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Article: The care and feeding of tea towels

The care and feeding of tea towels

The care and feeding of tea towels

So, here’s exciting. How do you take care of your recently purchased (from Home Landing, we hope) tea towels? You were listening when I said “Please buy some”?

Well, maybe exciting is a little bit strong but you invested in some pretty cotton or linen patches of cloth and you want them to last a little longer than err…. umm… something that doesn’t last very long – say the food in our cats’ dishes. I mean we’re not talking heirlooms here.

First off, remember to follow the washing instructions; they’re there for a reason. It is always recommended, just like towels and bedlinen, that you wash the item prior to use. Yeah, sure. However, do follow the washing instructions.

It’s all pretty simple. There’s 4 or 5 symbols on the care label that you need to translate and then each of these symbols has something added to it representing a temperature or a degree of gentleness or even a cross signifying “Do Not”.

Below is an example of washing instructions for a printed cotton tea towel.

Wash at around 40 degrees centigrade and make sure that you wash similar colours together. Washing at too high a temperature will also fade the colours. You need to start regarding your tea towels as articles of clothing. For sure, you would not wash a brand new white t-shirt with a pair of black jeans (unless you’re my partner who is reading this when – well just forget it!! His idea of a full-load is when he can’t close the door any more). Some manufactures also recommend that for any type of tea towel you do not actually need that much detergent, so don’t add too much soap.

Avoid bleaching; just as with clothing items, you don’t want any of those bleach spots on a brand new tea towel. You don’t want to fade those lovely designs either. And again, if you’re my partner, please stop splashing bleach on all the t-shirts that I buy for you. Sigh.

Avoid too much tumble drying. This one is slightly more difficult. Dumping a big mixture of assorted wet / damp laundry in the tumble dryer is the easiest thing to do. But seriously the use or over use of a tumble dryer can weaken the fibres and make your tea towel less absorbent. Have you looked at the amount of fluff that you clean out of your tumble dryer? (You, yes you -  I know you’re reading this, please find out where the fluff filter actually is). Just use the dryer sensibly, maybe just to take some of the initial wetness out of the tea towel.

Iron, yes, we all love ironing, well some of us actually do! Some of us don’t throw shirts that require ironing into the bin! The iron symbol here indicates that you can iron your tea towel on a medium heat. Two dots indicate up to a maximum of 150 degrees centigrade and it is always recommended to iron the tea towel on the reverse and to iron it whilst slightly damp (the tea towel, not you). Of course, if you’re American and are not used to all this new-fangled metric form of measurement, then the dots equate to “Cool/Low”, “Warm/Medium” and “Hot/High”.

Top Tip: Don’t ever try to smooth out a wrinkle on a t-shirt that you’re currently wearing. I’ve tried this twice and, strangely, burned myself both times. Maybe my skin needs a care label.

Finally, the last symbol indicates that you should not dry clean your tea towels.

I’m unsure why this symbol is here. I mean really? Who would chemically clean their dish cloths? Do they cart them off to their local Dry-Cleaning establishment on a weekly basis? It’s like putting your Merino Wool suit through an Easy-Care cycle of the washing machine. It’ll be clean but pretty useless for the purpose you bought it for. Dry cleaning, despite the name is not actually dry; it is a chemical process that uses chlorocarbons that are not soluble in water and some view the process as potentially slightly toxic. Really, don’t try to breath in the fumes! As your tea towel is an item that comes into constant contact with water it is perfectly fine and better to wash them the traditional way.

And some tea towels, you’re absolutely going to have to wash. Especially ones with art designs that I seem to find in souvenir shops and that have a print finish so thick it would be like drying your dishes with an original Monet.

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