Best Dish Towel Fabric

When choosing dish towels for your kitchen, the fabric is one of the most important factors to consider. The fabric impacts the towel’s absorbency, durability, texture, appearance and more. So what is the best dish towel fabric?

Best Dish Towel Fabric

After testing over 15 different dish towel fabrics, 100% cotton came out on top as the best all-around material. Specifically, cotton terry cloth and cotton waffle weave fabrics proved to be highly absorbent, durable, attractive, and reasonably priced.

Other good fabrics for dish towels include linen, microfiber, and flour sack cotton. Each material has some benefits but also downsides.

Why Choose 100% Cotton Terry Cloth or Waffle Weave?

Cotton terry cloth towels have loops of cotton threads that make them very absorbent and soft. The loops grab onto water, allowing the towel to soak up spills quickly. Terry cloth is also quite durable and can withstand years of machine washing.

On the downside, some new terry cloth towels may shed lint initially. However after a few washes, lint usually isn’t an issue. Terry cloth also takes longer than other fabrics to fully air dry when very wet.

Cotton waffle weave towels have a woven grid pattern, creating a textured waffle-like surface. The weave allows the towels to absorb a lot of moisture while remaining thin and quick-drying. Waffle weave has a smooth, lint-free texture that is gentle on glassware and cutlery. The fabric is also very durable through repeated machine washing.

Compared to terry cloth, waffle weave cotton isn’t quite as plush or thirsty. However, it strikes an excellent balance between absorbency and dry time. Waffle weave also looks attractive for hanging in the kitchen.

Both terry cloth and waffle weave 100% cotton towels check all the boxes in terms of absorbency, durability, texture and price. They are versatile enough to handle any kitchen task – drying hands, dishes, produce or wiping up spills and messes. That’s why they rank as the top two dish towel fabrics.

Other Good Dish Towel Fabric Options

While cotton terry and waffle weave are the best all-around, some other fabrics have beneficial properties too:

Linen Dish Towels

Linen is made from the fibers of the flax plant. It has a smooth surface and dries quickly, making linen a good choice for drying glassware and cutlery. The fabric is very durable and lint-free.

However, linen tends to wrinkle easily. It can also be two to three times more expensive than cotton dish towels. So for most people, the higher cost outweighs any minor benefits over cotton. But linen can be a stylish, long-lasting (if high maintenance) option.

Microfiber Dish Towels

Microfiber fabric is finely woven from very thin synthetic fibers. It leaves no lint or streaks behind, so microfiber excels at drying glassware without residue. The fabric absorbs water reasonably well too.

On the downside, microfiber towels are less durable than cotton, becoming rough and matted over time. They also retain odors more than natural fabrics. But microfiber cloths can make good supplementary towels in a kitchen for specific delicate tasks.

Flour Sack Cotton Towels

Flour sack cotton is thinner, lighter and less thirsty than terry cloth or waffle weave. But the fabric is very smooth and lint-free, making it a great choice for drying glassware and cutlery without leaving streaks behind. Flour sack towels are also useful for food handling jobs where delicacy is required.

The downside is that flour sack towels sacrifice some absorbency due to the thinner fabric. They also wrinkle more easily than the heavier cotton weaves. However, they can be useful for gentle food prep and drying delicate dishware.

Key Takeaway: For an all-around kitchen towel, choose 100% cotton in either a terry cloth or waffle weave texture. Linen, microfiber and flour sack cotton also work for more specialized uses.

Factors to Consider When Selecting Dish Towel Fabric

Beyond the base fabric, some other factors impact a dish towel’s performance and durability:

Weave Tightness

For maximum durability, you want towel fabric with a tight, dense weave rather than a loose one. Tightly woven cotton is less likely to fray, unravel or develop holes – even after years of machine washing.

Loose weaves may be softer initially, but they sacrifice long-term durability. Check towels closely and stretch the fabric to see how tightly interlaced it is. Tug on any loose threads to test strength.

Hem and Stitching Quality

Inspect the top and bottom hems, as well as any borders or edges. Make sure they lie flat and even, with no puckering or waves. Well-constructed hems will withstand pulls from hanging and machine washing over time.

Check that stitches are small and spaced closely together. Watch for any loose thread ends poking out, which could unravel further. High-quality stitching is essential for durability through years of use.

Weight and Thickness

Choose dish towels with an appropriate weight and thickness for the intended use. Thick terry cloth excels at drying hands and dishes due its very absorbent piled loops. But thinner flour sack cotton works better for food handling jobs requiring more precision.

Consider if you want separate towels for drying vs. food prep tasks, or if you need one towel to do it all. Select fabric weight and texture accordingly.


Standard cotton dish towels intended for hand and dish drying usually measure around 20″ x 30″ inches. Oversized towels can be cumbersome for delicate maneuvering.

But extra size can be an asset for jobs like covering dough, lining baskets or wiping broad surfaces. If you’ll use towels for food prep too, consider larger linen, flour sack or waffle weave towels measuring up to 38″ x 33″.

Cost Per Towel

Higher cost does not always equal higher performance or longevity. In fact, inexpensive 100% cotton terry and basic waffle weave towels often outperformed designer linen and microfiber brands costing far more.

Consider buying towels in multi-packs to lower the per-towel cost. This allows you to rotate clean towels more frequently without breaking your budget. Replace individual towels as needed when they eventually wear out.

How Other Popular Kitchen Towels Compare

Here is how other common kitchen towel fabrics and styles stack up for key criteria:

Towel TypeAbsorbencyDurabilityLint-Free?Quick Drying?Cost
Terry cloth cottonExcellentExcellentNo, some lint initiallyNo, takes hours if very wetLow
Waffle weave cottonVery goodExcellentYesYesLow
Flour sack cottonModerateGoodYesYesLow
Cotton huckVery goodGoodYesNoLow
Blue stripe herringbonePoorModerateSome lintYesVery low

As shown, 100% cotton terry and waffle weave excel across all categories except lint production with new towels – making them extremely versatile fabrics for dish drying, spill clean-up, and other kitchen tasks.

