Hand Towels vs Dish Towels -same/different?

dainaadeleSeptember 29, 2010

I know this is slightly OT, but all of you "TKO types" probably have an answer for me.

Do you have different towels for each duty and do they never cross? I may expose myself as totally filthy, but I don't. I usually air dry dishes in the second basin, but occasionally have to wipe a wet clean dish down for instant reuse. I figure that since today's hand towel is for clean hands, it is also good for a clean dish. After all, the same skin cells get on the dish get on there while I hold the dish I am wiping out. That's how I grew up and I know we all grow up differently.

So I ask this because: I am having some old friends stay with me for a few weeks. Years ago they came by for a visit and she looked horrified at me when I handed her my "hand" towel to wipe out a dish while she was helping me in the kitchen. Am I committing a faux pas by practicing this? I may have to go out and buy more towels to get me though each week...

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I do use a different, clean towel for drying dishes. Partly because for hands, I like the to use the thicker WS ones, and I like the flour-sack material of the thinner towels for dishes (no lint).

Also, partly because I have small children and I can't be certain that they didn't use today's towel to surreptitiously wipe up spilled milk off the floor, as a pretend cape, or a 'saddle' for the dog.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 10:27PM
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My mom drives me batty when she takes my "display towel" (haha) and gets it sopping wet from dishes. Now if she were just drying dishes and then were to hang it back up, I wouldn't be too annoyed but the problem with her is that she gets the thing soaked and more importantly, often puts it down on the countertop to let dishes dry onto it or worse - cleans up the counters and any other areas with it. Her grandchild spills on the floor? No problem - here's a towel right here. Aaaaargh!

I think it's nicer to have one pretty towel for hands or *some* dishes and more dish-worthy towels for dishes. I have a drawer that has nothing but sop up messes and spills towels (3rd catagory - though the dish towels could technically be put in there) but no one seems to care around here!

And then there are the fancy guest towels (linen and embroidered in the bathroom not far from the kitchen). My mom and my husband have absolutely no problem - e.g. if they find them folded in clean laundry - with using them for SPILLS. Yes. Yes yes yes. Can you believe it?

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 10:39PM
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I keep track of the towels. Clean from the drawer they dry a dish. If they're not ready for the laundry after the dishes they go on the counter for general use, including drying hands. The next thing I want to dry gets a fresh towel after I've been using the first one for hands and whatever. I try to remember to choose a different kind for the second towel, but also put them in different locations. When I think a towel is done I wad it up and pitch it into the laundry room--for the fun of it. ;)

Using a hands towel for dishes is more likely to lead to cross-contamination. If your hands aren't perfectly clean, say after handling eggs, then you're drying the dishes with whatever came in the egg. This is almost never a problem. But it potentially could be. I pitch the towels after washing up after handling eggs or chicken, too. And then worry that I'm contaminating the floor. ;)

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 10:43PM
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I guess I should add we have no kids, just 2 adults. But it looks like I may need to change my habits...

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 10:50PM
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I don't think it's a faux pas. *shrug*

I have one drawer that all the towels live in. I will not be bothered by keeping nice towels and messy towels. They are all the same in my house. I don't have display towels.

I don't cross-contaminate..... They start fresh for drying whatever, then turn into spill pick up/counter clean-up towels and finally end up in the laundry room when they are nasty enough (same as plllog...) I go thru a lot of towels, but I don't use paper towels.

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 11:16PM
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In my house dishes are dried (when hand drying is called for, mostly they air dry in the dish drainer) with fresh towel(s) used for that meal only. After the meal the towel is air dried and then usually "demoted" to hand towels at the next meal. I go through about 18 of these towels per week. At the same time I have a set of semi-retired dish towels (ones that are quite clean, but may be permanently stained) that I use for food prep and clean up afterwards (drying produce, wrapping lettuce after washing and then wiping down counters, cleaning fronts of appliances, etc.) These are used for only one meal before going back for laundering. I go through about 3 or 4 dozen of these per week. I am trying to reduce my use of paper towels to zero. The dish drying towels, the hand towels and the food prep/food surface cleaning towels are all washed together (with very hot water and line dryed) along with pot holders and aprons. It's about one load every nine or ten days. Mine are very soft linen, and I do not iron them.

