A Guide to Tea Towels

Posted by Cassandra Birdd on

Towels aren’t just for the bathroom, as those for the kitchen make cooking, dishwashing, and cleaning activities easier. Tea towels are among the towels used in this cooking space, and are often considered the same as “regular” kitchen towels. However, these towels also function as home decor and feature distinguishable differences from their standard counterparts. Learn more about tea towels and how you can use them here. 

What Are Tea Towels?

Finely-woven hand towels became popular during the 18th century, with “tea towel” an English term. They were used to catch spilled tea and therefore prevent stains on tables and countertops, since the tannins in tea are notorious staining agents. These towels were also used to prevent scratches while drying china teacups and dishware. Many tea towels featured intricate embroidery done by the mistress of the house, making them home decor items as well as kitchen accessories. 

home decor

Today’s tea towels range in size from 16 inches by 28 inches to 18 inches by 30 inches, and still function as kitchen accessories and decor items. 

How Are Tea Towels Different From Other Kitchen Towels?

A main distinction between tea towels and kitchen towels is fabric. Tea towels are made of either cotton or linen, and usually flat-woven to prevent streaks on dishware. Non-tea kitchen towels are typically made of terry cloth, which is ideal for soaking up spills but not recommended for drying fine china or other expensive dishware, such as crystal glassware, since they can cause streaks and minor scratches.  

Tea towels also differentiate themselves from terry cloth towels with their food cover applications. They are often used to cover bread products, such as rolls and muffins, to maintain their warmth. These towels are also ideal for polishing silver jewelry, as they easily remove tarnish. Both tea and terry cloth kitchen towels are utilized in dish and glass air-drying, such as placing the towel under a dish drying rack to catch water droplets. 


Browse the beautiful tea towel collection at Treehouse Gift & Home, the 10,000 square foot home decor and gift shop serving the 50-mile radius around Onalaska, WI. One of the largest gift shops in the state, this unique store offers a diverse inventory from top brands, including Willow Tree®. Custom picture framing services are also available. Call (608) 433-7896 today with questions or shop for home decor and gifts online. Like the Facebook page for the latest product and special event updates.

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