My Retired Tea Towels

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My Retired Tea TowelsWe all have them, the old tea towels that are worn out, faded or stained, that we don't care to use anymore and that we would never put out when company is coming over.


Over the years, I've accumulated my share of them too and I've found lots of uses for the retirees. They're practical and save me money too. Unless I use them as a rag for a particularly dirty job and throw it out, I wash them again and again. Many people use them for making crafts but I'm not inclined, so I'll skip the possible crafting uses.

  • They can be used whenever and wherever I'd otherwise use paper towels in the kitchen and around the house. They're wonderful for cleaning windows because they don't leave paper lint.

  • My favorite use is for wrapping veggies that are stored in the fridge because I don't care much for using plastic wrap or containers. Washed greens are loosely wrapped in a towel and put into the crisper. The towel absorbs the excess moisture, allows breathing room for whatever is inside, and keeps the veggies fresh.

  • I don't use a salad spinner. I spread the washed lettuce on a towel, roll it up loosely and holding the two ends, I shake the towel around.

  • The fridge crisper drawer is lined with a folded up towel. Once a week or so, it gets shaken out and replaced. No more washing the crispers for me because they're always clean.

  • I've used them with the grandchildren as a bib, spit up cloth, baby wipe or emergency diaper.

  • Keeping one in the car under the driver seat is handy. When I'm stopped at a red light I grab the cloth and quickly dust the dashboard.

  • They're really handy when I'm doing my canning, especially when working with red beets or tomatoes. I go through a lot of them then and I don't have to worry about staining my good towels.

  • They're a foot wipe when my dog comes in from outside on a wet day.

  • I don't like to use plastic much, especially with food. When preparing food in advance for my guests, I cover the serving dish with a damp tea towel. This works well too for sandwiches made in advance of lunchtime, keeping them fresh.

  • A dry towel is useful for covering baked bread, cookies, muffins, etc when they come out from the oven and need to be cooled before putting them into a container. The towel protects them from dust and household flies.

  • They can serve as huge napkins when you're eating something messy like lobster or ribs. I had a corn roast once and gave everyone an old tea towel to mop up the drippy butter to keep face and hands clean.

  • Hubby doesn't like using paper plates even at a picnic, saying that paper makes food taste funny. I have several old mismatched china plates that I keep in the picnic basket, wrapped in old tea towels to keep them from breaking. Covering the food keeps bugs at bay and they're also handy for sitting on so you don't get your clothes dirty from sitting at a public picnic table. In a pinch, I've used them to wrap food swap stuff that I've received from family and friends.

  • They also make a good cape when shaving out hubby's neck or coloring your hair.

Besides crafting or sewing projects, what do you use your old tea towels for?

Source: Always looking at uses for things


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March 14, 20161 found this helpful

I use a large one to cover freshly washed dishes.

I keep some in a hanging basket so they are handy to use as cleaning rags.

Some of my small appliances are on an open shelf and they are covered with a tea towel.

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March 15, 20162 found this helpful

What wonderful ideas! So practical and thrifty, handy and sanitary, too. I don't like all that plastic in the kitchen, either. My only added comment, as a retired Home Economics Professor, would be to say, add a little bleach (1/4 to 1/3 cup), to the washing machine and wash them in hot water and detergent. The FDA (Food & Drug Admin.) did research on the germ content of fabrics washed in hot water & detergent and dried in the dryer.


They were amazed at the number of germs that remained. So, that's why bleach, detergent and hot water are recommended for washing fabrics, especially any fabric that comes into contact with food.

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March 11, 20181 found this helpful

You are so correct about that. There are so many germs it is unreal. A smart doctor told me years ago to add a tiny drop of bleach to my rinse water for dishes and that the water was boiling to keep deadly germs away. I had been deathly ill with a kamplyo bacter and he saved my life.

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March 11, 20210 found this helpful

I read that your not suppose to add bleach to Dawn dish soap. I dont remember why

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March 12, 20210 found this helpful

Many dish soaps now include ammonia to boost the cleaning power. This can cause a toxic chlorine gas to form if mixed with bleach. Not every soap has this additive and the bottle should clearly say to not mix with bleach.


Bleach can have this effect with all sorts of commercial cleansers so I never use it for anything except laundry.

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March 15, 20160 found this helpful

Simple. I use them for hand towels in the kitchen.

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March 20, 20161 found this helpful

I enjoy seeing how other people use old items. These are great uses, some of which I had not thought about. We don't like to use paper towels either, so I cut some towels in smaller sections for small jobs. I keep some upstairs and down - all within easy reach. I recently commented to hubby about how much money we had saved by using cloths (rags) instead of paper towels over a number of years.


I keep a basket on the kitchen counter of small white cloths that I wash again and again. Those are for "clean" wipes and the colored or discolored towels are for the "dirty" jobs.

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March 21, 20161 found this helpful

I cut them into smaller pieces, depending on their original size, hem them, and make napkins out of them. We never waste money on paper napkins and there is always room for them in the wash.

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April 21, 20200 found this helpful

If the old towels have holes in them, I cut them into 6-8" squares and use them to wipe up spills, counters, etc. I add them to the laundry and re-use over and over. During this coronavirus, we have used more paper towels in these few months than we have in several years.


It makes me feel good to not use paper towels or napkins most of the time. It saves money and is good for the environment. Both big pluses for me.

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April 26, 20202 found this helpful

I buy tea towels from all the countries I have visited and sew them into large picnic table cloths... makes a great conversation starter...

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April 27, 20201 found this helpful

That's a great idea. I'd love to see a photo of it. :)

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April 27, 20200 found this helpful

I read that tea towels are 96% effective as COVID-19 face masks, (that's 96% of your particles you will not expose others to). I made face masks for my family and they look and work great! I used Brittany Bailey's pattern and they fit great:

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May 8, 20220 found this helpful

It's terrific to see all the people who make a point of minimizing waste (paper towels and plastics).

My old tea towels, especially the more thread-bare ones, are terrific in removing excess moisture from riced cauliflower. I simply line the colander with an old tea towels, pour in the cooked, riced cauliflower, leave it a few minutes to cool then bring the ends together and squeeze out the water.

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