It's always a centering sort of ritual to take a moment and lay out a few towels before I start on a meal. With half a dozen of them at the ready, I feel like I can handle anything in the kitchen.

I have (after decades of effort) trained my DH not to grab the nearest cloth for any spill. I have a whole stash of special towels (recycled from a variety of textiles such as torn terry towels that I've cut down and hemmed to old T-shirts) that are to be used for really icky non-food related messes or polish the wheel rims. Woe be to him who forgets and grabs one of my linen kitchen towels to wipe up spilled chain-saw oil!

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 11:28PM
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All adults in our household and I do all the cooking and most of the cleanup in the kitchen. I put the kitchen towel in the laundry at the end of the day. Air dry pans on the counter next to the sink. If I need to dry a dish, I usually grab a clean towel since I mostly use the towel I pull out in the morning for drying my hands throughout the day--although I do sometimes just grab the towel I've been using for my hands to dry a dish (I think it depends on how rushed I am sometimes).

    Bookmark   September 29, 2010 at 11:28PM
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Thanks everybody! I'll give and get a few more towels. (Otherwise I would have to do a load in the middle of the week.) It is so rare that I hand dry anything, so I never thought about it.

Next goal: to convince my friends that it is okay to leave something in the dish drainer to air dry. After all, it saves on towels, soap, laundry loads, and water. Much greener. Grin.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 7:41AM
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I have two kinds of towels:

1 - white terry "shop towels" for clean-up
2 - colored terry towels for drying things

Paper towels are used for draining bacon and other "use and toss" tasks, but we don't use many of them since I trained housemate's kids that food spills are wiped up with a washable towel, and counters are cleaned with a washable towel.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 8:34AM
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Growing up, we always had a separate hand towel and dish towels in the kitchen. One day I went over to a friend's house and asked her which one was the "hand towel". I was promptly laughed at and teased (in a friendly manner). I was flabbergasted: didn't everyone separate hand towel from dish towel?

Now that I am grown up and live on my own, I don't separate hand towel from dish towels. There are only two adults in our house and my significant other would most likely not follow through with any separation of towel duties. If I had the choice, I would keep them separate if I could, even though no one is using the towels as dog saddles or for wiping up spills on the floor. (I loved those images, drybean!) I also never directly wipe anything up with the towels or wipe hands on the towel without washing first.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 9:56AM
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I don't often towel dry dishes, but I will say my husband makes me crazy with his compulsion to take all dish/hand towels he finds in the kitchen and fold and stack them neatly in one corner. No way to know which one was covering the bread basket, which was lining the counter for air-drying pots, which one was used to quickly wipe hands when cooking (therefore perhaps greasy) so they all have to tossed into the laundry.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 10:39AM
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My mother was horrified when she learned that I use the same towel to dry my clean hands as I use to dry my clean dishes. I remember reading here on the kitchen forum that some people are offended by washing hands in the kitchen sink, and I was surprised by that. The only cross contamination rule in my house is that the cutting board for meat is placed in the dishwasher immediately, and doesn't come into contact with other cutting boards for veggies, bread, etc. Ditto for knives, except they are washed in hot soapy water and not put in the dishwasher.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 12:20PM
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I was brought up to use different towels: linen for drying dishes, terry towels for hands. DH, on the other hand, was brought up using whatever was available, for either.

