Best dish towels

jengregsJuly 28, 2013

This might be a funny question but does anyone have really great absorbent dish towels? I've tried target, bed bath and beyond, home goods, etc and they all seem to not be able to pick up water...I'll wipe the counters and they'll still be wet and streaky or dry my hands and they're still damp. I don't use fabric softener on them because I know that makes it worse. I've tried the microfiber ones and they seem even worse. Any suggestions would be helpful.

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You may want to switch from dish towels to hand towels from the bath department - that's what a friend of mine finally did out of desperation. She makes sure the terry cloth is looped, not cut, for more absorbancy.

I wonder if there is even a mill in the U.S. that makes towels anymore, or is everything from China?

The last good-quality kitchen towels I found were at Tuesday Morning and I bought every one they had. We actually use our dish towels for drying dishes, not just something that is for display to match the decor, so like you, I've noticed the quality and thickness diminish over the last decade.

I had some microfiber kitchen towels a few years ago and hated them. They even felt "odd" and you had to make sure you used one side when drying dishes because the other side wouldn't dry squat. The "magic" absorbancy only lasts a short period of time and are hardly worth using for rags now.

I've found fabrics in general are very lacking in quality these days, so it stands to reason kitchen towels would take a hit.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 6:09AM
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I did find one dish towel that would not absorb water easily, but it was just the one time in all my life. Do you use fabric softener, if you do, maybe you are using to much.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 9:28AM
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Emma R -

Good point about fabric softener, but no, I don't use it (liquid or sheets). It's a waste of money and an environmental toxin, plus it diminishes the absorbancy of towels (and all clothing), as you pointed out. I can't even be outside when my neighbors run their dryer because the perfume from their dryer exhaust causes me breathing problems. "Clean" shouldn't have a perfume fragrance.

I use Charlie's Soap, and as recommended by the company, you're not supposed to use any kind of softener with it or it looses it's cleaning efficiency. Charlie's Soap also show tests on their web site where build-up from laundry detergents (such as Tide) can diminish absorbancy over time.

I hang my laundry to dry in the basement and I rarely use the dryer at all these days. I even stopped hanging clothes outside because the sun and high winds we have here in Kansas destroy fabrics nearly as much as a dryer. It's amazing how much longer things last by avoiding the dryer and the great outdoors.

The microfiber kitchen towels were just horrible, and I'm glad I only had 2 of them. Maybe they were a bad manufacturer, but I won't try another brand as long as I can purchase cotton towels. They required special treatment (or at least according to the label) - you're not supposed to launder them with anything that might produce lint (such as the fringe ends of some kitchen towels) because the lint sticks to them like a magnet (which it did). Don't dry them in the dryer with other fabrics other than microfiber towels because they pick up lint from other fabrics. They aren't supposed to be bleached or fabric softener used on them because that diminishes the fiber coating. So if you want to sanitize or whiten them with bleach, you were out of luck. The side with a "nap" had to be used if you wanted to dry anything, and the side without a nap wouldn't dry anything. Like I said, they don't even make good rags now.


    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 11:05AM
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I use liquid fragrance free fabric softener on towels only. I like them soft.

By the way I am in south central Ks since 1950.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2013 at 11:01PM
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I've been washing everything in liquid Wisk (in the red plastic bottle) based on it being recommended in Consumer Reports. Towels and all linens, jean get hung outdoors if possible, if not then over my bathtub. Most clothing and smaller items go directly to the dryer. I also give sun-dried items a few minutes tumble in the dryer to "soften" them up. I find the best cloths for drying dishes, etc are old towels ripped up into squares or rectangles. By the way, I no longer hand-dry dishes. I bought a dish dryer rack and use that. My "finicky" daughters have noticed how nice and clean glasses are after being hand washed and air dried. No dishwasher residue problem at my house! Oh, and I do still use my dishwasher once in a while.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 8:19AM
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I am a fan of good old white flour sack dish towels from Walmart, they get wet quickly but I hang them outside and they dry quickly in warm weather. When they get too stained I put them in the cleaning basket and they go on forever.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 4:13PM
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plain white "flour sack" towels work great.

some time ago, I dumped all my various old kitchen towels and got a big stack of white flour sack towels. I use them 4 at a time in my kitchen, and use them around the house elsewhere. Wash together once a week in hot water and bleach (most time) and they come out pretty clean and fresh, ready for another weeks' use. Very simple.

    Bookmark   July 29, 2013 at 5:46PM
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I found some kitchen hand towels at Big Lots that absorb great, just like they all use to, they come in a package of 2 for 2.50. If you have a Sally's Beauty Supply close to you, they have some white towels, like they use in beauty salons that are very reasonably priced and absorb great also. Then in the auto section at Walmart they have packages of plain white towels that are actually very nice and they absorb great. If you have a Sam's Club close by they also have the white towels in the automotive section, packages of 60 for around 20.00. I cull thru them, keep the nicest ones for in the kitchen then use the rest for cleaning rags. They are a great size, very absorbent and last a long time.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2013 at 12:49PM
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Ya'll won't believe this, but at 72 I am still using my Mother's pure cotton kitchen towels and wouldn't dream of buying anything new. She probably used chlorine bleach on them but I've always used oxygen bleach either in or with my detergent. They just won't break down. Some were made in Holland, others in USA. Very absorbable.

