What Makes the Perfect Pub Towel?


In bars and pubs throughout North America, Europe, Australia and beyond, towels serve a number of functions. Over the course of a busy shift, one towel might be used for wiping off counters or mopping up spills, whereas another towel might be used for drying hands or cleaning utensils. In some cases, towels are used in food preparation, whether a recipe calls for washed greens in need of drying or baked entrées in need degreasing. As such, pub towels serve a much different function than the kinds of towels made for bathrooms, beaches, saunas or gyms.

Typically measuring 16-by-19 inches and made of 100 percent cotton terrycloth, bar towels possess scrubbing power and absorbency while being thin enough to control manually and light enough to keep on hand throughout a busy shift.

Common Uses for Bar Towels

They may be the hardest-working thing in the bar besides the bartender. Here are the most common uses for this bar necessity.

Wring out moisture from cut vegetables. When cooking, bar towels can be used to wring out water and moisture from chopped or washed vegetables. Leafy greens such as lettuce, spinach and cabbage will typically end up watery after a good cleansing, regardless of how briskly you might shake them once the faucet is off. With a bar towel, however, you can matt away the excess water as the greens are laid out on the cutting board.

Prevent sogginess in shredded greens. Towel-wringing techniques can be especially handy for thinly sliced cabbage, which usually ends up soggy after a round of dicing. In order to get around this problem, you can simply wad up the prepared cabbage in a bar towel to wring out the excess water, and then add that cabbage to the casserole or coleslaw mixture. Similar issues typically emerge with chopped or sliced potatoes, which can discolor rather quickly on a cutting board as oxidized juices seep outward. To rid this smelly mess before the cut potatoes reach their next destination, wad them up in a bar towel and squeeze away those juices.


Soak up grease on baked entrées. A clean bar towel can be used to soak up moisture and grease from foods freshly out of the oven. Freshly baked pizza, for example, is notorious for emitting surface liquids, which are usually a mixture of vegetable juices and meat grease from assorted toppings, not to mention the grease of the cheese itself. By placing a clean bar towel over the top of the pizza and gently pressing down all around, the pizza is not only rendered more savory, it also becomes healthier thanks to the significant caloric reduction, which grease removal makes possible. Similar techniques can be applied to casseroles and other baked entrees with cheesy, greasy outer layers.

Hold rounded vegetables in place. During meal preparation, bar towels can be used as countertop placeholders for round and oval-shaped fruits and vegetables. For example, when you rake the spaghetti from a raw, halved squash, a towel makes it easier to keep the rounded vegetable from teetering from side to side or rolling off the counter. The same goes for melons, which can be a challenge to carve or slice without fabric underneath to keep the oval undersides at a standstill.

Keep the kitchen clean while cooking. Messes in the kitchen can get to be overwhelming unless you deal with them bit by bit as you go along. When it comes to keeping the cooking area clean during each step of meal preparation, a bar towel can be your best friend. Each time a dash of paprika or garlic salt misses its target, simply wipe it from the counter or stovetop. Whenever the egg beater sends bits of muffin batter onto the surrounding cabinets and walls, the splatters can be taken care of before they harden with a simple swipe. The same thing applies when the blender behaves like a geyser, or when you accidently spill vinegar or soy sauce over the edge of a pot or plate.


Contain messy appliances. As noted above, kitchen blenders sometimes act like volcanoes. Even when you have the lid on, the thrusts can be so powerful that bits of juice or sauce can spurt everywhere in a given radius. By simply throwing a pub towel over the blender top, you and the walls around you will be shielded from any mess those rotating blades could possible send up and outward. This can be especially useful when you’re blending ingredients with strong colors that can leave stains, such as beets, blackberries or cranberries.

Clean utensils between ingredients. Over the course of putting a meal together, lots of different ingredients take turns on the cutting board while en route to pots, pans and plates. Some of these ingredients are thick and gooey, others are moist and runny, but each will leave its own kind of mess on graters, utensils and cutting boards. In the same way a bar towel can keep your walls, counters, cabinets and appliances clean during food prep, towels also make it easy to wipe melon or coconut remnants from a cooking knife before you turn to cut bananas or pieces of citrus fruit. Likewise, bar towels can keep your cutting board free of crumbs, flour and cinnamon once the bread goes off and the fruit comes on.

Protect hands from hot handles. In the midst of cooking hot and steamy foods, pub towels can be used in lieu of mitts when grabbing the handles and lids of metal pots and pans on an active stovetop. This can be convenient in several ways: Since you’re using towels for other things anyway, you don’t have to put everything down while you’re busy to slip on mitts for the purpose of handling hot objects. Second of all, it’s easier to wrap your hand around a towel then it is to wrap your hand around anything when it’s encased in a mitt. However, a towel should only be used in place of mitts if it’s dry, since wet fabric conducts heat from hot, metal handles.

Cover rising dough and newly baked goods. For thousands of years, cooks have been using towels to protect rising dough from the elements during bread preparation. In the hour or two that comes between mixing bread, bagel or muffin ingredients and popping everything into the kiln, a barrier is needed to prevent air from drying the dough and forming a skin across its surface. Otherwise, the dough won’t rise, pure and simple. Since towels are always on hand in the kitchens of pubs that serve food to patrons, a pub towel is the perfect cover for a bowl of rising dough. Granted, the towel should be damp in order to absorb moisture. Pub towels can also be used to cover hot, from-the-oven baked goods that need time to cool in a protected, room-temperature setting.