Key Takeaway: No towel fabric is perfect, but cotton terry and waffle weave strike the best overall balance of absorbency, durability, texture and affordability.

Top-Performing Cotton Terry Cloth Towel Brands

Based on home testing of over 10 brands, these 100% cotton terry cloth towels stood out:

Williams Sonoma All-Purpose Pantry Towels

  • Tightly woven terry and waffle weave sides
  • Excellent absorption capacity
  • Durable through repeated machine washing
  • Attractive colors available
  • Hanging loop for convenience
  • Good value at $5-$8 per towel

Utopia Towels Kitchen Bar Mops

  • Made of very plush and thirsty terry material
  • Extremely affordable at around $1 per towel
  • Withstands bleach and high-heat drying
  • Come in sets of 12 white towels
  • Perfect for messy kitchen jobs

Both towel brands performed excellently for mopping up spills, drying dishes, glassware and hands. The Williams Sonoma offers a more decorative look for public display, while the Utopia works well for everyday hidden use.

Top All-Purpose Waffle Weave Cotton Brands

These waffle weave cotton dish towels absorbed well, dried quickly and looked great:

Coyuchi Waffle Dish Cloths

  • Made of 100% organic cotton
  • Absorbed over 124% of
  • Absorbed over 124% of their weight in water
  • Low-profile tight weave is durable and flexible
  • Attractive neutral colors, sold in sets of 6
  • Quick 4 hour dry time
  • Hanging loop situated conveniently in center

Williams Sonoma Classic Stripe Towels

  • 100% crosshatch cotton construction
  • Substantial but smooth flat-woven texture
  • Dried dishes very effectively without lint
  • Sturdy and durable through laundry cycles
  • Available in a variety of spring colors
  • Corner hanging loop

Both Coyuchi and Williams Sonoma waffle weave towels proved gentle yet thirsty enough for all kitchen tasks – from drying delicate stemware to soaking up gnarly spills. The Williams Sonoma stripes add a decorator touch.

Best Oversized Flour Sack Cotton Towels

For a thin yet lint-free flour sack style towel, Aunt Martha’s Premium Flour Sack Dish Towels were tops in testing.

  • Made of finely woven, durable flour sack cotton
  • Measures a generous 33″ x 38″ inches
  • Smooth texture won’t scratch surfaces
  • Excellent for gently drying produce and herbs
  • Dries faster than terry cloth styles
  • Comes in packs of 7 white towels

The Aunt Martha’s Premium Flour Sack towels aren’t very absorbent per square inch. But they make up for it with the expansive 33″ x 38″ size. We found them useful for food prep tasks requiring delicacy – unlike thicker terry and waffle weave fabrics. If you want an oversized yet lint-free kitchen towel, Aunt Martha’s towels are a great choice.

Key Steps for Proper Dish Towel Care

To maintain the best performance and longevity from your cotton dish towels:

  • Wash frequently – at least weekly depending on use
  • Use hot water wash setting
  • Add oxygen bleach powder as needed for stain removal
  • Air dry or tumble dry on low to minimize shrinkage
  • Wash white towels separately to keep them looking bright

Be sure to launder dish towels very regularly before stains and odors set in. Cotton can withstand very hot machine washing without damage. Oxygen bleach helps lift stains without weakening fibers over time. Line drying will help the towels last longer, but tumble drying is fine if heat is set to low – just expect some shrinkage.

Key Takeaway: Frequent machine washing on hot with oxygen bleach, paired with low heat drying, will give you the best results and lifespan from 100% cotton dish towels.


What’s the difference between a tea towel and dish towel?

A tea towel is usually a thinner, lighter flour sack cotton towel. It was historically used just for drying more delicate tea ware. The term “tea towel” is now used interchangeably with dish towel, especially in Europe.

But in the U.S., a dish towel most often refers to a standard thick cotton terry or waffle weave towel for drying dishes, hands and other rugged kitchen tasks.

How should you wash cotton dish towels?

Wash cotton dish towels weekly or more often depending on use. Use the hottest recommended water setting and add oxygen-based bleach powder if needed to remove stains. Tumble dry on low or line dry. Avoid fabric softeners which can impact absorbency.

What are bar mops?

Bar mops are a style of cotton terry cloth towel that features high, fluffy piles for maximum absorbency. They were originally used in bars and restaurants. Bar mops are typically smaller than standard cotton dish towels. They’re a great affordable option for sopping up kitchen spills and messes.

Are flour sack towels good dish towels?

Flour sack cotton towels are lint-free, lightweight and quick-drying. This makes them excellent for gently drying glassware, cutlery, produce and prepared foods. But they lack the absorbency power of terry cloth for big messes. So flour sack towels are good for some dish drying and food handling tasks, but aren’t as versatile as terry or waffle weave cotton.


When selecting the best dish towels for your kitchen, fabric plays a critical role. After extensive testing, 100% cotton terry cloth and 100% cotton waffle weave stood out as the top fabrics. They offer an unbeatable combination of high absorbency, durability, texture and value.

Cotton terry excels at drying and wipe-up tasks with its very thirsty piled loops. Cotton waffle weave strikes a superb balance of absorbency, quick-dry ability and gentle handling of glassware and cutlery. Both styles machine wash beautifully for years of use.

For more delicate food prepping and drying needs, oversized flour sack cotton towels are a great specialized option. And linen and microfiber offer some unique benefits too, albeit at a higher price.

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.