There Are 5 Types of Kitchen Towels — Here’s What Each One is Best For

published Jun 2, 2021
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
5 different types of kitchen towels arranged in the kitchen

When I was packing up my kitchen to move into our new house, I learned a lot about myself and my habits. Most notably, I have a lot of forks —an easy fix. I also noticed I own a lot of kitchen towels — thin ones; fluffy ones; straightforward ones; fancy, woven ones. Unlike my extra forks, tucking some of my towels away in a “duplicates” box didn’t feel right. They all look and feel different, which got me thinking about their specific purposes. Could I be missing out on optimizing common kitchen chores, because I’m using the wrong towels?

To learn more about how I can better use my towels, I talked to Angela Bell, a cleaning expert and Head Grove Guide at Grove Collaborative. Whether you already have a big collection like me, or you’re just now starting to build one, here’s what you need to know about the most common types and what they’re good for.

Terry towels: Best for sopping up spills.

When you think of a towel, terry is probably the first thing you picture. Probably the most ubiquitous type of towel out there, terry — used most commonly for bath towels — are super soft and extremely absorbent, making them superior for dealing with liquid. They’re great to have around for drying your dishes and hands, but Bell says they’re especially useful for cleaning up large spills and liquid messes: sopping up water, cleaning up around the high chair, drying off the dog, or wiping off the shower. 

While they’re a good, eco-friendly replacement for paper towels when it comes to absorbing spills, you may not want to use terry towels for other jobs paper towels would be great at. “Because they are so fluffy and dense, that can mean they leave behind lint or fibers, so they’re not recommended for polishing certain materials, like glass or stainless steel,” Bell says.

Flat-weave towels (aka “Jacquard towels”): Great as napkins, or little kitchen helpers.

Flat-weave towels, also known as Jacquard towels, are a less-bulky towel option to keep on hand for everyday use, whether you use them as napkins at dinner or as kitchen helpers to wrap bread or herbs. While they’re “flatter” than terry towels and therefore don’t hold as much water, Bell says they’re generally absorbent enough to dry dishes or wipe down countertops. And since they’re not going to leave lint or streaks behind, they’re also great for jobs like wiping down your stainless steel appliances. 

Dual-sided towels: The best of both worlds, and excellent when you’re doing dishes.

Dual-sided towels, which are flat on one side and terry on the other, offer the best of both worlds: One absorbent side for cleaning and one lint-free side for drying. They’re great as impromptu drying mats for wet dishes, or for streamlining scrub-and-dry jobs. “Use the terry side to wash down the inside of your refrigerator, for instance,” says Bell. “Then flip it over to dry off the excess water.” You can also use a dual-sided towel for jobs outside the kitchen, like washing window exteriors or patio furniture, or for cleaning your car.

Flour sack towels: The best paper-towel alternative, and great for handling food.

If you like the convenience of paper towels but don’t want to contribute to waste, the flour sack towel is your friend. They’re thin and lint-free, just like paper towels, but unlike bulkier, fluffier towels, they air dry quickly between uses. Bell suggests using them as a go-to kitchen towel for anything from drying hands and dishes to culinary tasks like drying excess water off of produce, pressing tofu, or wrapping baked goods.

Microfiber towels: The best for cleaning.

Microfiber cloths are great for many quick cleaning tasks. When wet, they pick up germs, grime, and small crumbs from surfaces, and when they’re dry, they’re good for removing dust and pet hair. You don’t need anything but the cloth itself, but Bell says microfiber is also beneficial because it pairs well with any spray cleaner. 

Microfiber towels are great for general cleanup of virtually any surface. But since they’re lint-free and won’t streak, you can also use them on stainless steel, chrome, windows, and mirrors; they’re also useful for surfaces that require a bit of shine, like polished granite. Just be sure not to use fabric softener when you launder microfiber towels — Bell says the softener can remain in the fibers and cause streaking on glass and other surfaces.

If you’re concerned about microplastic pollution from washing microfiber towels, you can wash them inside a Guppyfriend bag to catch and throw away any plastic that’s shed.