Towels really antimicrobial?
August 20, 2014 7:41 AM   Subscribe

I went to buy some new kitchen towels, and every brand labeled theirs as being treated to be antimicrobial, and that it "doesn't wash off". Is this a legit claim? What are these towels actually treated with?

(I did try searching for an answer.)

I've managed to survive and be quite content with all the microbes festering on my kitchen towels for many decades--I don't want towels with any kind of weird chemical treatments!

If this is just marketing hype, I might go ahead and buy them. I want to avoid the extra work of trying to find untreated kitchen towels. (Rolling my eyes at stupid trends that inconvenience me. ;-)
posted by dancing leaves to Home & Garden (16 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Most antimicrobial fabrics include nano (very, very small) silver as an antimicrobial. Last I heard nano silver was a concern in wastewater, so while it doesn't wash off in one (or maybe even 100) washings, it doesn't stay on the towel forever.

Silver isn't much of a concern for human health, but it is for ecological receptors (critters, include microbes, of course). If you can find nice untreated towels, it might be the best (if inconvenient) thing for the rest of the planet.

All that said, I haven't been paying attention to these things for a few years, so I'll be interested to hear if someone knows better, and that the anti-microbial is now based on something else.
posted by ldthomps at 7:47 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I'm not certain what these towels are being treated with, but it may be Triclosan, which has been outlawed in a few states as it survives the water treatment process and is killing needed microbes in the natural environment. There are lots of other reasons to be concerned about Triclosan. This link mentions towels and sponges are being treated with it.
posted by littlewater at 7:48 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

Some people tout bamboo as being antimicrobial, could it simply be the fiber content?
posted by Specklet at 8:00 AM on August 20, 2014

If you want untreated kitchen towels, try looking at places that sell to restaurants and caterers. I purchase plain cotton and cotton/linen kitchen towels from Bragard, and have been very happy with them.
posted by Lycaste at 8:21 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think they often use Microban, an unspecified mix of chemicals that may contain Triclosan, which can contribute to antibiotic resistance and perhaps disrupt hormones, among other things. Just buy traditional 100% cotton or linen towels, which should be easy to find (try Williams Sonoma, for example, but you can get them in any style/price range at other places).
posted by three_red_balloons at 8:54 AM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I will just cut to the chase and direct you to the BEST kitchen towel. Big enough to roll out a pie crust, not linty, not treated, come in every color, bleachable without fading (at least the red, which is what I have). I've had mine for years and suspect I found them through MF. Seriously, you will love them.
posted by HotToddy at 9:37 AM on August 20, 2014 [3 favorites]

It's looking like I'd be better off avoiding the treated ones...

Which makes it tricky, since I want:
• 100% cotton (some linen would be okay, I guess)
• colored (really dislike any amount of white at all)
• terrycloth
• local retailer
posted by dancing leaves at 11:01 AM on August 20, 2014

How inconvenient is Ikea? Their dish towels / tea towels (examples) are supposed to be all cotton and I don't see any anti-microbial claims.
posted by maudlin at 11:13 AM on August 20, 2014

There's an Ikea in driving distance, but they don't seem to have terrycloth ones.
posted by dancing leaves at 11:26 AM on August 20, 2014

How about bathroom-type hand towels? They're cotton, terrycloth, come in many colors, and generally have no weird treatments. The label says "bath" instead of "kitchen," but otherwise it's the same thing and the towels don't seem to care which room they're in.
posted by Corvid at 12:20 PM on August 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

The Ikea dish towels are all cotton, but are quite thin. Over the years I have bought a number of non-terry dish towels, and I just wash them frequently. Terry-cloth is kind of thick, nice for hand-drying, but I prefer flat-woven. I agree, no extra chemicals.
posted by theora55 at 12:21 PM on August 20, 2014

We use ikea hand towels and face cloths for the kitchen. All terry cloth, coulors if you separate e.g white for bathroom, purple for cleaning, yellow for kitchen. Cheap and cheerful and they last a long time before fraying.
posted by viggorlijah at 5:48 PM on August 20, 2014

I thought about bathroom hand towels when I saw all the kitchen ones were treated, but they were for the most part more expensive.

That was only one store, though. I'll check into Ikea's offerings and some other stores.

I don't use a dishwasher and the not-extremely-thick terrycloth ones are best for temporarily letting washed dishes drain/dry some before putting away.
posted by dancing leaves at 7:06 AM on August 21, 2014

If you want a towel specifically for draining purposes, you can get a microfiber mat at a dollar store and use whatever your preferred towels are for actual dish drying.
posted by maudlin at 8:12 AM on August 21, 2014

Look for "bar mop" towels at Williams Sonoma or Target (that's where I get them). They are sort of striped terry and plain weave, but hopefully terry-y enough? Here is the sort of thing I mean. I wasn't sure if local retailer just meant for pick-up locally or locally-owned, but since you mentioned Ikea, I've assumed the former.
posted by freezer cake at 2:59 PM on August 21, 2014

I prefer a multipurpose towel, that's why I use terrycloth--it functions well as a draining towel, dish drying towel, and hand drying towel.

I'll also keep an eye out for bar mop towels though so far the ones I've seen are either oddly sized or contain too much white.

My thanks to all who have shared their ideas on the topic so far!
posted by dancing leaves at 8:17 AM on August 29, 2014

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