I wasn't comfortable with that, so solved it by putting the dish towel further away than the hand towel . . .
But, I also resolved not to lose sleep over it, and it doesn't bother me much anymore.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 12:37PM
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we use one towel just for hands - it is kept out on the counter next to the sink. The towel to dry dishes is hung up on a hook close to dish drainer. And we also will "demote" a fairly clean dish towel to a hand towel too, once it starts to get too wet to dry dishes. When they are too wet or after a day they get tossed down the stairs to the laundry.

I have a member of my family (an in-law) who will use a towel(kitchen or bath) to wipe mouth after hand-drying. Drives me crazy. I go around replacing the towels then.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 1:16PM
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OMG!!! Now I have some new germy hand issue to obsess about! Like I needed another one! ;) I actually can't believe I don't obsess about this already.

I have one towel that hangs on the fridge door across the kitchen from the only sink. It gets used for drying knives and the occassional odd dish AND for drying hands. I seem to go through one or sometimes two a day now. DS (now 5y.o.) washes his hands in the kitchen sink rather than using the laundry room/bathroom sink after using the potty so the towel gets more wet than it used to. I never thought about cross-contamination! My knives are clean after I handwash them, or so I think.

I was raised with a mother who is a compulsive hoarder. One of the things she hoards is garbage. She never got rid of anything and rarely cleaned the house. She never taught me how to clean anything. I taught myself to clean a bathroom at an early age as the filth bugged me so much. Consequently, some of my bad habits (like using the same towel for hands and dishes!) were the result of a poor role model. ;) No wonder I'm a clean freak!

I must correct this problem in my new kitchen!! And get all new towels as the old ones have been contaminated for years.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 1:40PM
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The inevitable question is going to come up so here are the links:

Cat_mom find -- Ritz Flemmish Lintless Glass Wonder Towels $4.89 apiece, or 12 for $54 at Wm. Killian's Hardware. 100% Cotton. Super Absorbent. Lintless and Colorfast. Extra Large 20" x 30". This towel has a flat weave with no nap. Perfect for cleaning, especially on glass where lint can be a nuisance. Great for drying dishes.

Julie's find to warm the cockles of Plllog's heart -- Cotton Birdseye Towels (scroll down, on the right), $1.50 each at American Chairstore (also flour sack towels of many varieties, red stripe towels, barmops, etc., most American made. Traditional Birdseye is a woven pique fabric, with a distinctive diamond pattern.It is commonly called "Diaper Cloth", and is still used in cloth diapers today because of its softness, absorbency, and exceptional durability. Moms and Grandmas will tell you that birdseye diapers lasted through multiple children, and then ended up being cleaning cloths for a number of years as well. This towel actually softens, fluffs, and increases in absorbency through use, which makes it perfect for lap cloths, burp cloths, dusting, general cleaning and polishing. Car detail shops use this towel for polishing because it's so soft and absorbent. Our birdseye towels are 100% cotton, and measure 27X27.

Williams-Sonoma stripe towels -- at Williams-Sonoma, 4 for $18, thicker than standard dish towels, good for cleaning, wear like iron. They're woven for us in Turkey, the source of some of the world's finest toweling, and finished with a hanging loop. 30" x 20". Set of four. A Williams-Sonoma exclusive.

Good old fashioned linen dish towels at F&B Specialty Linen ($10-$35 apiece). F & B Specialty Linen French linens & European fine table linens include Linen glass dish towels .A new favorite bringing online shoppers a new gift giving idea. Long lost linen glass towels and linen dish cloths are making the come back of the gift giving seasons, all year around. F & B Specialty Linen has only the finest linen glass towels made by manufacturers of Italian products SFERRA, Irish Linen products Greenhorn Trading and Ulster Weavers. Towels are 100% linen except for any color decoration which is in cotton fibers, ie. wording glass towel in red or yellow, etc.

I have a good supply of linen towels that were gifts, but I mostly use the three cotton ones above for daily tasks, as well as some flour sack towels.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 1:53PM
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I'm with lazygardens.

