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folded tea towels in a stack
Credit: Getty / Jennifer Causey

Let's face it: No matter how often we wash our tea towels, they always seem to be covered in spot and stains. The reason? "Tea towels are typically made of cotton or linen," explain Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, the co-founders of The Laundress. "The absorbent properties of both fabrics make them more susceptible to stains." Fortunately, you can keep your favorite tea towels clean and stain-free with a little extra care. "Stains on fabrics such as cotton and linen are easy to remove," says Boyd. "However, while working stain solution into cotton, you may need to put in a bit more elbow grease compared to linen, as it's a thicker fabric." Looking for more tips on how to get stains out of the towels you use most frequently in the kitchen? Here, Whiting and Boyd offer their expert advice.

Pre-treat, please.

If you aren't pre-treating your tea towels before washing them, Whiting says you're skipping a crucial step. "For color-rich spots like wine and coffee, apply a stain removing solution to the affected area, like our Stain Solution ($17.99, then sprinkle a color-safe, oxygen-based bleach, like our All-Purpose Bleach Alternative ($14.99, on top," she says. "Mix the two together with a bit of hot water to create a paste with your finger. You might see the stain change colors as it begins to lift, which is normal!"

Don't use paper towels.

Tempted to use a paper towel to pre-treat a stain? Boyd urges you to reconsider. "Always avoid using paper towels when removing stains, as they can leave behind lint that will make the spot more difficult to remove," she explains. "We always suggest using our Stain Brush ($10,, our Lint-Free Cleaning Cloth ($20,, or even your finger to work your stain solution into the fabric."

Wash accordingly.

Once you've pre-treated any stains on your tea towel, Whiting says it's time to give it a good washing. "Soak the towel in hot water using a clean basin or sink," she says. "Add a capful of bleach alternative and allow to sit for up to 30 minutes." After half an hour, she says you can launder the towel as normal, but recommends using a detergent specifically formulated for cotton and linens.

Dry carefully.

While you can dry your tea towels on a normal setting or simply hang them on your line, Whiting says sticking them in the dryer before the stain is completely gone is a big no-no. "Heat can set a stain into the fabric, so always check to be sure the spot is removed before placing it in the dryer," she says. "If a stain is still apparent after laundering, repeat the pre-treatment and washing process until it has lifted."

Spot treat when necessary.

When you're in a pinch and don't have time to pre-treat and launder your tea towel, Boyd says you can always spot treat a stain on the fly. "Immediately treat the stain with a spot remover, such as The Laundress Wash & Stain Bar ($6,," she says. "Then use a lint-free cleaning cloth to soak up excess water and moisture and lay flat to dry."


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