How to Clean Tea Towels

Updated April 17, 2017

Tea towels (also commonly referred to as dish towels) are small towels kept on hand for drying clean dishes. Since these are often used solely for wiping dishes and silverware that are already clean, you may wonder how often tea towels should be cleaned. Tea towels should be laundered on a weekly basis or more frequently if used to wipe up spills or anything other than washed dishes. Damp or wet tea towels can be a breeding ground for bacteria and mildew. Keep your home sanitary by washing them often.

Examine the towels for stains before adding them to the laundry load. Pre-treat stains as necessary, according to Martha Stewart's "Rules of Stain Removal" (see Resources). Avoid using chlorine bleach, as this can cause holes to form in towels and leave them tattered.

Launder tea towels with like items, such as bath towels and sheets. Avoid using fabric softener, as this can reduce how absorbent your towels are. Wash stain-free towels in warm to hot water to eliminate bacteria.

Dry the towels on a clothesline if possible to avoid weakening the fibres. Drying by machine should be done on low-to-medium heat, as higher temperatures can also degrade towel fibres.


Old bath towels that have lost their softness or that have been damaged or stained can be cut up to use as dish towels. Be sure to keep multiple sets of tea towels on hand.


Do not wash or dry towels in the same laundry load as clothing. Loose towel fibres will cause lint, which will be harder to remove from clothing that has been laundered without fabric softener.

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About the Author

Jillian McCoy began freelance writing in 2010, and aspires to be featured in print publications. She is currently completing coursework that will lead her to a Bachelor of Science degree in computer science from Drexel University, with a minor in English.