Organic Waffle Kitchen Towels
Credit: Coyuchi

The Best Dish Towels Every Cook Should Own

From flour sack styles to waffle weaves like our favorite Coyuchi kitchen towels.
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Sure, dish towels can an overlooked part of the kitchen—they are made for drying and cleaning up messes after all—but they are a tool that is so present that it's easy to forget how hard they work. From drying dishes and polishing glassware to wiping up melted chocolate and covering a saucepan's hot handle, the right towel for the job can make the practice of cooking easier. 

"I take my own towels everywhere I go to cook, and the people I cook with make fun of me because I have so many and I'm so into it," says Carrie Morey, cookbook author and founder of Callie's Hot Little Biscuit. "The right towel is so useful, and I always have a few on hand."

But not all towels are created equal. Through years of experience and expert consultation, we've learned that 100 percent cotton or linen is best for durability, design, and absorbance, and from there, it's all about weave, size, and plenty of hot water for laundering. Ahead are the best kitchen towels with which to outfit your cooking space, whether you're braising a leg of lamb or just washing up the wine glasses.

Our Top Picks

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Best Dish Towels
Credit: Courtesy of Coyuchi

Best Overall: Coyuchi Organic Waffle Kitchen Towels

View at Coyuchi ($58)

Pros: The waffle weave, subtle style, and water-conscious manufacturing helped propel these to the top of our list.

Cons: A set of six might be less economical for some.

While towels can be as personal as the hands that use them, these coastal-colored, waffle-textured cotton towels will appeal to those who value form as well as function. Both the palette and the texture will complement any aesthetic, and since they are yarn-dyed, those colors will stay true for much longer than a printed towel.

When it comes to function, it's all about the waffle. That weave increases the surface area of the towel, which ups its absorption factor, but without the lint of many terry cloth towels. We also love the handy side loop for hanging on kitchen hooks. Add the fact that these are 100% cotton (no polyester here) and created in a factory that minimizes its water use, and these towels are not only a little greener for the environment, they'll help keep yours clean with ease and stand up to repeated use.

  • Material: 100% organic cotton
  • Dimensions: 20 x 30 inches
  • Quantity Included: 6
Best Dish Towels
Credit: Courtesy of Williams Sonoma

Best for Big Messes: William-Sonoma Bar Mop Towels

View at Williams-Sonoma ($20)

Pros: Heavy-duty and highly absorbent, these are a workhorse in the kitchen.

Cons: Slightly smaller size than a standard dish towel, they might also leave a little lint behind until they are broken in.

"When it comes to towels, my clear favorite is terry cloth," says Morey. "I love them because they soak up so much mess. I'm not a fancy chef, and I need something with a lot of absorption. I do a lot of frying, we have kids, and there's just a lot of mess in our house. Bar towels are my go-to."

This is a slightly more refined version of the bar towel that you'll find in professional kitchens and … well, behind the bars, at many of the restaurants in America. The reason a bar towel is so ubiquitous is because they work—the terry cloth weave is highly absorbent and can tackle a wide range of messes. These pure white versions from Williams-Sonoma are hemmed on the edges for a little more elegance and durability, but for the kitchen that sees a lot of action, they're essential. 

  • Material: Ribbed cotton terry cloth
  • Dimensions: 18 x 16 inches
  • Quantity Included: 4
Best Dish Towels
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Value: Utopia Towels Cotton Dish Towels

View at Amazon ($29)

Also available at Walmart.

Pros: Durable, absorbent, and affordable in bulk, these towels are a classic choice for a reason.

Cons: Slightly smaller than others on this list.

Want to polish glassware? Wipe up spills? Quickly grab something out of the oven, or cover that perfectly braided challah bread as it proofs? This is a towel that can do it all. The soft, cotton weave is absorbent, won't leave lint on the cocktail stemware, and with its smart, blue stripe, is as classic in the kitchen as a roasted chicken with mashed potatoes. It washes and dries quickly, only gets softer with age, and can even stand in for a napkin in a pinch.

In a professional kitchen, towels such as these are employed in a variety of uses—from padding a plastic cutting board to keep it from slipping, to wrapping a bunch of just-washed herbs to keep them fresh. If you like sporting a towel in your apron strings like many professional chefs do (to keep one at the ready for greasy fingers and hot pot handles), then this is the towel for you.

  • Material: 100% cotton
  • Dimensions: 13.5 x 7.8 inches 
  • Quantity Included: 24

Related: The Best Aprons to Add to Your Collection

Best Dish Towels
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Flour Sack: Zeppoli 12-Pack Flour Sack Towels

View at Amazon ($20)

Also available at Walmart.

Pros: Versatile, lint-free, and soft.

Cons: The manufacturer recommends washing before use.

Flour sack towels became popularized during the Great Depression when homemakers upcycled the soft, durable cotton for various household uses, from towels to play dresses for children, and the flour companies soon caught on, creating sacks out of calico fabric. These ones aren't calico, but they are our Editor-in-Chief Hunter Lewis's pick for kitchen towels, and you can use them for a ton of different tasks, including drying dishes and cleaning. 

They are especially useful during kitchen preparations that include flour, from covering rising dough to cooling cookies out of the oven, and since they are white, they work with most decor when displayed on a table or towel hook. Their absorbency and soft texture make them a go-to in the kitchen.

  • Material: 100% cotton
  • Dimensions: 31 x 31 inches
  • Quantity Included: 12
Best Dish Towels
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Two-Sided: All-Clad Textiles Kitchen Towel

View at Amazon ($30)

Also available at Walmart.

