April 16, 2024


Design with distinction

Best tea towels 2020: Printed designs on linen and cotton

Nobody likes doing the dishes, so we’ve had a hunt around to find some quirky cloths to help make it a less of a chore.  

From cool Nordic patterns to hand-painted arty masterpieces and screen-printed designs, a fun tea towel can inject a bit of personality into your kitchen without breaking the bank.  

We’ve rounded up our favourite finds, focusing on small, independent designers and retailers where possible, and with an eye on sustainability too.  

Choose from colourful cloths in classic cotton, understated unbleached linens, or get the job done fast with a microfibre. You wash, we’ll dry.

You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections. This revenue helps us to fund journalism across The Independent.

Arthouse Unlimited cotton tea towel angels of the deep

This beautiful coral, royal blue and white 100 per cent cotton tea towel is a collaborative effort from Arthouse Unlimited, a collective of artists living with complex epilepsy and learning disabilities. Each artist’s unique style has been brought together and showcased in this charming depiction of life on the coral reef. Tea towel measures 50cm x 75cm, has a good level of absorbency and is lightweight so dries quickly. 

Poppy Treffry bee friendly tea towel

Create a buzz with this bee friendly tea towel from small Cornish design company Poppy Treffry. At 50cm x 80cm of unbleached, organic cotton hand stitched and printed locally, this cloth acts as a guide for bee-friendly flower choices for your garden and the hand drawn bee, chive flowers and fox gloves mean is lovely to look at too. It is a bit thicker than most of the cotton towels we tried, which makes for a slightly speedier drying up session. 

Stuart Gardiner chilli peppers of the world tea towel

Spice up your life with this informative and bright infographic of a tea towel featuring 49 varieties of chilli from the husband and wife team behind Stuart Gardiner Design. Coming in at a respectable 76cm x 48cm, discover different chilli uses, flavour profiles, heat ratings and origination of chilli peppers around the world on ethically sourced 100 per cent cotton at a standard thickness, all designed, manufactured and hand finished in Britain.

Victoria Eggs Handmade cockney rhyming slang tea towel

Artist Victoria Eggs celebrates British nostalgia in her designs and we particularly like this screenprinted typographic tea towel. Featuring Cockney rhyming slang in teal and charcoal on unbleached 100 per cent cotton, it’s 48cm x 76cm gives decent absorbency without shedding fibres and is handmade in Lincolnshire, can you Adam and Eve it?

E-towel microfibre classic check tea towel

It’s perhaps not the most fun looking of tea towels, but the selling point of this microfibre E-towel is that it dries in just one wipe – and it does. The brand claims the polyester and cotton blend fabric is four times more absorbent than plain cotton, and it can be washed at up to 90C which is arguably more hygienic than the 30C to 40C temperatures most cotton designs can withstand. 

Perkins & Morley collective noun wiggle of dachshunds tea towel

Language and animal lovers will enjoy the range cloths from the collective noun range. We’ve plumped for the wiggle of dachshunds with an illustration by Jan Morley – because who doesn’t appreciate a sausage dog? But it was a close-run thing considering the nuzzle of golden retrievers and circus of puffins. Hand screen printed on 48cm x 76cm of unbleached cotton in north Yorkshire, the designs are drawn in black with a choice of brightly coloured wording. It’s a standard thickness towel that does its job well without shedding. 

Zoe Glencross pacific tea towel

Cheshire-based designer Zoe Glencross’s pacific fabric collection is inspired by skies and wildlife and features stark, cool blue-black designs on plain cotton tea towels for a stylish Nordic look. The cotton used is one of the thickest we tried and made in the UK; size-wise it comes in at 46cm x 70cm and its contemporary design will look great in almost any neutral kitchen, which makes quick work of wet dishes and gives glassware a sparkling finish.  Each online order means a tree will be planted too.

Norfolk Natural Living linen cleaning cloth

Made by hand in a Norfolk workshop, this is an eco-friendly and sustainable multi-purpose supersized (62cm x 84cm) linen cloth made to last – choose in place of a sponge or use for drying up the dishes. This thick and very absorbent cloth won’t leave fluff or fibres on your dishes and can withstand heavy use – just rinse and leave to dry between uses.

Monique Lucas parrot tea towel

Monique Lucas designs all use the coast as a jumping off point – from the muted blues of the Isle of Wight to more tropical Floridian landscapes with a dose of Singapore island-life thrown in for good measure. We think this whimsical yet vibrant repeating parrot design in tones of blue and violet, hand-drawn on 46cm x 70cm medium thickness 100 per cent cotton, is delightful, chic and dries up well without leaving fluffy fibres over your wine glasses. 

Ella Doran wood grain blue and grey tea towel set of 2

This pair of wood effect tea towels are typical of award-winning designer Ella Doran’s eye for nature’s own graphics and her keenness of colour; both feature a lifelike wood grain handmade and printed on to 48cm x 67cm , crisp white linen cloth slightly above average thickness. We love the depth of colour in the azure blue cloth, while the neutral grey will go in any kitchen – but the neon orange stitching (on both) is what really makes these stand out from the crowd.

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