What is a Tea Towel & How Do I Use It?

What is a Tea Towel & How Do I Use It?

Simply put, a tea towel is a versatile cloth typically made of natural fibers like cotton or linen. This type of cloth dates back to Victorian era tea parties where their name originated. In the 1800s tea towels were used for a variety of purposes during tea time, from keeping the pot of tea warm, to drying the fine china, and serving baked goods. The modern tea towel is also used for a variety of household tasks, like wiping your hands or drying glassware, as well as more creative uses like wrapping a bottle of wine for a hostess gift.

What's the difference between a tea towel and a kitchen towel?

Today, the terms kitchen towel, dish cloth, and tea towel are often used interchangeably to describe any household cloth. Although tea towels share some of the same purposes as a kitchen towel or dish cloth, there are also a few distinctive qualities that separate them. Kitchen or dish towels are usually made of a thicker, heavier weight material, like terry cloth, and are used for cleaning up messes and spills around the kitchen, drying dishes, and wiping down countertops. Tea towels on the other hand, are made of a lightweight material that is better suited for drying fresh fruits and veggies, serving bread or charcuterie boards, and drying off more delicate items like glassware or china. Tea towels are also typically printed with designs and patterns to serve as a decoration in addition to their functional purposes.


What is flour sack cotton?

As discussed above, tea towels are typically woven of natural materials, and one of the most common is flour sack cotton. This lightweight, tightly-woven cloth was historically used to create cotton sacks as packaging for grains and sugars. The modern flour sack towel is modeled after these vintage grain sacks. There are a few reasons this material is still a staple in many households today. It is durable, absorbent, and its light weight makes it fast drying. After washing, flour sack cotton takes on a lovely textured look, but is naturally wrinkle resistant. In addition, it is lint free, making it ideal for drying glassware, or even windows, without leaving lint or streaks behind. 

Woodnote tea towels, and napkins, are all made of high-quality flour sack cotton. Although we do print a few designs on white cloth, we use natural cotton for the majority of our designs because it hides stains better and has less impact on the environment during production. Moving forward, all of our towels are being made of 100% organic cotton, which has a lovely, almost linen-like quality.


How to use a tea towel

Now that we’ve covered the history of tea towels and what makes them unique, here are our favorite ways to use them:
  • Give them as gifts! - No, this doesn’t technically count as a “use” but we just had to point out that tea towels make awesome gifts. They are beautiful, practical, and when you buy a handmade tea towel, it instantly makes your gift thoughtful. Pair a Woodnote tea towel with a bottle of wine, a candle, or some cheese and crackers for an extra special gift.
  • Drying fresh fruits and veggies - Tea towels are the perfect material for drying all your fresh foods, especially delicate leafy greens. Give them a gentle pat down, or spread a towel out on the counter and let your food air dry.
Hands holding a bee tea towel that is drying fresh leafy greens
  • Sous Chef - Ok, ok maybe a tea towel isn't quite as good as a sous chef, but it is super handy to have one thrown over your shoulder or tucked into your apron while cooking and baking. Use it to wipe off floury hands, grab a hot pot handle, or cover a bowl of rising dough.
  • Dry glassware lint free - Flour sack cotton towels are naturally lint free, making them perfect for drying glassware. 
  • Decorative hand towel - This one may seem obvious, but tea towels are great for drying your hands and will add a lovely pop of color to your kitchen or bathroom.

Natural cotton tea towel with a printed gold ginkgo design hangs through the handle of a fridge

  • Reusable wrapping paper - Giving a gift? Simply wrap it in a tea towel instead of wrapping paper. Tie it up with some fun ribbon and it will look cute and be eco-friendly!
  • Serving - Tea towels are a great addition to any table. Line a basket of warm bread, place under a serving board, or use as a decorative center cloth.

A plate of hummus toast sits on the Woodnote Sweet Alison tea towel

  • Kitchen curtains - Tea towels make super cute curtains. All you need is a tension rod, some curtain rod clip rings, and a couple tea towels and you've got yourself some fun new curtains!

How do you like to use your tea towels? We'd love to know! Leave us a comment below :)

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Flat lay of Woodnote nature inspired tea towels on a white background

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1 comment

So many great ideas for using tea towels!


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