful enough to food-style with. Studiopatró’s prewashed version is made with 100% cotton, are incredibly absorbent and fast drying, get softer over time, and are lint-free (good for polishing glass). Some reviewers say they are thinner than expected but that the large size is a plus. They can be tossed in the wash and will hold up just fine, too. A set of three makes a great host or housewarming gift, since the trio comes wrapped in a sweet ribbon.
Best Prints: Geometry Tea Towels
Material: Geoweave fabric | Dimensions: 18-by-30 inches | Set: Pack of 1
What we like:
- Pages of patterns to pick from
- Not just a pretty face; very hardworking
- Made from post-consumer recycled materials
- One-sided print
Why we chose it: Ultra-absorbent workhorse, with all kinds of patterns to choose from.
These tea towels are made from a trademarked fabric that the brand calls Geoweave, which has a tightly woven surface that can handle drying dishes, cleaning spills, or wiping down countertops. The company also claims you can use less chemicals (more water!) when cleaning with these towels because of the makeup. The reason they’re really our cleaning crush, though, is that one can absorb nearly seven times its weight in liquid. Sixty-three pages of patterns to choose from doesn’t hurt either.
Best Set: Morrow Soft Goods Kitchen Towel Set
Material: Cotton | Dimensions: 20-by-30 inches | Set: Pack of 3
What we like:
- Large size
- Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certified
- Doesn’t wrinkle much
- Machine wash cold in gentle cycle and tumble dry low
Why we chose it: Supersoft and absorbent, this set of sleek stripes and checks is shockingly durable.
The kitchen towel set is a new addition to Morrow’s assortment as of this spring, and we’re already in love with the bundle of three. Made in Portugal of 100% cotton, each offers a slightly different texture, which comes in handy when catering to a variety of needs in the kitchen. The cotton gauze, for instance, is the “spongiest” of the batch. Its weighty hold and thickness is best for soaking up and retaining spilled liquids. The cotton check is a happy medium, ideal for placing beneath a slippery cutting board or covering extra surface area when drying dishes. The vertical stripe, while still absorbent, is a handy chef’s towel stand-in; reach for it before grabbing a hot handle from the stovetop or oven. Plus after multiple washes, these have come clean every time so far, so we’d even argue they’re stain resistant.
Best Splurge: Flotsom and Fork Checked Linen Dish Towel
Material: Linen | Dimensions: 19.5-by-32 inches | Set: Pack of 1
What we like:
- Trendy pattern
- 100% linen
- Highly absorbent and naturally antibacterial
- Multiple color choices to mix and match
- For colorfastness, soak in cold water for a couple of hours before laundering
Why we chose it: Old-world details and heirloom quality worth spending your hard-earned pennies on.
This Minnesota-based retailer sources stock from all over Europe, and we owe more than 100 years of German weaving to the existence of this lovely linen style. Checks, pinstripes, and a pop of red accent the timeless yet trendy pattern—though we also adore this diamond-weave design from Austria. And while the hand towels are admittedly pricey, they’re still far less than the cost of a plane ticket abroad.
If you’re interested in something a little jazzier, why not take a gander at other towels we’re fans of. From berry-bright gingham to a French-inspired block print to a few not-so-standard stripes, these towels can bring visual interest to your cooking space in a flash. Simply fold in thirds to drape on your oven or take advantage of a knitted loop to hang from a wall hook or knob.
Our Shopping Checklist
The typical kitchen towel is about the same size as a hand towel—usually about 18-by-26 inches—but we’ve come across a few others that are a bit longer (about 32 inches or so).
Material and Weave
“Cotton and linen—or a blend!—are the best options for kitchen towels due to their absorbency; however, we think linen has an advantage when it comes to durability. Fun fact: This is due to the fact that flax fibers, which are woven into linen, are slightly longer than cotton fibers,” offers Adrianna Fie of Flotsam and Fork, a retailer of international housewares including a range of kitchen towels. That’s why she and partner Joe Hasler always advise shoppers to double-check the material content. “We’ve noticed more and more towels are being made with a blend of polyester or other synthetic fabrics. If you use these, you’ll notice right away that they are far less absorbent,” she explains. “Something else to note: While linen towels are often more expensive, they make up for it in longevity. While cotton towels can start to fade around the edges with washing and time, linen towels seem to get better with age. We love the concept of ‘price per wear’ when it comes to clothes—for linen towels, 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 pretty familiar with the standard French stripes, though towels can feature dyes, embroidery, and block prints of all kinds. Texture can also come into play—besides visual interest, certain weaves can help with liquid retention.
Q: How can I keep my kitchen towels looking new?
Kitchen towels are usually pretty durable and easy to maintain. They shouldn’t tear or fray, and you usually don’t have to think twice about tossing them in the wash with the rest of your laundry (though for most of these, you’ll want to hang them dry in order to avoid any crinkly edges and stubborn wrinkles). Plus if you’re constantly reaching for your towel to dry your hands, you definitely won’t need to put it through a cycle as frequently as others. “Linen is also naturally antimicrobial, which means you’ll need to wash it less frequently,” offers Fie. “We’ve found that our linen towels usually wash up well without any spot treatments. Occasionally adding a dash of distilled white vinegar to the load can provide an additional level of cleanliness.”
Q: What’s the difference between a tea towel and a kitchen towel, or are they the same thing?
It may depend on whom you ask, but according to Fie, tea towels are really all about decoration. Kitchen towels, on the other hand, pull double duty. “They look good while also providing utility in the kitchen for hands, dishes, and drying fruits and vegetables,” shares Fie. “We like towels that can look good hanging by the sink or on the stove but are sturdy enough to do all the jobs. That’s the definition of a linen towel for us.”
The Last Word
While the best kitchen towels provide a pretty pragmatic purpose, they don’t have to look totally utilitarian. We found more than a couple options that offer delightful patterns, cheery colors, and classic neutrals; it’s just up to you to decide the size, material, and price point.