The Best Kitchen Towels Pair Pretty Patterns With Ultra-Absorbent Materials
Our favorites love a good mess.
Updated Sep 26, 2022 2:35 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 kitchen spills and splatters, keeping wipe-down cloths stocked and ready 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 for the best kitchen towels meets somewhere in the middle, considering 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 weave) 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. Our top picks, featured below, are stylish standouts that don’t sacrifice function.
- Best overall: Hawkins New York Essential Kitchen Towels
- Best value: Meema Kitchen Towels
- Runner-up for best value: Home Depot Red Cotton Basic Dish Towels
- 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 check 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. Satisfying 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.
Runner-Up for Best Value: Home Depot Red Cotton Basic Dish Towels
Material: 100% cotton | Dimensions: 25 by 20 by 28 inches | Set: Pack of 8
What we like:
- Breaks down to just under $3 per towel
- An assortment of four different patterns
- Made from 100% cotton materials
- Reviewers note they are on the thinner side
Why we chose it: The competitive price, pattern assortment, and 100%-cotton fabrication.
While some reviewers noted these incredibly bright and budget-friendly kitchen towels are on the thinner side, they also attested that this is not necessarily a bad thing. The eight-pack is still incredibly absorbent when it comes to drying hands and dishes or wiping up countertop spills. Plus, they can be tossed in the wash and will hold up just fine.
Best Splurge: Checked Linen Dish Towel
Material: Linen | Dimensions: 19.5-by-32-inches | Set of 1
What we like:
- Trendy pattern
- 100 percent 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 beyond a plain color, 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 quickly bring up the visual interest of 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 & 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.