The 8 Best Eco-Friendly Dish Towels of 2021

Keep your kitchen clean and sustainable

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The Rundown
"Colorful, organic cotton towels with a scrubby surface for multitasking."
"This set is yarn-dyed so its pretty colors will stand the test of time."
"Thanks to the weave and thickness, these towels are extra-absorbant."
"Choose from a range of minimalist screen-printed designs."
"This six-pack of towels is priced close to what a two-pack of other brands might cost."
"The stonewashed and softened towels are printed with lovely one-of-a-kind prints by watercolor artists."
"Most flour-sack towels are white, but these are made from undyed organic cotton."
"Swedish dish towels are kind of a cross between a sponge and a dish towel."

Dish towels serve many purposes. Most importantly, they help cut down or eliminate disposable paper towel use, serving as a reusable item that can be washed and used again and again. 

They are also more versatile than a disposable version: Fold them up into a thick square and they can protect a tabletop from a hot pan, or use them to protect fingers when a cast-iron handle or pan is a bit too hot to touch with bare skin. Dry a whole load of dishes with them, or soak up the water that accidentally sprayed all over the kitchen floor or leaked from the pot after you watered your plant too generously. 

Investing in a good-quality, ethically made dish towel made that will last for years is worth the time and money spent finding just the right fit for you. 

Here are some of the best dish towels on the market today:

Best Overall: Full Circle Tidy Dish Cloth

Full Circle Tidy Dish Cloth


These 100 percent organic cotton towels have colorful loops on one side which makes them useful for scrubbing, and terrycloth on the reverse side. That means they have added versatility. The colors come from only non-toxic dyes. They are thin enough to dry quickly, easy to wring out, and are a great price for a set of three towels. Full Circle is a Certified B-Corporation.

Best Set: Coyuchi Organic Waffle Kitchen Towels, Set of 6

Coyuchi

This set includes six waffle-weave towels; that type of weave means that the surface area of the towel can expand a bit to soak up more liquid when needed (and also helps them dry faster).

Coyuchi is known for hitting all the marks with their sustainable home linens. These towels are made with GOTS-certified 100 percent organic cotton, grown and woven in India in a factory that recycles 98 percent of its waste-water. They are yarn-dyed so their color will stand the test of time, are a generous size and have a high absorbency.

Most Absorbent: Sur la Table Organic Cotton Kitchen Towels

Sur la Table Organic Cotton Kitchen Towels

These 100 percent GOTS-certified Turkish organic cotton dish towels are designed to be extra-absorbent, due to the weave and the thickness of the towel. These are nice and large, but the same company makes a smaller dish cloth if the 26 inch x 16 inch size is too big. The towels are sold in a set of two.

Most Stylish: Little Korboose Organic Cotton Tea Towel

Little Korboose Organic Cotton Towel

These large towels are made from 100 percent organic cotton and screen printed with low-impact, non-toxic ink. They are a natural, off-white color and available in a range of modern minimalist printed patterns, all of which are hand screen printed in Cleveland, Ohio (where they are also sewn). The Cleveland team employs Pakistani and Nepalese refugees to help "those in need get their start regardless of race, gender or class.”

Best Value: Honest Weave Organic Cotton Kitchen Hand and Dish Towel Set

HONEST WEAVE GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Kitchen Hand and Dish Towel Sets

This six-pack of towels is priced close to what a two-pack of other brands might cost, and are still generously sized and have a nice classic design that will work in most kitchens. Made from GOTS-certified organic cotton, these towels are made in India. They're simple, inexpensive dish towels that will last for years.

Best Splurge: Blue Summer House Linen Tea Towels

Blue Summer House Tea Towels

These tea towels are ideal for gift-giving or to really dress up your kitchen — but they’re highly effective towels too. They dry faster than cotton, and you can use them to easily towel off a whole sink’s worth of dishes. They are made in the in the United States on Marrowstone Island, Washington from medium-weight European linen that’s Oeko-Tex certified. The stonewashed and softened towels are printed with lovely one-of-a-kind prints by watercolor artists.

