switching to linen towels

by | Feb 11, 2020 | All Things Home, Decorating, Organizing | 53 comments

I have quite a hoard of linen towels, both new and antique.  There is just something irresistible to me about linen.  For the most part, though, those beautiful towels have sat in stacks.  I approached them with the mindset that they were somehow too precious to actually use.  I am pretty regularly preaching that you should use the things you love daily instead of saving them for special occasions, but the idea of stains and frays on my pretty linen towels was a deterrent.

Well, I finally gave myself a good talking-to and decided to use some antique linen towels in our half-bath.

Guess what?  They wash well, they are more absorbent than one would think, and they dry much quicker than terrycloth.

So, I decided to make the switch to using linen towels in the kitchen and see how that went.  They are so much thinner than terrycloth…would they really be absorbent enough for the constant use that happens in the kitchen?  I was going to try it and find out.

I have to admit that I wasn’t sold on the first day.  I just wasn’t used to the thinner linen and I wasn’t sure if I liked it.  I needed to give it a more honest try than one day, though, so I kept using them.  The more I used them, the more I liked them.  They’re surprisingly absorbant and they dry so fast!  They also take up a lot less space on the shelf under the sink.

The only problem I found is that they came out of the dryer in a wrinkled wad.  They weren’t just wrinkled, but they tightly bunched to the point that they resisted being folded or hung over the sink.

So, I learned how to care for linen towels.  I throw them in the washer and instead of putting them in the dryer, I’ll stretch them out between my hands…

Until they are relatively flat and smooth…

I’ll then hang them in the laundry room or over the backs of our stools to let them air dry.  This only takes an hour or two before they can be folded and put away.

It’s a small thing, but I’ve really enjoyed using my linen towels every day.  I mostly use new ones, but I throw some vintage and antique ones in the rotation, too.  And, if they get stains or holes, then that happens while they are being used and enjoyed and that’s the whole point of having things in my house in the first place!

The best part about linen is that it gets better and softer with each use and wash.  I like things that age well, don’t you?

Any other linen towel users out there?

THESE are my favorite linen towels that are featured in this post.  You can find other colors and sets HERE.


  1. Lisa P

    Glad you have found a new way to enjoy your linen treasures! I agree that, for some reason, using a linen towel add pleasure to an everyday task!

    I also have several pieces of unbleached linen that were woven from flax at my great grandparents’ farm in Finland. So far, they are still tucked away in my fabric stash but one of these days I will pull them out and make them into something–pillow covers, cafe curtains?

    And then there is all that great linen clothing you have shown us– timeless and beautiful!

  2. Cyndi

    I don’t care for terry cloth kitchen towels. I Much prefer the ones that are cotton or linen blend. I agree that they dry quicker than terry.

  3. Sally

    I love to use what they call flour sack towels. They’re my favorite.

    • Rebecca M

      Yes, I also use flour sack towels. I love them and they’re huge too!

  4. Kathryn Dawson

    I have an embarrassingly large stash of vintage damask dinner napkins. I have found they make the absolute best towels for drying glassware without leaving lint or smudges. When I find that one of my napkins has a stain or hole, I pull it out of rotation as a napkin and put it into use as a dish towel for glassware. My wine glasses have never looked so sparkling clean!

  5. Mel Donat

    Yes. I finally decided to start using my vintage linen towels a few months ago. They are for drying dishes only. Not for wiping up spills. Ha. They’ve been packed away in drawers for over 20 years. What the heck was I waiting for.
    Glad I’m not alone1

  6. beverlee lyons

    Tossed my terry ones, also. I use a heavy cotton, and love them. They dry better than linen, but if I had yours, I would use them also. They are beautiful!

  7. Linda Charlton

    I, too, love linen towels. I take it a step further and iron them. Love the starched look.

  8. Susan M Knight

    Yess!! I am so with you girls there! I have been looking for some too. Hate the terry cloth ones. Atually IKEA used to carry some very cheap but nice dishcloths, but they changed them and they do not dry or wash the same so that is out. I will certanly look at the link for new sources for them. Now just to keep my husband from using them as something to wipe up anything thath spills!

