Origin of the humble Tea Towel
Tea towels are said to have originated in 18th-century England where they were made of linen which was lint-free and soft. The Lady of the household used them to dry fine china and delicate tea sets, jobs that were considered too important to trust to a potentially clumsy servant.
As they were made of linen, tea towels in those days were fragile and as such needed to be washed carefully and dried away from the glare of the sun. It was not until the Industrial Revolution that the tea towel became a mass-produced consumer item and manufacturers turned to cotton in addition to linen.
Tea Towel or Kitchen Towel?
What then is the difference between a tea towel, kitchen towel, dish cloth or hand towel? The key is in the fibre and finish used for each, which is also very important when selecting the right towel for the job at hand.
Flat Weave - a 100% cotton towel that is light and absorbent and perfect for drying dishes.
Waffle weave - typically cotton fibre this weave, also called honeycomb, produces an absorbent kitchen towel useful for drying large items such as pots and pans.
Terry Cloth or Towelling - this is a highly absorbent cotton material with loops similar to a bath towel. It is used for hand towels and counter towels or bar towels but is also perfectly suited to drying dishes.
Jacquard - made of cotton or a cotton linen blend, jacquard towels are lint free and therefore ideal for drying glassware.
Linen - made of 100% linen these lint free towels are perfect for drying glassware and polishing cutlery and crockery. They can also be used to line bread baskets and cover rising dough.
Caring for your Kitchen Towels
Kitchen towels with different uses should be kept separate and not used for multiple purposes, but the truth is that many of us are guilty of using a single kitchen towel for everything! Therefore frequent and correct laundering of kitchen towels is very important to ensure cleanliness and avoid cross-contamination issues!
- Always wash new kitchen towels at least once, but ideally twice before using.
- Never, never use fabric softener with your kitchen towels as fabric softener will adversely affect their absorbency.
- Always launder your kitchen towels separately from other laundry items and wash them on a regular or heavy duty, warm to hot wash to remove bacteria and smells.
- To remove any lingering smells from your kitchen towels, try adding a tablespoon of baking soda with the laundry detergent and a small amount of white vinegar in the fabric softener receptacle.