Dishtowels, with their no-nonsense pattern design (that blue/white or red/white check or plaid or stripe has endured for decades) and soft texture (the finest are usually 50 percent cotton/50 percent linen), are not only nostalgic (lay one over that apple pie while it cools!) but well… handy. You can clean up messes, dry things, spray your cleaner and wipe away stains.
You can wrap around your waist as a classy apron and finally, as towels are washed and become threadbare, convert them into rags. For a long while I was using recycled paper towels, which I would throw into my compost and eventually add to the garden. This seemed a perfect “cycle of life” ritual, but the thing was – cotton dishtowels – despite the fact that they required washing (and thus electricity, detergent and waste) – to me were an aesthetic superior.
Nothing’s ever black or white, especially when it comes to environmental issues – the web can get tangled when you’re trying to measure waste versus cost – what is good for the world and what is bad. Amid the myriad of arguments on either side, the simple decisions sometimes seem the most confusing.
I may not be able to put dishtowels in the garden, but with the re-usability of long-lasting cotton and linen fiber, they seem both a practical, ethical and aesthetically rewarding choice. Fabric or paper – let me know what you think.