Sadly no one (even us) has yet invented a self-cleaning tea towel, so just like cloths, hand and bath towels, they still need washing to avoid smelly bacteria and remove stains. We’ve previously written about how to wash and take care of your tea towels, and have decided to update our advice given the apparent popularity of this subject!
Brand new towels of any kind are not that absorbent, due to excess dye and oils left over from the manufacturing process. We therefore recommend washing your tea towels in warm water before use.
You’re best off washing any colourful tea towels independently of other items the first time round, in case the colours run. Using a little diluted white vinegar in this initial wash can also help make your tea towels more absorbent.
Particularly bad stains are best treated with a clothing stain remover beforehand, but your regular detergent should work for the most part. You can just chuck cotton and linen tea towels in with the rest of the washing machine load – hand washing isn’t really necessary.
A hot temperature (40 degrees plus) is fine for white tea towels, but for coloured ones, we recommended you stick to the 30-40 degree range for the best balance between killing off bacteria and maintaining the colour. Using a biological washing powder should ensure a thorough clean at these medium temperatures.
To help your tea towels maintain their absorbency, we recommend washing them with detergent and not adding any fabric softener or conditioner. Fabric softener reduces a material’s absorbency because it coats it with a water-resistant layer of oil. This advice applies to hand and bath towels as well.
If you’ve already used fabric softener on your tea towel, you can help remove it by adding a little baking soda to the washing powder and some vinegar to the conditioner section.
Avoiding Colour Fade
All colourful fabrics can fade in the wash, but there’s a few steps you can take to minimise this and keep your tea towels looking great for longer. Adding a little salt (about a tablespoon) to the wash can help.
Again, white vinegar is a useful aid when used in the rinse cycle, and baking soda when added to the wash cycle. Just make sure you avoid combining the vinegar with washing powder or baking soda in the same cycle – the former, an acid, will neutralise the latter, alkalines.
We also advise you to wash your tea towels in a laundry product such as Ecover that has no optical brighteners or oxygen bleach as these will fade the colour. Optical brighteners are also harmful to the skin and to the environment.
Ironing & Drying
Ideally you’ll iron your tea towels when damp, this is a lot easier and minimises the wrinkles. Make sure you iron on the reverse of the tea towel, to avoid damaging any ink design.
When leaving your tea towels to dry, it’s best to avoid direct sunlight, because as with clothes, this can lead to colours fading. Leaving tea towels to dry on a line or clothes horse, however, is preferable to using the dryer as it puts less wear on the material. Tea towels are quite thin so they shouldn’t take too long to dry, unlike thicker body towels which are in any case more durable in the dryer.
That’s it – we hope you find this advice useful for taking care of your tea towels, radical or otherwise!