    Bookmark   August 5, 2013 at 2:51PM
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Williams Sonoma striped weave towels are the best!

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 6:39AM
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Dish towels and ordinary towels from third world countries and elsewhere are often made from "hard cotton" which is great for polishing glass etc. but not very absorbent at first. It can take six months and many washings for the fabric to become soft. Then you start to run into a different problem because the hem stitching is done with inferior thread which starts to let go about the time the fabric is nice and soft. Sometimes the cotton fabric is treated too aggressively in the mills to produce instant softness and everything quickly falls apart in synch after a few months use by the customer.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2013 at 1:06PM
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I found the towels at big lots also and I should have bought more. It is hard to find kitchen towels thick enough and bath hand towels are to thick and loosely woven for kitchen towels.

    Bookmark   September 22, 2013 at 10:14PM
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The "flour sack" towels really are the best, and they are cheap. I get them in four packs, for $8, at Stop & Shop (grocery store). And they're white, so you can bleach them if you want; absorb amazingly, and dry very quickly.

They're the best.

    Bookmark   September 23, 2013 at 8:59AM
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I've also given up - when I can find them, I get vintage ones from the antiques flea market or estate sales (often cheaper than new one in the big box stores)

otherwise, I tend to make my own from 2 layers of old t-shirting with the knit running perpendicular to one another (not having a serger, I zig-zag just inside the edge)

I also started making my own crocheted cotton dish rags when I couldn't find anything else that the cotton 'yarn' was good for, and they're indestructible, and a no-scratch surface.

    Bookmark   September 25, 2013 at 4:18PM
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I like those cheap washcloths you can get at Walmart - maybe10 for $3. I use them in my kitchen as both cleaning cloths and as towels. You don't have to separate drawers for towels and washcloths, and they are the perfect size to work with. When they get badly stained I can throw them out with no guilt, or bleach the heck out of them. They are very absorbent, and their not so plush loops and good scrubbers. I even took a couple to school to wet dust with and for little spills. Keep a couple in my car... I love having lots of these around.

    Bookmark   September 28, 2013 at 9:21PM
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I use all cotton towels. No poly content, no microfiber. But my favorite is old vintage linen towels I find at antique stores/resale shops. Linen damask that has been washed hundreds of times is the best. I have linen hucktoweling (decades old, that my Mom cross-stitched) , but the old old damask is better.

    Bookmark   October 27, 2013 at 10:20PM
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I agree, nothing beats the old fashioned flour sack dish towels. I've tried all kinds of things and I always go back to those.

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 12:56PM
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I use "flour sack-type" towels at Home of Economy. It's a northern-tier farm-and-home chain.

They are 100% cotton, about 38-inches square, white, and have a plain, sewn hem. They are $1.69 each and go on sale twice a year! I keep some of them large; others I cut and hem (or not!) into haves or fourths for smaller jobs.

I have dozens. I use them for the final Windex spritz after cleaning windows; on mirrors; for hand drying dishes - everything.

I have one stack set aside for canning season. I use them as fruit strainers and for cleaning canning jars.

They are wonderful.

In my biased view, for a towel, dish or otherwise, to be truly absorbent, it has to be 100% cotton. Plastic just can't absorb water.

This post was edited by caroline on Wed, Oct 30, 13 at 13:41

    Bookmark   October 30, 2013 at 1:10PM
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Old linen dish towels are THE BEST hand's down. They absorb like nothing else I've tried and I'm pretty sure I've tried them all. HA! I went around the flea market a while back and bought up a bunch and probably only spent $10. I got lucky and found a box for $3 all of it!

    Bookmark   October 31, 2013 at 8:03AM
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Yes! The old linen towels are great! Especially if they have an old calendar printed on it! :)

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 2:14PM
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Birdseye diapers are great for dish towels. Not sure if they are sold anymore. Back in the 1950's they were large squares and very absorbent.

    Bookmark   November 12, 2013 at 5:34PM
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I found these on Amazon for my sister last year for Christmas after she said the only thing she wanted was a decent dish towel. She loved them so much I ordered some for myself and I will never buy another kind. Don't let the microfiber name fool you, they do not feel like the fuzzy microfiber and do not pick up lint. I love them!

Here is a link that might be useful: Dish towels - best ever!

    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 8:05AM
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I saw the waffle microfiber towels at Big Lots recently.


    Bookmark   November 19, 2013 at 8:26AM
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I use both the dish cloths and tea towels (dish towels) that are sold in packages of 12 at Costco.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 3:59PM
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I use terry hand towels from the bath dept. and white "feed sack" cloths. I got a pack of 12 at Sam's Club for $12, those will probably last me a long time; they are almost like gauze when new, but shrink some in the wash. They dry quickly. I try to bleach them when they get stained.

    Bookmark   December 12, 2013 at 3:59PM
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