Many dish towels can’t handle the smallest kitchen mishap. Some have zero absorbency, while others wipe up spills easily but stain just as readily. Then there are towels that shrink to the size of a tissue in the dryer or break delicate stemware with their bulk. We tested eight towels, from $2.50 to $8.99, in our search for a dish towel that would soak up liquid, dry dishes without streaks or destruction, and look good as new after washing.
SOAKING IT UP
Our dish towels came in fabrics from microfiber to cotton, bamboo to rayon. Microfiber—a synthetic made by splitting polyester and polyamide fibers—stuck like Velcro to fingertips and fabrics. Cotton and cotton-blend towels differed radically, depending on the weave (flour sack, ribbed, or terry cloth). Bamboo felt cushy as a baby blanket. The most unusual was rayon, which promised to pick up 12 times its weight in water.
We suspended each towel over a measured bucket of water, letting one end dangle in the liquid. After 15 minutes, you could see a rising line as towels soaked up water, except for a few towels, which simply floated. A microfiber towel was the thirstiest, drinking a full cup. But when we wiped up spilled water, it dried no better than other materials, more or less pushing the spill around. Overall, one towel performed best; its ribs created extra surface area to dry every last drop.
We dried glass and metal bowls, wine glasses, and delicate champagne flutes. Thick, high-pile cotton towels couldn’t fit into narrow flutes, while flour sack and bamboo towels were so big and cumbersome (nearly 5 square feet) we were afraid we’d drop glassware. The most useful size was 3 square feet: One towel was just undersized, and another just oversized, but both were thin enough to maneuver in tight spots.
To simulate messy spills, we stained each towel with mustard, wine, soy sauce, beet juice, and oil, and let them sit over a weekend. On Monday we found a dry, caked-on mess. After one laundry cycle, only one towel was completely stain-free. Despite seven more laundry cycles, no other towels ever came clean.
Every towel shrank a little after eight cycles of washing and drying. But bamboo towels underwent a sea change: They emerged from the machine curled, tattered, and truly miniature, with one brand shrinking by a whopping 53 percent. Microfiber towels, at 9 percent, shrank the least.
Innovative materials promised better absorption but often failed to deliver in the kitchen. While microfiber performed well, we couldn’t get past its uncomfortably prickly texture. In the end, we preferred the feel and absorbency of cotton, but some cotton towels were too bulky, and some couldn’t stand up to demanding kitchen work. Only one towel passed all our tests with near perfect scores: It’s the towel we’ve been waiting for. Now, we have no excuse for not drying the dishes.
The nonslip grip and narrow, straight blade let testers remove the smallest bones with precision and complete comfort. Perfectly balanced with enough flexibility to maneuver around tight joints. The low price was a bonus.
Hefty in weight, this knife was a solid performer when removing poultry bones, and the handle was easy to grip, even when covered in chicken fat. Piercing silver skin was a challenge since the tip wasn’t sharp enough and the long narrow blade produced slightly jagged cuts.
|Recommended with Reservations|
The sharp tip performed well when removing silver skin, but it was too flexible when maneuvering around poultry joints, leaving testers feeling a lack of control. The heavy handle was slightly unbalanced and became slippery once covered in poultry fat.
Designed to replicate a samurai blade, this expensive knife was a disappointment. It struggled to pierce the silver skin, although long cuts were smooth and even. Minimal flexibility and extreme curve got in the way when maneuvering around joints. The smooth handle was hard to grip and slippery.
The large, cumbersome handle reminded testers of an outdoors knife for fishing and hunting. The blade was too wide to maneuver around joints and it struggled to pierce silver skin. Unlike other knives, this boning knife could only slice in one direction, making intricate cuts around joints difficult.
The blade was so flexible it led to erratic cuttings; testers said the knife was hard to control. The blade was not sturdy enough to maneuver around joints and the lightweight handle felt flimsy and unbalanced.
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