Jump to content


Welcome to the eG Forums!

These forums are a service of the Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, a 501c3 nonprofit organization dedicated to advancement of the culinary arts. Anyone can read the forums, however if you would like to participate in active discussions please join the Society.

Photo

The Towel Thread


  • Please log in to reply
18 replies to this topic

#1 IndyRob

IndyRob
  • participating member
  • 854 posts

Posted 02 February 2013 - 04:16 PM

I would really like to use fewer paper towels.

But my family has always seemed to use them for just about everything. Oh sure, there have always been some dish towels around, but they've been used primarily for drying clean dishes.

The thing is, I don't know anything about the care and feeding of kitchen towels. Towels are mentioned at least twice in the current Essential Kitchen Tools topic and Anthony Bourdain counts a stack of towels as an absolute necessity prior to service. In my home kitchen, that seems like a nice luxury but how can I manage all these towels?

For instance, America's Test Kitchen had a segment on spinach lasagna. They used some frozen spinach and squeezed the water out with a dish towel giving them some spinach flavored water, some drained spinach, and a (newly) green towel. They didn't tell me what to do with the towel. It seems like I'd need to rush it to the washing machine.

And while the greening of a towel might be a nuisance, towels used to wipe down a butcher block that has been used for, well, butchering, might present a more significant health hazard if not dealt with properly.

So how do you treat towels in your kitchen? Do I need a kitchen towel hamper? Do I need to segregate towels by use?


#2 DiggingDogFarm

DiggingDogFarm
  • participating member
  • 1,108 posts
  • Location:Finger Lakes Region of New York State

Posted 02 February 2013 - 05:48 PM

We use mostly bar mops around the kitchen.

For direct contact with food we use organic cotton diapers or organic unbleached muslin (preferred for straining and the like.)
If there's a chance of them getting nasty or staining I wash them out immediately with OxiClean, by hand, in the sink.

By using "choose-a-size" type paper towels and the cloth towels mentioned above, we've cut our paper towel use considerably.
I dry and save any used paper towels that aren't nasty for future cleaning jobs.

HTH

~Martin
  • Shel_B likes this

~Martin
 
Unsupervised rebellious radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, self-reliant homesteader and adventurous cook. Crotchety cantankerous terse curmudgeon, nonconformist and contrarian who questions everything!
 


#3 weinoo

weinoo
  • eGullet Society staff emeritus
  • 6,557 posts
  • Location:NYC

Posted 03 February 2013 - 06:32 AM

Yeah, I go by simply what the towel is to be or has been used for.

For drying poultry or anything that might need to go into a hot frying pan, it's paper towels. For drying dishes, side towels. After I've rinsed and spun lettuce, it goes onto a large, clean cotton dish towel, which gets rolled up, put into a plastic bag and stored in the crisper drawer of the fridge. If I've rinsed, say, berries or cherry tomatoes, they get drained and dried via paper towels - which can often be reused.

For hands, often it's paper towels, because I believe they're a more sanitary solution.

And I always have 2 dry side towels at hand or hanging over the handle of the door on my oven to use as pot holders.
Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"
mweinstein@eGstaff.org
Tasty Travails - My Blog
My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs
Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

#4 thock

thock
  • participating member
  • 291 posts

Posted 03 February 2013 - 12:39 PM

I use cut-up old t-shirts for nasty messes, and then rinse and let dry. I store them in a pile on the laundry room floor (need to get a bucket) until I have enough of those and the t-shirt parts I use for general cleaning to make a washer load. I wash those on hot with Zote and sodium percarbonate (generic oxygen bleach bought in bulk).

I use cut-up cotton sheets for covering bread dough and other stuff.

I use kitchen towels for hand and dish drying only, until they're wet, and then sometimes I run them over the counter before relegating them to the laundry room in a separate pile until I have enough to launder at once. Same with dish cloths. I don't typically wipe seriously dirty countertops with dish towels, but I do use them to wipe up just water or to wipe up after cleaning with a dishrag or a green scrubby.

