Tea Towel vs Dish Towel: Understanding the Difference

When it comes to kitchen linens, the terms "tea towel" and "dish towel" are often used interchangeably, but they do have distinct differences in their traditional uses and materials. Here’s a detailed comparison to help you understand these two types of kitchen towels better:

Tea Towels


  • Typically made from linen or a blend of linen and cotton.
  • Sometimes made from pure cotton, especially in modern versions.


  • Originally used to dry fine china and delicate items because linen is less likely to leave lint.
  • Often used to cover baked goods like bread or pastries to keep them warm and absorb moisture.
  • Can be used as a decorative item, draped over an oven handle or used as a placemat.
  • Ideal for drying glassware to prevent streaks and lint.


  • Often come in elegant, decorative designs.
  • May feature embroidery, prints, or patterns.


  • Moderately absorbent, but not as absorbent as terry cloth.

Dish Towels


  • Usually made from cotton or a cotton blend.
  • Can also be made from terry cloth, which is known for its looped weave that increases absorbency.


  • Primarily used for drying dishes and utensils.
  • Suitable for wiping down countertops and cleaning spills.
  • Often used for general kitchen cleaning tasks.


  • Generally simpler in design compared to tea towels.
  • More utilitarian, though they can still come in various colors and patterns.


  • Highly absorbent, especially those made from terry cloth.
  • Designed to handle heavier tasks and larger amounts of moisture.

Which One Should You Choose?

For Delicate Tasks:

  • Choose tea towels if you need something gentle for drying glassware, china, or for decorative purposes.

For Heavy-Duty Tasks:

  • Opt for dish towels if you need a highly absorbent towel for drying dishes, wiping spills, or general cleaning.

Recommended Products

To help you choose the best tea and dish towels, here are some top-rated options available on Amazon:

  1. Bumble Towels Store Premium Kitchen Towels (20”x 28”, 6 Pack)

    • Features: Large cotton kitchen hand towels, flat and terry towel combination, highly absorbent, includes hanging loop.
    • Price: $24.99
    • Buy Now
  2. T-fal Premium Waffle Dish Cloths

    • Features: Highly absorbent and super soft, 100% cotton, measures 12"x13", flat waffle design.
    • Price: $12.99
    • Buy Now
  3. Homaxy 100% Cotton Terry Kitchen Towels (Grass Green, 13 x 28 inches)

    • Features: Soft and super absorbent, checkered design, 4-pack.
    • Price: $16.99
    • Buy Now
  4. White Classic Premium Dish Towels for Kitchen

    • Features: Heavy duty and highly absorbent, 100% cotton with 410 GSM, includes hanging loop, 16x26 inches, 8-pack.
    • Price: $29.99
    • Buy Now
  5. Infinitee Xclusives Premium Kitchen Towels

    • Features: 100% cotton, highly absorbent, 15x25 inches, 6-pack, available in black.
    • Price: $19.99
    • Buy Now


While tea towels and dish towels serve similar purposes in the kitchen, understanding their differences can help you choose the right towel for the task at hand. Whether you need a gentle, lint-free towel for your glassware or a robust, absorbent towel for drying dishes, there’s a perfect kitchen towel out there for you.

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