Beyond Drying Up: Six (Conventional) Uses for a Tea Towel

In the age of the dishwasher, there are a few misguided people who feel that tea towels are no longer necessary in the kitchen. Be warned to stay clear of such heresy! Tea towels don’t have to be used for drying the dishes alone: they have several other vital functions in the modern kitchen. In this post we review a few of the traditional uses for this most flexible of kitchen accessories beyond drying up (a future post will expose some of the more ‘alternative’ functions!).


1. To cover a warm loaf of bread

Tea towel wrapping bread

Or cake and other delicious and exposed home-made baked food! The tea towel’s rectangle shape and insulating cotton should provide the perfect covering for traditional English scones, jam and clotted cream.


2. To dry wet surfaces

Tea towel wiping surface

We all know things can get quite messy when cooking in the kitchen. You’ve just sprayed and wiped your hob and table surfaces, only to find that now they’re soaked with water and unusable for the next twenty minutes. Enter the tea towel to wipe off that excess water and move you quickly onto dessert!


3. Wrapping a tea pot

Tea towel wrapping tea pot

Apparently, this was the original use of the tea towel (hence the name) back in 18th and 19th century Britain. Tea pots would be wrapped in the flexible linen tea towel for extra insulation. Thanks to creative advances, we now have tea cosies to fulfil that function.


4. Wiping delicate china and kitchenware

Tea towel wiping delicate kitchenware

Another traditional use for the tea towel, initiated by the English upper classes whose expensive bone china dinner sets required careful cleaning and wiping. This task was often undertaken by the grand lady of the house rather than left to the servants who were considered too clumsy for the task.


5. Removing warm items from the oven

Tea towel handling oven dish

This should be done with great care, as tea towels are always less thick than an oven glove, which is more suited to this purpose. Tea towels should only really be used to touch warm plates rather than very hot cooking trays that have been in the oven for some time. One tip is to fold the tea towel over to double the thickness and provide better insulation for your hand. As mentioned, oven gloves are definitely the safer option but sometimes it’s just easier to grab a no-fuss tea towel!


6. Recycled as a dish rag

Through years of good use, tea towels can eventually become worn and tired. At this point, rather than send them to landfill, the opportunity arises to recycle the tea towel! Simply cut or rip it in two and you immediately have a smaller ‘dish cloth’ or ‘dish rag’, which can be used in the sink or for wiping the floor.


That’s it for the conventional uses of a tea towel. Stay tuned for a future post on weird and wacky alternative uses – and if you have any great ideas, please contact us to let us know!

Author: radicalteatowel

This is the blog of The Radical Tea Towel Company. We'll be writing about politics, inspiration and tea. Check out our website, , when you get a moment, for some unique political gift ideas.

One thought on “Beyond Drying Up: Six (Conventional) Uses for a Tea Towel”

  1. The dishwasher does not make the tea towel redundant any more than the good old-fashioned sink: left to their own devices, pots will dry themselves, and, on the other hand, pulled out immediately as the dishwasher goes “beep” they are likely still to need drying. My mother-in-law, for example, was a confirmed old-fashioned-sinker; however she had a policy of never drying the dishes, preferring to leave them to dry “naturally” on the draining board. If you so much as waved a tea towel in the direction of the draining board, you would be ushered away and encouraged to do something useful, such as cover the bread with it…

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