If I have to drain or strain anything that makes a stain, I rinse whatever I used to drain or strain in the sink in cold to lukewarm water, sometimes using Dawn.

For those items that are exposed to oil or grease, I keep them separated from everything else. They rarely go through the washing machine, but I do heat them up in my water bath canner, on the stove, with some Dawn. That gets rid of a lot of the oil or grease, and I do that several times before finally hanging them to dry. I reuse these for anything oily or greasy (mostly wiping up spills, etc.).

I do use linen napkins bought from the thrift store, or the aforementioned t-shirt or sheet bits, to dry off meat of any variety. Those get put in with the other t-shirt rags for laundering after they've dried.

I use potholders, as opposed to side towels for dealing with hot stuff. That's what I'm used to, so that's what I do.

So, in short, I have three different types of kitchen linen care methods: 1) towels, dishrags, and those t-shirt and sheet bits used for non-staining things; 2) cut up t-shirts used for nasty, dirty messes (like cleaning up non-greasy spills of anything) or for general cleaning of the house; and 3) rags that get greasy. I keep these three types separated, and I never wash 2 or 3 with anything else. I sometimes do mix 1 with other household linens (hankies and bath linens).
Tracy
Lenexa, KS, USA

#5 annabelle

annabelle
  • participating member
  • 1,957 posts
  • Location:Grand Lake o' the Cherokees, Oklahoma

Posted 03 February 2013 - 02:35 PM

I have a bale of kitchen towels. Bar mops for wiping down countertops, cotton towels for drying hand-washed dishes. Flour sack towels (20 for $10 at the farm supply store) for a light drape over cooling cake layers and covering cooked rice that is done in the rice cooker, but is still steaming while being held for service. I use them for roling and storing salad greens from the garden, as well. I also have yards and yards of cheesecloth for squeezing lemons (no seeds) and spinach to remove maximum water. I have a jelly bag for making clear jellies and Greek yogurt. Cloth diapers as mentioned above are fantastic rags for cleaning, but I use them for polishing furniture and window glass, not in the kitchen. Paper towels are used for blotting bacon, draining sliced tomatoes and cukes. I use brown paper bags for fried items like chicken, fish, tempura and fries.

I also have plain cotton towels that are striped and hang on the towel bar of my butcher's block island. These are mainly decorative, but sometimes get used for hand drying and then tossed in the hamper.

Edited by annabelle, 03 February 2013 - 02:37 PM.


#6 lindag

lindag
  • participating member
  • 405 posts
  • Location:W. Montana

Posted 04 February 2013 - 07:33 AM

I have three cloth towels in the kitchen, two microfiber and one cotton. One m/f hangs on the oven door and is for counter tops, appliances wipe-offs and the like, one m/f hangs on the dw handle and is for hands. The cotton towel is folded and lies on top of the Foodsaver and is for dishes (it gets hung up to dry, then folded).
Paper towels are used for food and anything particularly messy.

#7 HungryC

HungryC
  • participating member
  • 1,503 posts
  • Location:greater New Orleans

Posted 04 February 2013 - 07:57 AM

I have an entire drawerful of kitchen towels....some are smooth linen (for covering bread or under a rising loaf), others are terry (drying dishes or clean hands, and a new, fresh one is set out every day), the "pretty" tea towels, and others are just a few steps above rags for gross stuff like wiping up floor spills, etc. All are machine washed in hot w/a little bleach--the same treatment I give to my bath towels & sheets (all white, so it makes life easier).

For completely disgusting things (drying the inside of a whole chicken, draining fried foods), I use paper towels.
  • Okanagancook likes this

#8 Baselerd

Baselerd
  • participating member
  • 463 posts
  • Location:Texas

Posted 04 February 2013 - 08:07 AM

Just keep in mind the one of the most common sources of food contamination in the kitchen is the kitchen towel.

#9 dcarch

dcarch
  • participating member
  • 2,613 posts

Posted 04 February 2013 - 08:29 AM

Shop towels are cheap from Home Depot.

They are 12" x 12" cotton, durable (15 years?) and very absorbent.