  9. Laura

    Here’s an even better trick for drying linen…put damp linen towels in the dryer for a few minutes until they are warm and steamy. Then proceed as you have, smoothing and stretching, before putting on a drying rack, chair back, or laundry line. They will almost appear to have been ironed. (This trick works for so many things…tshirts, jeans, pants, collared shirts. The warmth of the dryer makes the wrinkles fall away while hanging.) You can also lay them out flat on the top of the dryer, where the warmth will iron them for you.

    • Jan

      You’re so right! I’ve done the same for our favorite items of clothing and my vintage Irish linen dish cloths. Works so well!

  10. Mary Beth

    I have a few linen towels that I use for the dishes. What I do is when I wash them I take them out of the washer and give them a real good shake. Then I hang one or two together on a skirt hanger (comes with your clothes sometimes from the store) with the two gripper clips or cloths pins. Works wonderful and dry quickly and without many wrinkles.

  11. Jeanine

    Thanks for the washing and drying tip! I have a couple linen kitchen towels, but havent used them because they are a wrinkled mess. I will have to try your technic and give them another shot.

  12. judith

    Thank you for encouraging us to use what we have, Marian. I, too, love linen towels. I don’t put mine in the dryer. Straight out of the washer, I either hang to dry or immediately iron them.

  13. Stacey A

    I love flour sack towels too! They’re absorbent, fast drying, inexpensive, lint free and I can use bleach on them. I use them for drying dishes, cleaning glass (w vinegar and water), dampened with water for dusting, wet in one hand and dry in the other hand for polishing granite counters. They are a humble cotton alternative to the gorgeous linen ones in this post.

  14. Char

    Years ago I decided to use what I have – linen towels, crystal and china and inherited embroidered pillow cases. I get joy from knowing that I’m using these things the way they were meant to be used.

  15. Teddee Grace

    I love the way linen feels, but think I’d end up ironing them. The same reason I don’t wear linen.

  16. Suzy

    I switched from paper towels to flour sack towels a couple of years ago. I love them! I use them for everything I used to use paper for.
    I also switched from paper napkins to the stack of fabric napkins that I have been collecting from antique stores.
    I also like the damask napkin tip from Kathryn D above.

  17. Lynne

    I also hang my linen towels on a skirt hanger. Then fluff them in the dryer for a few minutes with a dryer softener sheet. Soft and ready to fold.
    Yes, there is joy in using a lovely, vintage dish towel!

  18. Rebecca M

    If I used those linen towels I’d have to iron them……yep, sad but true!🤣😂

  19. Louise

    I not only use linen or cotton towels but I also use linen or cotton napkins. I wash and either lay out flat or hang to dry. I find the more they are washed the less wrinkles they produce and napkins can be put in dryer after many washings. I still take out of dryer and fold and stack them right a way which usually smooth out the rest of the wrinkles. Love using cloth instead of paper!

  20. Pamela K. Fontenot

    linen bath towels are very nice, too!

  21. Ana María

    Several years ago, after a cancer scare, I decided to start using all my treasures. What was I waiting for? So now I use linen towels in the kitchen and also in my bathrooms. I use my vintage and antique embroidered bed linens. I also use my crystal and all my Quimper dishes and serving pieces. I find unused vintage pieces on eBay and Etsy and I wonder at the women who saved them “for a special day”, but pases away and never enjoyed them.

    • Kim

      Now THAT is something for everyone to ponder and take to heart!

  22. Leslie B.

    I’ve used vintage linen dish towels for at least the past 20 years- no holes yet! I hang them outside to dry with the rest of my laundry, and they come off the clothesline wrinkle free!

  23. Mary

    Thank you so much for the tip Marian!!! Before Christmas, I sewed up a stack of linen towels for myself, my daughter, and my daughter-in-law. They look exactly like yours from Linen Bee–must have the same source for the material. Well…I ended up not giving them to the girls because they were wrinkled balls when I washed and dried them. I ironed them and they have been sitting in my cupboard. But I knew that with babies and toddlers, my busy moms/girls would not be into ironing towels. Definitely going to try the wash and stretch method because they are really so nice🤗

  24. Janice

    Only use the linen towels for drying crystal but they have to be ironed! Think they do a better job of they are smooth.