Pros: They're reversible for extra functionality, and an antibacterial agent prevents odors. 

Cons: They may not be as durable as others on this list.

This towel might be the best of both worlds. One side is a flat weave to minimize lint for polishing glassware and wiping hands. The other side is a looped terry cloth weave that is ready and able to tackle spills and messes. It can double as a countertop drying towel, too, especially since it's treated with an antibacterial agent to keep odors away. 

Stylistically, it's a classic stripe, and with its flat side front-facing, will hang neatly from a towel rod or oven handle. It looks smart, and it is a smart player in the kitchen, especially when it comes in a pack of three. 

  • Material: 100% cotton
  • Dimensions: 30 x 17 inches
  • Quantity Included: 3
Best Dish Towels
Credit: Courtesy of Weston Table

Best Linen: Weston Table Laguna Linen Kitchen Towel

View at Weston Table ($30)

Pros: Linen tends to hold up better than cotton, and the design is stylish.

Cons: Not part of a set.

By its nature, linen, which is woven from the flax plant, is more durable and long-lasting than cotton. It is also very absorbent and has been used for centuries in various clothing and household (even medical) applications, so its durability and usefulness are highly tested. 

Besides its usefulness, it is also very breathable, which makes it a fabric of choice for coastal living. That's why this towel, with a faded stripe inspired by Laguna Beach, seems like a logical choice for the star linen in your kitchen. It is low-lint, quick-drying, and stylish enough to use on the regular.

  • Material: 100% linen
  • Dimensions: 26 x 18 inches
  • Quantity Included: 1
Best Dish Towels
Credit: Courtesy of Amazon

Best Mix of Fun and Function: Blue Q Printed Dish Towels

View at Amazon ($14)

Pros: Having a sense of humor in the kitchen is important, and the screen printing on these towels delivers.

Cons: Although they are 100% cotton and absorbent, they are designed to be decorative rather than to perform.

Julia Child said, "The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking, you've got to have a what-the-hell attitude." The designs from Blue Q help you remember to not take yourself (or your cooking when you forgot to turn down the temperature to medium) too seriously. They come in a variety of designs that poke fun and provide a bright pop of color and a bit of kitsch in the kitchen.

Functionally, the flat weave of these towels is superb for polishing glassware and wiping messy hands, but will most likely not tackle that messy spill on the countertop or a dish rack full of wet dishes. However, when they do get dirty, laundering is easy since the water-based inks stay put even after repeated use. And since designs often change, there are plenty to choose from as gifts as well as your own collection.

  • Material: 100% cotton
  • Dimensions: 28 x 21 inches
  • Quantity Included: 24

Conclusion

While kitchen towels might seem like a small detail in the kitchen, the right one can make an oversized contribution to a cooking experience. Experts agree that an absorbent towel that dries fast and is easily laundered is ideal, so the Coyuchi Organic Waffle Kitchen Towels are our overall pick. However, don't stop with just one towel. Having a few close at hand will keep mess to a minimum and can enhance the efficiency and skill of your kitchen work. 

Factors to Consider

Size

As a rule, slightly smaller towels are more functional in the kitchen, whereas those running 28 to 30 inches or more are for drying or display. Ideally, your kitchen will have a combination of both, with the bar towel the smallest but the most capable of tackling big messes.

Weave

This is the key factor in determining the usefulness of a towel. Terry cloth or waffle weave will be the most absorbent, followed by the traditional blue stripe towel with a soft, textured weave. Although some printed towels are on terry cloth, most are on flat cotton, as the print will last longer than on looped fibers. And finally, although some might like microfiber, Morey does not. It might be highly absorbent, but is made from synthetic materials and can require special laundering.

Design

While color and print are definitely important, there are considerations beyond just the aesthetic. Some cooks prefer a loop on the corner for hanging on a hook, while others don't. No matter your preference, choose towels that are hemmed around the edges, as this will significantly increase its lifespan, especially with continued laundering.

Pro Panel Q+A

Q: What is the best way to launder a kitchen towel?

A: Frequently and with hot water, says Morey. "We go through five to ten a day, so at the end of the night, they all go into the laundry room. I throw them in with my regular laundry, and as long as I'm using hot water, they come out great."

Many cooks make the mistake of not washing a towel often enough—especially a display one hung over the oven door handle—so even after laundering, cooking smells can remain. Our recommendation is every time you cook, wash the towels in the kitchen, even if you've just used them to wipe wet hands.

Q: How many do you need? 

A: This will depend on how often you cook and how big your kitchen is, but we recommend having at least two on hand each time you cook. Morey asserts that more is better. She keeps a towel at various stations in her kitchen: by the stove, next to the cutting board, and at the sink. That way, there's always one within reach.

Our Expertise

Stephanie Burt is the host and producer of The Southern Fork podcast and a food and travel writer based in Charleston, SC. She is a frequent contributor for Saveur and her work has appeared in numerous other publications, including Washington Post, Southern Living, Conde Nast Traveler, and here at Food & Wine. She has experience in both professional kitchens and front of house and is an avid home cook who also likes to sew, so she knows a good bit about fabric and the messes you can make in a kitchen. 

For this piece, our team consulted Carey Morey, founder of Callie's Hot Little Biscuit, an iconic Southern brand with national retail exposure, four grab-and-go eateries in Charleston, Atlanta, and Charlotte, and a food truck. She is also an accomplished cook and the author of Callie's Biscuits and Southern Traditions and Hot Little Suppers, and she stars in the PBS docu-series, How She Rolls. We tapped into their own experience before scouring the market and considering recommendations from competitor sites.