How to Wash and Take Care of your Tea Towels

So you’ve just bought a set of brand new tea towels! You may be asking yourself what is the most efficient and hygienic way of cleaning keeping them fresh and clean. Through daily use, they are exposed to all kinds of bacteria and if not washed properly could cause a health hazard. There are several things to bear in mind to ensure your new tea towels are kept hygienic, odour free and up to the job of drying dishes.

Our latest tea towels on the line

1. Washing frequency

New tea towels should be washed before using for the first time to increase absorbency. This will keep improving over several washes. It’s important to keep washing your tea towels regularly. If you have a good selection you are unlikely to run out and will be able to change them daily, whilst still being cheaper and better for the environment than paper towels.

Don’t leave wet, dirty, wet dish cloths and tea towels in a laundry basket before washing. They could develop mildew and bacteria and start to smell. It is far better to allow them to dry naturally overnight before dropping them in the laundry basket or washing them in the morning.


2. Machine washing

White cotton or linen tea towels can be machine washed at a high temperature and coloured tea towels at 30 or 40 degrees using biological detergents. These clean in the same way as non-biological ones with additional effects from the enzymes, whose purpose is to break down protein, starches and fat in food other stains.

Tests by the Consumers’ Association published in Which? magazine have looked at the cleaning performance of washing powders, finding that various makes of biological powders performed better than non-biological powders. The enzymes in biological detergents enable effective cleaning at lower temperatures than required by normal detergents. No more than 50°C is recommended.

If your tea towels still have a lingering odour after washing you could try adding a cup of white vinegar or baking soda to your wash along with the detergent. The most effective method is to pause the cycle part way through and allow the laundry to soak for at least an hour or even overnight. Once the towels have had a good soak, restart the cycle and allow it to finish. Repeat if necessary.


3. Drying, ironing & storage

Tea towels should ideally be line dried with the printed side facing away from the sun to minimise colour fading.

Always steam iron your tea towels whilst damp, on the reverse, and store folded in a clean, dry kitchen cupboard where they can be accessed easily.

In between uses, tea towels should be hung up, perhaps on a towel rail over your radiator or on the oven handle, to give them a chance to dry and keep the air circulating rather than left crumpled on your surfaces.

Oh yes, and don’t forget you should keep a separate hand towel for drying hands, not your apron or a tea towel. Alternatively you could use disposable kitchen towel for this purpose.

Good quality tea towels should provide months or even years of repeated use but they will eventually just need to be replaced. So last, but not least, if you haven’t already done it, why not toss out those old, tired tea towels and introduce some fresh inspirational designs into your kitchen?

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.

4 thoughts on “How to Wash and Take Care of your Tea Towels”

  1. You suggest that tea towels should be left on a towel rail over a radiator. The tea towel is generaly wet after use and any bacteria that may still be on the towel will be encouraged to grow in the ‘warm’ condition that is created by placing the towel on a heat source. Wet towel should be allowed to dry naturally without the introduction of a heat source thus the bacteria that may remain in the towel is not given a sufficient environment to grow in. This is particularly important if the towel has not been correctly and regularly cleaned as spores can remain

    1. … on the other hand, bacteria requires moisture to multiply. Surely it is best to drive out the moisture as soon as possible: slow drying only gives it the opportunity to multiply for longer. Sounds like swings and roundabouts to me. But if the heat source is sufficiently hot, that must be a win-win?

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