  25. Shelly

    I grew up with my Mother using only linen towels for dish drying. She used linen because they did not leave lint on her drinking glasses. I loved going with her to buy bolts of linen from the Amish at their store. She would buy several yards of white linen that had stripes down both edges. It came in blue,green, yellow or red stripes. She would then cut slightly longer than towel size pieces, hem each end and would have a big stack of beautiful linen kitchen towels. She would then share them with her Mother and Sister. When they showed signs of wear, they became great rags to do window cleaning with. I have a few saved back, just to look at. They are irreplaceable.

  26. Kathy

    I hoard vintage huck towels. They are stitched in various colors in a Norwegian like pattern. I find them at flea markets and garage sales. So gorgeous! To think the work ladies did to make a utilitarian object beautiful.

  27. Pat

    I love linen towel!
    I used those with a small hole for my cleaning rags!
    We still have both, as the terry cloth towels are used for hand drying at the kitchen sink.
    I agree, they do take a bit more care in our modern world.
    Hanging on the line in the days of our ancestors and the refreshing smell is heavenly!
    Always inspiring post from Miss Mustard Seed!

  28. Terry

    OMG what a trip down memory lane. We always used linen when I was a kid, Mom ironed them along with all our sheets on the “Mangle” a roller ironer that took up a huge area in the kitchen. Sure made quick work of anything flat.

  29. SueA

    My grandma bought a linen calendar towel from the Church every year. When I saw them in the packed boxes when the house was sold I took them home. There were only 6 by then but what joy to use them! They are the absolute BEST for wrapping washed greens in! Never any trouble with wadding or wrinkling. Now I buy linen calendar towels and give them for Christmas gifts to my siblings. They love them.

  30. Gwen

    Where do you get “flour sacks?”

    • Nancy L Janssen

      Gwen, Target carries flour sack towels. I love them!

    • Trudy

      Also Vermont Country Store has them for very reasonable prices.

  31. Lisa

    I too, love linen towels and have used them for years. I must confess that I iron them. I must also confess that I iron my pillowcases and the top third of my flat sheets.So nice and smooth when you make the bed of fresh!

  32. Robin

    Well I admit also to saving my beauties and not wanting to use them. But what am I saving them for. I’m using my favorite China daily and my good glassware too…. so might as well enjoy my good linens 🤗

  33. Julie

    I love to use linen towels. Rather than drying then in the dryer, when I take them out of the washer I give them a good shake to release as many wrinkles as possible and then hang them to dry in my laundry room. A skirt/pant clip hanger works nicely. A simple white plastic hanger with the towel hung over it works great too. I buy old/used linen towels when ever I see them at garage sales or thrift shops. When I bring lettuce home from the grocery, I rinse it and lay it in a linen towel and then put the towel in a plastic bag. Or when I’m making a large salad, I line my wooden bowl with a linen towel then place all the lettuces and veggies on top of the towel. Don’t dress the salad just yet. Take the towel out of the bowl and gingerly wrap the towel around the salad. Secure it with a rubber band and place it in the fridge for serving later. It takes up so much less space without the bowl, especially when prepping for a party and fridge space is a premium. And nothing beats drying crystal with a linen towel. Knowing I am using something so natural in todays 21st century makes my heart smile.

  34. Carrie

    I also use flour sack towels—sometimes I’ll add embroidery or a painted design. Nothing like them. I use linen towels in the bath and wouldn’t go back to cotton towels.

    Please don’t hang damp towels over your wooden chair backs. Even if only slightly damp, over time, the finish on the chairs will deteriorate and the lacquer will break down and crinkle.

    • Miss Mustard Seed

      Those stools are actually unfinished, so I don’t need to worry about messing up a finish. I typically dry them over the hanging rail in my laundry room, but this made for a better picture! I will sometimes hang them there if I’m drying a lot at one time.