Best Flour Sack: Breadtopia Flour Sack Towels

Breadtopia Flour Sack Towels

Some cooks think there’s no topping a flour-sack dish towel for a range of kitchen needs. They are generally bigger than standard dish towels, and useful for food-related tasks, like drying off rinsed lettuces, proofing bread, straining sauces, or wrapping herbs for storage in the fridge (used damp, they keep herbs fresher longer as paper towels would).

Because they’re lint-free, these flour-sack towels won’t shed bits of fluff all over your food or glassware that you dry by hand. That’s because they’re made of extra-thin woven cotton—the original towels were made from the cloth that grains were stored in. Most flour-sack towels are white, but these are made from undyed organic cotton, letting the natural color of the plant through and are more stain-resistant for not being pure white.

Best Swedish: Three Bluebirds Reusable Swedish Dishcloth

Sunflower Reusable Swedish Dishcloth

Swedish dish towels are kind of a cross between a sponge and a dish towel. They’re larger than most sponges and smaller than most towels, and generally do the job of paper towels well, like soaking up spills or wiping a countertop, but might not be as multifunctional as a cloth towel (they won’t serve as a trivet or dry hand-washed dishes as well as a towel will). They also don’t last as long as a towel but they are easily compostable even in a home compost bin.

Invented by a Swedish engineer in 1949, they are usually made from biodegradable cellulose, and some are made of a wood pulp and cotton mix (also biodegradable). They dry very fast, and you can launder them, but they do pick up stains quickly and can get grubby looking. One of their signature features is they often come in a wide variety of fun and graphic prints.

Final Verdict

If you want scrubbing power, the Swedish dishtowel (view at Package Free Shop) or the Full Circle Tidy Cloths (view at Walmart) are the way to go. But all the options on this list will have a lower impact than disposable wipes or paper towels.

What to Consider When Shopping for Eco-Friendly Dish Towels

Used vs. New

You might get lucky and score some like-new towels at a charity shop or garage sale. But when it comes to dish towels, unless they’re very lightly used, it’s probably worth it to buy these household items new, and use them for as long as possible. That means buying a durable, sustainable brand is important, and so is choosing something you will really use. 

Durability

There are lots of super-cheap plastic-based dish towels out in the world that don’t absorb water very well, start shredding the first few times you use them, or that take on such an unattractive color or shape that you don’t want to keep them around.

Style

A good dish towel can also add color, personality, and a bit of style to a kitchen, which is especially great when you are in a rental situation or on a budget and are unable to change more fixed elements. 

Good to Know

How Can You Make a Dish Towel Last?

There are two main reasons dish towels don’t last as long as they could: They start to smell funky and they get stained and become unsightly. Both of these issues can be solved by a couple easy hacks. Making your dish towels go further means that you’ll save money and resources. 

A main key to dish towels is to have plenty of them and change them often. Depending on how busy your kitchen is, this could mean changing them up daily or every couple days. By changing them regularly you will avoid cultivating harmful bacteria, keeping you healthy. It will also prevent them from getting too musty or dirty smelling. Simply throw them in the wash with other linens like bath towels or clothes in your weekly wash. Let them dry out before you toss them in the laundry pile so they’re not sitting balled up and damp, which will cause mustiness. 

You can address stains in dish towels as well as not bothering to dry them if you toss them in a bucket under the sink that’s filled with water and an oxygen cleaner. This will loosen stains in advance of washing them, create a place for them to go after they’re dirty, and eliminate any odors as well. Just don’t forget to wash them.

Why Trust Treehugger

Starre Vartan has been researching and reviewing environmentally sustainable products for 15 years and wrote a book on eco-friendly, healthy living. She appreciates the versatility and decorative splash dish towels bring to her own kitchen, and has about 20 towels that have been in rotation for years, with the most recent one from Blue Summer House.