I bought 50 pink ones for dirty wipes, 50 white ones for clean wipes.

It is a pleasure to have lots and lots of towels in the kitchen. When they get dirty just throw them in with the laundries.

Or, quick rinse in the sink and microwave to dry/sanitize.

dcarch

Edited by dcarch, 04 February 2013 - 08:52 AM.

  • Okanagancook likes this

#10 radtek

radtek
  • participating member
  • 291 posts
  • Location:San Antonio, Texas

Posted 07 February 2013 - 09:09 AM

I happen to have unlimited access to 100% cotton surgical towels so haven't used or bought paper towels in 7 years. They are basically an extremely high-quality shop towel. The used towels go into a bucket in the garage until enough collect to do a load of laundry. When they get too worn a towel gets demoted to work such as cleaning automotive grease, paint drips etc- something that renders it unusable, and is then thrown away.

Maybe I have too many, but luckily these towels are one use when contamination issues arise. Handle some chicken... it goes in the bucket and grab a new towel. After washing hands of course. :rolleyes:

If you have a friend that works in a hospital see if they can get you a stack- often they are thrown away without even being used. Or surgical towels can be readily found online. The same goes with surgical sponges, which unlike their misleading name are basically a doubled layer of cheese-cloth. I use them for lining strainers, making cheese, cleaning windows etc...

#11 PSmith

PSmith
  • participating member
  • 170 posts
  • Location:England

Posted 07 February 2013 - 12:47 PM

I use linen "tea" towels for drying dishes. The only thing that gets dried with a paper towel is the wok.

For wiping up spills, I use microfibre cloths. These get washed in the machine and occasionally soaked in bleach prior to a wash if they have got especially dirty.

Microfibre cloths have become an essential in our house. We buy a pack of different colours which get used on different surfaces, one for the floor, one for the bathroom etc.

http://www.thecriticalcouple.co.uk

Latest blog post - Oh my - someone needs a spell checker


#12 thock

thock
  • participating member
  • 291 posts

Posted 07 February 2013 - 03:47 PM

I have some microfiber stuff, but I don't use it in the kitchen. I hate microfiber. It sticks to my hands, and sends chills up and down my spine. I DO, however, have some fake chamois that I got from Target, and use that for floor spills. It stays on the floor until I'm done with it, and I use my foot to move it around (I go barefoot). I also have a piece of one of those viscose "campiing" towels for the same purpose. It works better, frankly, because it soaks up liquids much better. It, too, lives on the floor between launderings. Those get washed with the "nasty" rags. I hate touching the viscose camp towel because of the aforementioned tactile issues, but it is really handy when I've slopped something on the floor, and can't be interrupted to wash my hands, clean it up, wash my hands, again, etc. I just use my foot, and voila, it's no longer as wet.
Tracy
Lenexa, KS, USA

#13 IndyRob

IndyRob
  • participating member
  • 854 posts

Posted 07 February 2013 - 04:06 PM

I happen to have unlimited access to 100% cotton surgical towels so haven't used or bought paper towels in 7 years. They are basically an extremely high-quality shop towel. The used towels go into a bucket in the garage until enough collect to do a load of laundry. When they get too worn a towel gets demoted to work such as cleaning automotive grease, paint drips etc- something that renders it unusable, and is then thrown away.

Maybe I have too many, but luckily these towels are one use when contamination issues arise. Handle some chicken... it goes in the bucket and grab a new towel. After washing hands of course. :rolleyes:

If you have a friend that works in a hospital see if they can get you a stack- often they are thrown away without even being used. Or surgical towels can be readily found online. The same goes with surgical sponges, which unlike their misleading name are basically a doubled layer of cheese-cloth. I use them for lining strainers, making cheese, cleaning windows etc...


I think this most accurately describes my goal state, although next time I'm near a Home Depot I think I'll check out dcarch's suggestion for towels. The door to my garage is literally one step from my kitchen trash can, so if I could hang a container right inside on the wall it would be very convenient.

I think I'll continue to use the paper towels for raw meat juice and the like.

