Why It’s Time to Replace All the Dish Towels in Your Drawer

published Sep 18, 2018
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(Image credit: Marisa Vitale)

Do you remember the date that Kate Middleton and Prince William got married? I do, because my friend Marnie (hi, Marnie!) sent me a commemorative dish towel all the way from London to celebrate the occasion (which happened on April 29, 2011, if you don’t remember).

I have a somewhat large collection of dish towels; ones I’ve gotten as gifts, or bought myself, or props I’ve taken home after photoshoots. Some are really display-only — the ones that get changed out seasonally and hung when guests come over — and others are the true workhorses. The one thing I’ve learned about those working dish towels? Mine pretty much all have to be replaced. And it’s probably time to replace yours, too.

Here’s why.

Most of us use dish towels for a whole range of stuff — like drying dishes and drying our hands, as in-a-pinch oven mitts, or to wipe our grubby kids’ faces. That is a lot of use compared to something like, say, the hand towels in your bathroom, or the towels you use on your body, which pretty much get used once or a few times a day. With all that drying, your dish towels should be laundered about every other day, otherwise they’ll start to grow an astounding amount of bacteria.

The problem is, every time you launder a dish towel, it loses just a bit of its ability to absorb liquid. That lint you find in your dryer trap? It’s made up of the little bits of fibers that washed off of your dish towels — fibers that used to grab onto liquids to hold them inside the dish towel. If you’re drying a glass and see droplets left on it, your dish towel is no longer working.

Beyond that, dish towels get stained, colors fade, and whites get gray over time. And the fabric frays or gets holes. All those are signs that it’s time. Cleaning pro and author of Clean My Space, Melissa Maker, recommends you change them out about once a year.

No need to toss them, though — these can be great rags for greasy jobs in the garage or to clean up pet messes. But stop using old dish towels in the kitchen so you can make room for ones that are really going to help you with your work.

If you’re on the market for new dish towels, here are a few Kitchn favorites.

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Full Circle Dish Towels, $7 for three (Image credit: Amazon)
  1. Full Circle Dish Towels, $7 for three
  2. Utopia Kitchen Flour-Sack Towels, $17 for 12
  3. Hearth & Hand Kitchen Towel Set, $10 for two at Target
  4. All-Purpose Pantry Towels, $20 for four at Williams Sonoma
  5. Cuisine Stripe Dish Towels, $13 for two at Crate & Barrel

And in the meantime, save those truly special dish towels — like any Royal Wedding ones — as display-only treasures so they’ll last forever.