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The Best Kitchen Towels to Sling Over Your Shoulder

Antoni would be proud 

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Williams Sonoma Logo Towel (left); Ikea Elly Towel (right)

If you’ve been watching Netflix’s Queer Eye since day one, you know that food and wine guy Antoni Porowski has a longstanding passion for one thing. No, it’s not avocados (but can this joke die already?) — it’s kitchen towels. On nearly every episode, when it’s Antoni’s turn to work his magic, he enters the room with a neatly folded kitchen towel over one of his neatly sculpted shoulders.

On the season one premiere, Antoni appears with a thick, navy towel draped over his shoulder as he teaches “redneck margarita”-lover and now fan-favorite Tom Jackson how to make guacamole.

Season four, which premiered on Netflix earlier this summer, has only upped the towel game for Antoni, who casually drapes everything from Williams Sonoma to Ikea on the show. In the opener, while making blue potatoes and queso, he tells a group of students at Quincy Senior High School that a kitchen towel is “obligatory” so “you can wipe your hands,” before passing a stack of folded cotton around the room. Makes sense.

Antoni’s love of towels isn’t just for the Queer Eye cameras. In 2017, nearly one year before Netflix blessed the world with the Queer Eye reboot, Antoni shared his love for kitchen towels on Instagram. “A grown man’s safety blanket,” he wrote at the time. “As a bebe I cried and snotted all over ‘em. As a man-child they sweep up soup, sauces and spills. Oh, blanket, my blanket.”

Cut to 2019, Antoni is the unofficial spokesperson for kitchen towels, and viewers have taken notice. To no one’s surprise, the cover of Antoni’s first-ever cookbook, Antoni in the Kitchen, even features the chef and TV personality posing with a blue-and-white kitchen towel. And if you preorder a signed copy of the book, you are gifted with, yes, a custom towel featuring an Antoni quote. Genius!

If you don’t already have your own safety blanket in the kitchen, consider these options. And please, wash them often (bacteria’s no joke).

When you just want to wipe your hands

No stranger to almost every starter home, Ikea’s Elly towels are simple, easy-to-clean, and most of all, hard to resist when you’re strolling through Ikea for other items like bed sheets and storage bins. The bigger question is, are you team blue or team green? At $3.99 per pack, just get both.

When the towel is part of your dinner party aesthetic

Williams Sonoma Logo towels come in 10 colors, but if you want to be like Antoni on season 4, episode 3 of Queer Eye, “Stoner Skates By”, go with the bright blue. (Seriously, it makes flipping a pancake look that much cooler.) The set of four is made from 100 percent Turkish cotton, which means they actually get the job done should any spillage happen between the time you greet your dinner party guests and the time you bring out the showstopper.

A blue polka dot towel, a stack of white towels, and three high piles of white towels with a blue stripe
Skoy Kitchen Towel (left); Williams Sonoma All Purpose Pantry Towel (center); Zeppoli Classic White Kitchen Towels (right)

When you want to be eco-friendly

Look, you’re already decreasing your carbon footprint by using a kitchen towel over a paper towel, but if you really want to kick things up a notch, try this popular Swedish brand that uses 100 percent recycled material to make its towels. Most of the Amazon reviews rave about how good the towel is at drying (both drying dishes and self-drying in between uses). It’s on the pricier side, as you’re paying around $13 for one towel but, according to the reviews, the investment is worth it.

When you need a towel that can do it all

For the second year in a row, the folks at Wirecutter have crowned this Williams Sonoma product the best of the best, thanks to its size, durability, and the fact that it has looped cotton on one side and a waffle weave on the other. It’s “thirsty,” according to the New York Times review site. In this case, that’s a good thing: absorption is key for both spills and drying dishes. The four-pack comes in a variety of colors, so go bold and bid all of your messes adieu.

When you want to stock up and never think about kitchen towels again

Unless you’re hosting the same people for dinner every day or you’re the food and wine person on Queer Eye, there’s no need to have a variety of kitchen towels at your disposal. That’s why the 15-pack of Zeppoli towels is so great. They were endorsed by Bon Appetit last summer as towels that would “make your life better,” both for their absorbency and the fact that they’re so inexpensive, you can designate some as cloth napkins for your dinner guests.

A floral towel and a pink and blue striped towel
Anthropologie Jade Dish Towel (left); Anthropologie Kontex Linen50 Towel (right)

When you’ve run out of gift ideas

Whether it’s a birthday or a housewarming soiree, you can’t go wrong with giving someone a piece of decor that’s also entirely functional. Careful, you might catch yourself staring at the bright pattern on this Anthropologie towel long enough to convince yourself, I deserve this towel, too.

When you’re looking to splurge

All you need to know about Anthropologie’s Kontex Linen50 towels, made from a soft cotton-linen blend, is that they hail from Imabari, the Japanese city that prides itself on making towels using a slow-loom process that dates back more than 200 years. The technique makes them lightweight but super absorbent.

a white dish towel with dogs on it and a blue and white towel with the word “Buckinham”
Fishs Eddy Dog Dish Towel (left); Buckingham Palace Blue Waffle Tea Towel (right)

When you need to show your allegiance to Team Dog

Fishs Eddy, New York City’s most whimsical kitchen store, is a treasure trove when it comes to towels. Skylines? Check. Bridges? You bet. To show your four-legged best friend that your love extends to your kitchen decor, pick up this Fishs Eddy original, which features various pups in the middle of commands like “shake,” “sit,” and “play dead.” Not to worry, members of Team Cat, Fishs Eddy’s got you covered too.

When you don’t actually intend to use your towel (because it would be a shame to get it dirty)

This category encompasses many styles: a vintage towel handed down from your great grandmother; a collector’s item featuring a classic landscape of the American West; a towel you picked up three years ago from the airport in Halifax simply because it had a cute pug on it. If I were to add to this collection of Towels to Own But Never Use, my next purchase would be something related to the British royal family. Sadly, I missed out on the Meghan and Harry towels that were released in 2018 for their wedding, but this blue waffle towel with the words “Buckingham Palace” seems just lovely.

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