#14 Porthos

Porthos
  • participating member
  • 1,202 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 07 February 2013 - 04:44 PM

Just keep in mind the one of the most common sources of food contamination in the kitchen is the kitchen towel.

Which is why I'm a dedicated paper towel user. There are some uses for cloth towels and I do own some but paper towels are my mainstay.

Porthos Potwatcher
The Unrelenting Carnivore
"If every pork chop was perfect, we wouldn't have hot dogs." (source unknown)
Customer to clerk in a clothing store, "Do you have these in a size for people who actually eat?"


#15 thock

thock
  • participating member
  • 291 posts

Posted 08 February 2013 - 04:21 PM

If you have a large-enough quantity of cheap cloth towels, such that you can throw them in a bin for washing, that pretty much eliminates the need for paper towels, IMO. However, each person has his or her own way of dealing with things. To me, it's preferable to have a large supply of renewable-by-me resources, rather than to eat up the trees.

I found this interesting. I'm not sure how accurate it is, but it does give pause for thought. In the end, it's really down to what makes more sense to the user. In my case, I've got a nearly endless supply of t-shirts that I can easily cut up in front of the TV as my supply dwindles. I don't need to worry if I "ruin" one of those rags with really nasty stuff, and I'm not spending money on replenishing my supply of paper towels. Right now, cash flow is a serious issue for me, so that makes more sense. I don't think it would change, though, if I were swimming in money.
  • Shel_B likes this
Tracy
Lenexa, KS, USA

#16 Shel_B

Shel_B
  • participating member
  • 2,738 posts
  • Location:San Francisco Bay Area

Posted 18 March 2014 - 11:56 PM

For direct contact with food we use organic cotton diapers or organic unbleached muslin (preferred for straining and the like.)
 

 

Where do you get the unbleached muslin, and what should I look for (thickness, size, thread count, material) when buying such towels?


.... Shel


#17 Porthos

Porthos
  • participating member
  • 1,202 posts
  • Location:Southern California

Posted 19 March 2014 - 08:00 AM

JoAnns Fabrics stocks unbleached muslin, which by definition is cotton. I have only ever seen one weight. I am in JoAnns with my Sweetie often and I did double-check with her before answering.


  • Shel_B likes this

Porthos Potwatcher
The Unrelenting Carnivore
"If every pork chop was perfect, we wouldn't have hot dogs." (source unknown)
Customer to clerk in a clothing store, "Do you have these in a size for people who actually eat?"


#18 Shel_B

Shel_B
  • participating member
  • 2,738 posts
  • Location:San Francisco Bay Area

Posted 19 March 2014 - 08:58 AM

JoAnns Fabrics stocks unbleached muslin, which by definition is cotton. I have only ever seen one weight. I am in JoAnns with my Sweetie often and I did double-check with her before answering.

 

I checked at JoAnn's site, and the muslin they have is perfect for my needs.  The description addressed all my questions.  Thanks so much for the suggestion.

 

BTW, JoAnn has a 40% off coupon thru Saturday, March 22nd.  It can be used in store or on line ... those interested should check the website:  http://www.joann.com...CFY1xOgodfSsA9w


.... Shel


#19 Lindacakes

Lindacakes
  • participating member
  • 930 posts
  • Location:Brooklyn, New York

Posted 26 March 2014 - 11:40 AM

I use both cotton dish towels and paper towels.

 

I have a large amount of dish towels.  I take care of them and never throw them away, so they match my historical kitchens.  Mostly I use them to dry dishes.

 

I buy paper towels at Costco and use way too many.  I try to assuage my guilt by using the used kitchen paper towels to clean.  This is anal but it works really well for me -- if I use a paper towel to do something like drain washed vegetables, then I take the used paper towel and use it to clean the kitchen window sill.  Or wipe out the bathtub, etc.  

 

I try to think of something to clean before I throw it out.  The net result of this is that I rarely have to make a point of cleaning.  It gets done all the time a few wipes at a time.


I like to bake nice things. And then I eat them. Then I can bake some more.