Generally speaking, dish towels are something that I like to buy in bulk. Drive to Ikea, pick out some of the blues ones and some of the reds ones, and I’m done for at least a year. But with so many amazing fabrics and linens available, does it pay to get nice kitchen towels?
The Standard: Ikea Dish Towels
Just to be clear, I’m a big, big fan of Ikea’s dish towels and our kitchen is never without many of them. They will be in various states from brand new to stained-and-approaching-gross but they always work well for me. We also keep a number of flour sack towels, but the Ikea ones are the go-to.
If you are shopping Ikea, then I can recommend the Tekla and Elly dish towels (the red one and the blue one respectively). Here is an Amazon link if you don’t have an Ikea close by (be careful, the price will be inflated).
Ikea works, but what’s life without a little beauty in it? So, occasionally, I experiment with some very nice towels.
Charvet Editions Linen Striped Dish Towel
Charvet makes ridiculously nice linens in Armentières, France. Their Country Tea Towels, often seen in the US as the “Bon Appetit” tea towels is wonderfully made with a heavy, almost rough material and an old world construction that impresses me every time I pick it up.
The towel is overly absorbent (it gets quite heavy in the wash), is a bit too large 22 x 31 inches, and is rather rough for day to day use. It also takes weeks to break in! And at $26 or so, it’s quite expensive. But don’t let all these things fool you — this is a beautiful towel and it’s 100% line construction is really a throwback to times when things were meant to last.
If you are shopping for the towel, it’s called many things, but the official name is the Tea Towel Country Brut (brut presumably meaning unrefined or raw, as in the state of the fabric).
Charvet Editions Essuie Verre
If you want a lighter weight, softer towel then Charvet has the Essuie Verre (English would be “glass wiper”). This is also sometimes known as a “bistro towel” depending on who is selling it. This towel has a softness to it and a texture that feels like the nicest, lightest linen. It’s really quite impressive the way that it manages to feel nicely made without being too heavy or old fashioned.
This towel is lighter and softer than the other Charvet — and most of the others on this list — but it’s still quite nice. At a price of around $20 it’s still quite expensive, but it feels more usable than most of the premium dish towels featured here.
Despite sharing many qualities of a nicer cotton towel, the linen used here should outlast any cotton towel by a wide margin, so long as you properly care for it (see below).
Karin Carlander Textile No. 4 Tea Towel
This is another wonderfully crafted small towel, made of 100% linen. It’s nicely absorbent and great for wiping down glass, which is of of my main usages. This one is like the Brut Charvets in that it arrives in a rough, papery state and needs weeks of washing to become fully broken in.
I bought this towel for about $20, being struck by how nice the fabric seemed and how cool it looked in black. I honestly hated it for weeks as every time I used it I would get a handful of black thread all over my hand and whatever I dried. This thankfully decreased over time, but it did lessen my excitement somewhat.
This towel is 50 x 70 cm and is rather hard to find outside of Europe. While it’s quite cool I would not recommend tracking it down.
Karin Carlander carry’s the European “Masters of Linen” certification, which is proof of the company’s commitment to its craft.
Merci Linen Towels
Parisian super-boutique Merci has been carrying linen products for some years now, and it’s quite nice without being too expensive. It’s also completely unbranded and available in a wide array of colors. They are pre-washed so they don’t need that extended soak and dry when you get them, and they feel nicely broken in from day one.
While lacking some of the history and story of the other brands here, these are great towels that I really enjoy using. We’ve purchased a number of products from this fantastic store .
Are Fancy Dish Towels Worth It?
Any time you ask if something if “worth it” you are going to get a hugely subjective answer. On the face of it, these towels could never be “worth it” — how could one linen towel outlast 10-15 Ikea cotton towels when used everyday near stoves, knives, and kids? It’s just not going to happen. But, on the other hand, well maintained linen can last for decades. It’s also nice to support a “Master of Line” and a company that has been making linen in northern France, from French flax, for 120 years.
So are these towels expensive? Sure. Are they worth it? That’s your call.
Fancy Dish Towel Care and Maintenance
When you first get a linen product you should always soak it in cold water overnight in order to maximum absorbancy.
Line drying instead of machine drying will help preserve the life of these towels, and any linen for that matter.
Gentle machine washing is OK, but make sure to keep the water on cold. Also don’t pour any detergent or cleaning products directly on the towels, as it might cause natural dyes to discolor.
You can iron and even steam linen dishtowels, but be sure to use sufficient water if wrinkles are not coming out.