What are Tea Towels Used For?

Tea towels are a staple in many kitchens, but what exactly are they used for? These simple cotton or linen towels have a surprising number of uses beyond just drying dishes. Keep reading to learn about all the practical, decorative, and creative ways to use them.

History of Tea Towels

Tea towels have their origins in 18th century England, when they were considered an upscale household item. Wealthy women would sew and adorn high-quality linen tea towels to use during afternoon tea.

18th century origins with an image of an upscale household in England portraying the use of linen tea towels during afternoon tea

Over time, tea towels evolved from a luxurious status symbol to an everyday essential in British homes. When there was a shortage of linen in the Great Depression, resourceful families started making tea towels from cotton sacks used for flour. Even though the material was simple, these reused towels worked really well.

Today, they are available in a variety of materials, sizes, colors and designs to suit any kitchen. These towels have a long history and are still useful today. People often cherish them as sentimental items that are passed down through generations.

Practical Uses for Tea Towels

Here are some of the top ways these towels can be utilized:

Drying Dishes and Glassware

The most common use of tea towels is for drying dishes, glasses, and utensils after washing. Their absorbent fabric makes them ideal for soaking up water quickly. Tea towels help prevent water spots and streaks on glassware.

Cleaning and Dusting

The versatility of tea towels makes them useful for wiping down countertops and appliances. Their absorbent fabric soaks up spills, crumbs, and condensation. They can be used for quick clean-ups when a dirty dish cloth isn’t handy.

Someone wiping down a kitchen counter with a tea towel

Protecting Hands and Surfaces

Tea towels add a protective barrier when handling hot pots, pans, trays, and other cookware fresh from the oven. Simply wrap the tea towel around your hand before grasping hot handles. They provide insulation against extreme heat.

Covering Food

Covering a risen loaf of bread or dough with a tea towel helps retain moisture and shape as it proofs. Layering tea towels over food can also prevent splattering when reheating in a microwave.

Decorative Uses

In addition to being hugely practical, tea towels can serve decorative purposes:

Displaying as Kitchen Decor

Tea towels can make your kitchen look cozy and welcoming. With lots of patterns, colors, and designs, you can hang them on hooks, racks, or over the oven handles. This instantly makes your kitchen look nicer.

Adding Color to the Kitchen

Using colorful tea towels is an easy way to add color to a plain-looking kitchen. Whether you choose towels with flower prints or bright colors, these towels can make your kitchen look more lively. They are an affordable and changeable way to keep your kitchen interesting.

A tea towel spread out as a casual placemat

Using as a Napkin or Placemat for Informal Dining

For casual meals, tea towels can be used instead of napkins or placemats. This adds a relaxed and fashionable feel to your dining experience.

Other Creative Uses

Beyond the kitchen, there are unlimited creative uses for tea towels:

DIY Sewing Projects

They are perfect for people who enjoy doing DIY Projects. You can easily turn them into custom pillow covers or stylish aprons without much effort. Their different patterns give you lots of ideas for being creative, and they’re an affordable fabric for making things.

Gift Wrapping

When you use tea towels to wrap gifts, you’re being kind to the environment. This not only helps reduce waste, but the person receiving the gift also gets a reusable kitchen accessory. It’s a special and eco-friendly way of giving gifts that shows how useful tea towels can be.

Someone wrapping a gift with a tea towel

Drying Fresh Produce

In cooking, you can use them to soak up extra water from washed salad greens. Just wrap them quickly and give a gentle pat to keep your salads crisp, ensuring your greens stay fresh and tasty.


In summary, tea towels are more than just for drying. They have a history, are handy in the kitchen, and offer creative uses. These simple cloths are essential and can make your daily tasks more interesting and useful.

So next time you use a tea towel, remember it’s not only for drying. It’s a handy tool ready to add a bit of style and practicality to your kitchen and other areas.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you use tea towels?

Yes, absolutely. Tea towels are versatile and useful in the kitchen. They are great for drying dishes, wiping surfaces, and handling hot cookware. Just ensure they are kept clean to maintain kitchen hygiene.

Where are tea towels used?

Tea towels are commonly used in the kitchen, especially for drying dishes. They can be used to dry plates, cups, utensils, pots, pans, and more after washing. Tea towels are also handy for drying hands while cooking and wiping down countertops. Some people use tea towels in place of paper towels for many kitchen tasks.

Can a tea towel be used as a hand towel?

Tea towels are mainly made for drying dishes and glassware, but you can also use them as temporary hand towels. Just remember, they might not be as fluffy as regular hand towels and might not soak up as much water.


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