  35. Mary

    I use linen for many things, including kitchen towels, pillowcases, large bath sheets, table runners, slacks and shirts, etc. My husband and I especially like it on our boat as the towels take up very little storage space, dry quickly, are anti-bacterial, and offer protection against solar radiation. He likes the bath sheets so much that he has replaced his terry ones at home with the linen ones. When I sort the laundry it is easy to tell the difference in the ones for the boat and the ones for home because I used a different color in making them. The older towels have a wonderful look that is missing in the newer versions, but by embroidering our initials on the bath sheets they have almost a “vintage” look. Another advantage of the embroidery on the boat is that we can tell whose towel it is! I do admit to ironing them at home, but when we are cruising we leave them wrinkled.

    • Nora

      Where do you find linen bath towels ?? We have a boat and the regular towels take up so much space. I love the idea of these space saving towels you wrote about. Thank you.

  36. Sandy

    I can’t pass by a linen towel or napkin at estate or thrift stores. Even better if they’re embroidered! I use them everyday and love the elegant, slightly rumpled look of them.

  37. Hannah

    Yes! I love linen, and am so happy you are using your towels! I even love linen with wrinkles.

  38. Mary

    Nora, I made my own towels. I bought 7 yards of fabric on the internet from fabrics-store.com., pre-washed it several times to shrink it, and used the width of fabric (56 inches I think) as the length of the towel, and cut each one about 45 inches. That gave me enough fabric to make 5 towels (two for each of us, and one to wipe the floor when we showered) and some extra to straighten the grain. I still had a little left, which I’ve since used for other things. It is not only thin, unlike terry towels, but the real deciding point was that it was anti-bacterial. In such close quarters, germs can ruin your day! I used a heavier weight linen, 4C 22, in a natural color, and embroidered them with our individual initials using grey embroidery thread. I chose to miter the 4 corners, and so far they are holding up well. Good luck if you decide to make them. It was an easy project, and SO much cheaper than buying linen towels in the store.

    • Peggy

      I was going to mention fabrics-store.com. They have 19” wide linen with stripes in a few colors, including blue.

  39. Ali Phillips

    Linen is also one of the lowest lint carriers of all fabrics, making it perfect for drying dishes and especially glasses. Window cleaners love them, as do car detailers. x Ali

  40. Jean M Clayton

    I took an old stained linen tablecloth and cut it up. Now my fav dish towels. I didn’t even hem them!

  41. jenw

    Thanks for the care tips! I have a set of linen towels (supposedly vintage, but I wonder. It doesn’t matter, I love them!) but rarely get them out because of the wrinkled mess they are. I’ll try line drying them next time! I don’t need them wrinkle-free, but they do need to be usable.

    I will say that I used to just leave those towels nicely ironed on the shelf. Saving them. Your blog actually inspired me to just start using them months ago!

  42. MaeBelleMary

    Love, love linen towels! I use linen in the kitchen, dining napkins and as well as for bathing towels. Once you start using linen after bathing or showering, you’ll never go back. Especially for hair towels, they are very absorbent and are gentle on your hair. I also have linen sheets, being a women over 50, what a difference it makes.

  43. cherie

    I have to iron my linen hand towels! There’s something to ironing such a simple item that brings me pleasure. They look so crisp and loved. I also do my pillowcases and, on occasion, the top edge of the top sheet. Any way it’s looked at, we do what we like best and that makes us happy.

  44. bowles susan

    Linen tea towels were my beginning, and almost all had been hand embroidered by family. I too am usurping these family treasure heirlooms……no time like the present.What was I waiting for. I as well enjoy the ironing and the quick result of seeing a fine result.

  45. Donna McCann

    Back in the day they used to print calendars, the entire year, on linen, and hang them on little rods. I think they were for souvenirs. I find these calendars at GW and use them as tea towels. They work beautifully.


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Marian Parsons - Miss Mustard Seed

I’m Marian, aka Miss Mustard Seed, a wife, mother, paint enthusiast, lover of all things home and an entrepreneur, author, artist, designer, freelance writer & photographer.  READ MORE to learn more about me, my blog and my business…

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