Tea towels through the decades

Many houses in Australia and a lot around the world have an Aussie tea towel hanging in the kitchen. From nostalgic designs to contemporary themes, they are a wonderful reminder of our country and culture.

Take a look at some interesting facts about this humble household item.

What IS a tea towel? 

Yes, there is a strict definition when it comes to a proper tea towel!

For one thing, your tea towel is not made of terry cloth. If you’re using a terry cloth towel in the kitchen, that’s fine, but many will tell you it’s not a tea towel.  

‘Real’ tea towels are made of linen, cotton or a combination of the two. Purists will also ask you to resist using yours for anything other than dishes. 

It is not 100% clear when tea towels became a staple household item. Online sources state that they became popular in the 18th century. They were used to cover pots of tea to keep the contents warm and then to wipe the pot and cups afterwards.

In upper-class households, tea towels may have been used by the lady of the house. She took responsibility for wiping dishes which were considered too precious to be handled by the staff. 

Classic Australian Flora and Fauna Tea towels

Being in the hands of someone with higher status meant these cleaning cloths needed to be more than just an old rag. They were made in checkered patterns—a decorative feature as well as utilitarian. This gave rise to the eclectic range of tea towels we see today.

What makes a great tea towel?

There are two features to look for in a great Aussie tea towel, or any tea towel used for drying dishes. 

First, how well does it do its job? Linen and cotton have proven to be the best fabric for this. Linen is hardy and easily washed and, oddly, it’s lack of absorbency helps it to last longer and keep on doing its job. Linen and cotton are also less likely to leave lint or strands on your dishes.

Second, how good does your tea towel look? Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but tea towels come in such a staggering variety that there is bound to be one to suit your taste. From flora to fauna, from cities to Star Wars, there will be a tea towel for you. 

A much-loved tea towel will also have sentimental value. You use it every day. It may as well bring you joy to look at and remind you of something or somewhere special.

Classic Australian Tea towels

Tea towels as souvenirs

Printed tea towels are light, easy to pack, affordable to buy and send, and always useful. This makes them perfect gifts and souvenirs.

Printed tea towels have been used as souvenirs from as early as the beginning of the 20th century. Not only do they celebrate local landscapes and animals, tea towels are a common commemorative item.

From royal weddings to coronations, from ANZACs to royal babies (to basically anything the royals do), there is a tea towel to commemorate it. Picture your grandmother’s kitchen… is there an Aussie tea towel that takes pride of place?

Many visitors to Australia head home with an Aussie tea towel. It is also the ideal gift to send to overseas relatives. They can display theirs with pride or think fondly of you every time they dry the dishes.

Classic Aussie tea towels

Over the decades, Aussie tea towels have become a classic for tourists and true blue Aussies alike.

Tea towels in Australia have even become highly collectible. Some vintage Aussie tea towels cost well over $100. If you’re interested in vintage Australian animal tea towels, this Australian Wildlife tea towel from the 1960s will set you back around $200. For a classic Aussie tea towel featuring the cuddly koala, you may have to pay even more!

Fortunately, Aussie tea towels needn’t set you back hundreds of dollars. La La Land has some of the best Australian-themed tea towels, with colourful contemporary designs, Australian botanicals and cheeky Aussie animals.

Stock up and use your Aussie tea towels at home or send some overseas to family. Our tea towels are made from a linen-cotton blend, making them ideal for household use.

Take good care of your La La Land Aussie tea towels and they could be future collectibles!

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