100% cotton shop towels are 24 for $8.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 2:19PM
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I live with filthy pigs. Seriously. I have dozens of the flour sack towels from ACS (link above) for drying dishes. I also have terry hand towels.

It doesn't MATTER!

The filthy little (and not so little) pigs use whatever towel is closest to whichever sink. Arrrrgh. To make it worse, number one son will wipe his mouth with it. *insert bug-eyed look here*. I have repeatedly said NOT to do that, but it goes in one ear and out the other.

I have even seen the darlings take my dish cloth and wipe something off the floor and throw it back in the sink. Ummm, yuck.

I'm not going to give up, yet. It seems like a losing battle, but I will train them--I will! I just may have to get physical. Someone is going down. Oh yeah. ;^)

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 4:51PM
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Oh no! I will be the cause of someone's life becoming *&*^*&$#!

I actually came up with an idea for my dilemma. I can always tell my guests that I don't have dish cloths, because I believe that air drying is the way to go. For the occasional (rare) thing that simply must be wiped: I'll tell them I use paper towels. Then they can't insist on drying dishes while here. I love friends that stay and don't have to be waited on, but at the same time, it has it's disadvantages when they aren't very flexible.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 5:12PM
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I use terry cloth kitchen towels for drying my hands and for drying dishes I have some made from flour sacks or even cut up and hemmed old table cloths. I do not care for terry cloth for drying dishes. For one thing they are not big enough to suit me. I like the thinner towels for drying dishes and pans when I do dry.


    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 6:01PM
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Liriodendron, what I really want to know is how you got DH to quit using your nice towels for spills. Just got done soaking one of my favorite dish towels to remove the construction dust/crime/schmutz that DH planted all over it. We've had this conversation more often than I want to count. I tell myself that its a good thing he wipes down the counters and cleans up after others.

I have a food handlers permit (so I can work concessions at the kids' sports events.) My training says hand drying dishes is a "no-no." Air drying is much more sanitary. And, when I need to hand dry something here at home I use a clean, linen or 100% cotton no-lint towel. Everyone else uses whatever they can grab. Sigh.

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 6:46PM
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I could almost just say "ditto" to shelayne LOL! but that was when the boys were home. Many times I caught them wiping their mouths/wiping up spills with a dish towel. We're empty nesters now so things have changed well, slightly. And my dish towels have mostly been used as hand towels because I use paper towels to dry dishes/wipe up spills.

One thing I would like to change is the amount of paper towels I use. I go thru a roll every 2-3 days, sooner if I'm cleaning windows etc. I use them to dry whatever I hand wash, wipe up water from the counter, wipe up the sink etc. I have to stop and remember to use a regular (dish) towel - its just habit. I know there has been a lot of discussion about which is greener - saving on paper towels vs using more hot water/detergent for laundering them.

This is another fun thread!!

    Bookmark   September 30, 2010 at 7:27PM
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Maybe if you put the paper towels in the cabinet for awhile you'll break the habit of reaching for them routinely, if that's your goal.

I had no idea people used paper towels to dry dishes.

I bought a roll of paper towels almost 2 years ago, and still have more than half the roll. The shop towels are much better and more absorbent. I wash them in cold water, no bleach, and they get a little tea-stained but I could bleach that out if I really wanted.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 10:49AM
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When I was in my late teens I cured my family of wasting paper towels. We do the water calculus, but so long as you're still within the same load of laundry as you'd be doing anyway, cloth towels are better. I just started pulling a dish towel out of the drawer (which is a step behind the sink) and leaving it on the stool (which is between the sink and the towel drawer). The family caught on because it was actually easier than opening the door under the sink for paper. It's taken curbside pick-up and a lot of "that can be recycled" but that's going well with the old folks too. :) Kids are both harder and easier to train. Easier because they don't know any different, harder because they don't intellectualize tasks and don't understand why they should do something that seems like more effort.

