Dirty Tea Towels

dirty tea towel by warbeck and cox1

Whilst we spend much of our time lovingly designing and producing tea towels here at Warbeck & Cox there are others in our house that don’t seem to hold them in such high esteem.

Often I discover them in a dirty, soggy pile by the washing machine, in a damp, stinky bucket under the stairs or simply left where a foot has used them to mop up a spillage on the floor somewhere. It has, I’m afraid to report also been known to find them lurking in the garage having been used to wash the car wheels!

At the very start of W&C I felt slightly saddened that no one seemed to care about my ‘special’ textiles until I realised that there are some things that are just not worth stressing about.  Tea towels are for using.  Full stop.

The long faces now gone, I have set about learning how to launder them effectively.  With an almost ban on almost all domestic chemical cleaners in our house I have practised with all sorts of products and thought I would share my discovery with you.

What you need.

  • A pile of smelly, dirty, stained tea towels and napkins
  • A large saucepan
  • A scoop of vanish stain remover
  • A lemon
  • A wooden spoon

So, every now and again, when I get a whiff of kipper from my tea towel or something equally revolting or we’ve had a BBQ and some little rascal has left spare rib juice and BBQ sauce all over a napkin I gather them up and head for the cleaning cupboard.  Filling my saucepan with luke warm water and a spoon or 2 of vanish I chuck them in and leave for a couple of days giving them the odd stir.  I should mention that I have been known to forget about them completely and remember my soaking cloths a week or 2 later with no negative results! When I feel that they’ve had long enough to soak I halve the lemon, pop it in the pan and straight onto the Aga where I will gently simmer for anything between half an hour and an hour.

tea towel cleaning

Taking the pan off the heat I leave it to cool before bunging them in the washing machine along with my other whites.   REMEMBER NOT TO BURN YOURSELF WHEN TRANSFERRING THE CLOTHS – THE WATER WILL STAY HOT FOR LONGER THAN YOU THINK.

Pouring the remaining yuckie liquid (and it is truly disgusting) down the sink and chucking the lemons in the bin I give the saucepan a REALLY good wash so that my bolognaise doesn’t taste of vanish and lemons the next time I use it!   Once out of the machine the your hard efforts should pay off with delicious, bright, clean and fresh smelling tea towels and if there are any stubborn remaining stains then why not hang the tea towels out on the washing line and let the sun bleach them?

The observant of you may ask why we therefore have care labels that say to wash our products at 50 degrees? Well, as with all printed natural fabrics high laundry temperatures will eventually fade the print but as we said before, we think that tea towels are for using, so if they fade a little, then so be it.  We’d rather they were clean, odourless and free from bacteria.

Happy Domesticity Folks!

Our Top Ten Ticklingly Good Fun & Terribly Trendy Table Napkins

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to hear us say that we’re rather partial to fun tableware… and it’s good to know that we’re not alone.  Recently, we’ve been spying more and more fun and stylish napkins in bright vibrant colours.

Here are, as chosen by us, our Top Ten Ticklingly Good Fun & Terribly Trendy Table Napkins….

10 – Giardino’s Paisley Napkins, £24.15 for a set of 4

9 – Made with Love by Charlotte Fleming’s Light House Napkins, £18 for a set of 4

8 – Concetta Gallo for Habitat’s Concetta, cotton printed napkins, £5 each.

7 – Imogen Luddy’s Polite Napkins, £10 each

6 – Lush Designs Vegetable Napkins, £31 for a set of 4

5 – The Coin Laundry’s Hungry Like The Wolf Napkins, £12.71 for a set of 4

4 – Oh Little Rabbit’s Revolver and Daisys Napkins, £12.71 for a set of 4

3 – Cyanide Stitches’ Robot Dinner Napkins, £12.71 for a set of 4

2 – Betsy Grace’s Mustache Napkins, £45.75 for a set of 6

And at Number 1 – our favourite napkins are… drum roll….. yes, you guessed it…. our Beetle Napkins, £20 for a set of 4 … but then that probably didn’t come as a complete surprise now did it??

So, do you know any that we’ve missed out??

Cotton vs. Paper Napkins

We’re often asked by our customers and friends which option we should be going for when it comes to napkins – are cotton napkins more eco-friendly than disposable paper napkins? or is it the other way around?

eco napkins

Well, there’s lots of information on the world wide web on this fiercely debated topic but one of the most comprehensive articles comes from Pablo Paster on Treehugger.com.  Here he argues that cotton has about half the impact of paper and to explain his findings he goes through the lifecycle of each inorder to understand their actual cost to the environment.

Cotton napkin production, is without a doubt definitely the more wasteful, needing vast quantities of water for it to grow, pesticides, bleach and yet more water during the processing of the fabrics.  It needs soap to wash it which (can enter and damage water/eco systems), oh, and that’s not to mention the energy required to operate the washing machines to launder and then the dryers to dry them! Yes, that’s quiet a lot to be thinking about compared with the relatively small number of negatives for paper towels – namely deforestation and massive contribution to landfill which is then responsible for producing methane gases.

It comes as no surprise then that Paster’s article shows a 28gm cotton napkin to cause 1kg of greenhouse gases and uses 150 litres of water, a linen napkin 112gm of greenhouse emissions and 22 litres of water followed by a paper napkin which uses 10grams of gases and 0.3 litres of water.

Yup, it’s pretty clear that cotton is still the worst offender when it comes to production.  But once you take into account that cloth napkins are not a single use item (like their paper cousin) that go on for years and years, the experts start changing their minds.   With paper waste in the US accounting for 25% of all landfill, really, it’s not rocket science is it?……… The trick they say is to go for linen if possible (the flax plant is more resistant to disease and needs far less pesticides) and not wash them after every use.  Instead, chuck them in with the rest of your laundry at the end of the week to have as small an impact in terms of water, soap or energy consumption.  And don’t forget to resist using that dryer – instead stick them out to dry for free on the washing line for an even lower carbon footprint!

Good job then that there are so many gorgeous napkins out there hey?  Click here to see our top 10 favourites!