Remove labels from bottles. When you need to remove labels from bottles or jars for whatever reason – recycling, secondary usage – a bar towel can do the trick much better than a sponge or brush. The secret to removing sticky residue from a label does not lie in soap or hot water – it can all be accomplished much more easily with a bar towel and either olive oil or nail polish removal. With olive oil, all you need is a couple drops on a towel, and the glue should come off the glass within a minute of rubbing. Nail polish remover works even faster, though it might not be as convenient if you’re doing this in the kitchen. In either case, wash all the glass and towels once you’ve finished this task.

Advantages of Pub Towels

Pub towels have numerous advantages, including some you may not have considered.

Bleachable. One of the biggest advantages of pub towels is that you can get them as dirty as possible and still reuse them time and time again, because they’re bleachable. As a relatively generic piece of cloth, the pub towel has no special logo or pattern that requires delicate washing. You can simply throw an entire load of dirty bar towels into a washing machine to be washed with detergent and bleach at the highest temperature possible. Considering just how messy the kitchen environment can get over the course of a busy evening, pub towels typically need a good washing before the next day’s shift rolls around, at which point the cloth can be fresh and ready for another round of abuse.

All purpose. Unlike most towels, which are primarily made for specific purposes or settings – hand drying, showers, the beach, etc. – pub towels can be used for virtually any cleaning or utilitarian function in which cloth could come in handy at a bar or pub. With a bundle of bar towels, you could have everything you need for wiping off counters and tabletops, scrubbing away splatters and mopping up spills in a kitchen or dining area. When it comes to keeping your hands, utensils pots, and cutting areas clean, one towel can be set aside for wiping off cutting knives and bread boards while another is used to dry off your freshly rinsed hands.

Scrubbing power. Pub towels are among the tougher towel types on the market. Designed for all types of scrubbing, wiping and mopping, a bar towel has the ability to remove caked-on dirt, grease and food residue much more effectively than towel types that are better suited to the face or skin. When you have a handful of bar towels on hand for any given shift, chances are there won’t be much need for paper towels or scrubbing brushes. Best of all, you can go lighter on the cleaning chemicals, because the textural grooves of a typical pub towel will do most of the cleaning work.

Thinness. Due to their relatively small size, pub towels are easy to grasp in busy situations where hands are required to multitask. A conventional bar towel measures around 16-by-32 inches and weighs roughly 2 pounds, which makes it easy to carry with one hand or by pocket while performing various functions and handling heavier items like pots, plates and trays. As one of the thinnest towel types, pub towels also give you great controlling ability, whether your intent is to wipe, scrub or simply protect your hand from hot handles.

Absorbency. When made of 100 percent cotton terrycloth, pub towels possess an absorbent quality that makes them ideal for the demands of a cooking and dining environment. If a glass of red wine is accidentally knocked over in a resounding splash, a bar towel can have that mess wiped up singlehandedly with just a couple strokes. Likewise, if someone loses control of a sink rinser, all the excess water can be wiped from the walls, floor and countertop with just a few bar towels on hand. In the unfortunate event of a bottle rack toppling over, a bundle of bar towels could tackle the mess much more effectively than a roll of paper towels.

Inexpensive. Thanks to their thinness and small measurements, pub towels are easy to find in bundles at relatively inexpensive prices. While many might be needed at a busy pub with a sizable kitchen and wait staff, each towel is likely to last through dozens of shifts and cleanup operations. At smaller establishments manned by one or two individuals, a 12-pack of bar towels might last for several years. Considering the efficiency and multiple uses that pub towels offer, you could save plenty of money if you cut down on cleaning supplies and handle most such chores with absorbent, lightweight pub towels.

Things to Look for in a Bar Towel

When it comes time to purchase pub towels, be sure to keep these important factors in mind.

Whiteness. Even though pub towels can be found in black and assorted colors, it’s best to stick with white varieties. The reason for this is simple: Bar towels have a reputation for bleeding dyes very easily, which can pose plenty of problems when combined with other cloth pieces and garments in loads of laundry. For people who purchase bar towels in colors like red or blue for use at home, the bleed-off can be disastrous in a laundry machine with white and light gray garments. Therefore, white is the safest option when it comes to bar towels. If you do wish to have them in a certain color to complement the theme of your establishment, be careful about which items they get mixed with during washing cycles.


Handy size. If pub towels are known for three things, it’s their thinness, absorbency and small size. These are the qualities that make them lightweight, yet strong and reliable. For these reasons, any towel that’s too thick, heavy or large in its dimensions is probably not a pub towel, regardless of how it’s marketed. Ideally, bar towels should measure in the 15-by-18 to 16-by-19 range and be made of 100 percent cotton terry cloth.

Get Towels for Your Bar, Pub or Kitchen

Towel Super Center carries an array of bar towels that are made to handle the various tasks of a busy kitchen area. Designed with the measurements that cooks and waiters have come to rely on, our towels range from 20 to 32 ounces and are all made of 100 percent cotton for maximum absorbing power. Visit our website today to see our selection of bar towels and to place an order.

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