Stick with it! You can do it!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 12:21PM
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Similar to BreezyGirl...we don't hand-dry dishes as a rule...they dry in the DW (the DW is opened when done so the plastics and puddled water will "finish" drying). So, our dishtowels are used mostly for drying clean hands.

Sorry if I offend anyone or seem wasteful, but if there's something on the floor that needs to be wiped up...we use paper towels or the swifter. If it's on the counter....a dishcloth or paper towel is used. And yes, we do wash hands in the kitchen sinks.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 12:39PM
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It occurs to me to ask "wash what off the hands?" Machine oil, paint, and other nastinesses get washed in the utility sink here. Hands are "clean" but about to handle food get washed in the kitchen sink.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 1:01PM
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Good point Plllog! However, as we have no utility sink, our Kitchen & Bathroom sinks get used for everything! (Well, we do use the hose to rinse off dirt from gardening, etc. b/f washing up inside...)

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 2:06PM
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dainaadele, we use a fresh clean towel for drying dishes and a different towel for drying hands. we usually leave our dishes to dry on a rack on the counter though (our dishwasher is horrible, doesn't clean or dry)

we haven't bought towels in ages and ours are not in good shape and I didn't really have a clue on what kind to buy. right now we have the hand towels that are for bath use, and some yellow microfiber ones from costco, and some waffle weave ones from costco that are supposed to be microfiber, but are very rough and not all that absorbent.

drybean, LOL at the dog saddle. that really made me laugh, that is too cute!

Plllog, thanks so much for taking the time to post those helpful links. I need some new towels badly and the ones you posted look great!

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 3:19PM
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Gee, never thought this would cause so much discussion. That is one of the reasons I like gardenweb so much. It is the perfect place to chat/get opinions on things that you normally would never have the opportunity to discuss en masse. Imagine going walking around work and surveying all of your coworkers about something like this. !?! A psych eval would be the next thing required of you.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 3:40PM
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This thread made me start researching. There were several customer reviews at both the WSonoma site and the Crate & Barrel site to the effect that the dish towels used to be wonderful but they have changed and recent purchases have been a big disappointment. The WS ones curl up, the weave is looser, etc.

So now I'm wondering what to buy. Is anything as good as it "used to be?"

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 9:43PM
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I just bought a dozen each of the Flemish Wonder Towels and the birdseye ones last Summer. They're as great as always, though the birdseye ones at ACS aren't as thick as the classic ones of ancient age (different towels different source). Close enough, though. The Wonder Towels are a very loose weave and woven with a pucker, they're thicker than most lintless towels (thicker than linen), and very nice. They're not the iron that the WS ones were, but I like them better than my WS (old) ones. You might try them.

    Bookmark   October 1, 2010 at 11:23PM
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We use separate towels-one for drying hands, one for dishes. I buy white hand towels at Bed Bath & Beyond; they sell a package of 6 for $10. Get a dozen at a time, wash them with bleach and they last for at least a couple of years. As they get dingy/stained/worn, I rotate them down to use as cleaning cloths.

My mini-dilemma is where to put them in the new kitchen. Previously my husband had jerry-rigged a couple of towel bars but those are gone now. Not sure how we will accomodate. OTOH, now that there is a genuine mechanical dishwasher in the kitchen after 21 years without(!), I'm inclined to wait and see if we still need or want to have 2 towels on display all the time.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2010 at 9:17AM
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I can't remember the last time I dried a dish/pot/pan manually. We air dry and I think it is much cleaner and environmentally friendly.
We open the dw before the dry mode as well and let the rack air dry (after shaking off water from the plastics). That saves energy and helps humidify the house in the winter. In the hot weather, we open the door after it has cooled down for a while, but also skip the dry cycle.

Shelayne - you described my sons to a T (and sadly, my husband as well). I am trying to house train them, but it is an uphill battle and I am out numbered. Good thing I am a stubborn, lol.

    Bookmark   October 2, 2010 at 12:04PM
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