Why Should You Never Use Wet Towels To Hold Hot Items?

Some of the most common injuries in the kitchen are burns, which can be very painful. Therefore, it’s essential to pay attention to the safe handling of hot utensils when cooking and baking.

The purpose of my post is to explain why it’s not a good idea to use wet textiles to hold hot kitchenware.

You should never use wet towels or oven mitts to handle hot kitchen utensils, because wet textiles conduct heat extremely well and cause burns quickly. The same precaution is necessary for oil-soaked kitchen towels, as oil is also a good conductor of heat. 

Therefore, if your oven mitts or kitchen towels accidentally become wet or oily, do not use them to hold hot dishes as they may cause burns.

Dry towels, especially if you fold them over a few times, contain layers of air between their fibers, which function as an insulator between your hands and the hot dishes.

On the other hand, the water in the wet towels quickly conducts heat to your hands. As a result of heating, the water partially turns into steam, which fills the air layers between the fibers of the towel and causes burns when it comes into contact with your skin.

Why is it safe to pick up hot dishes with dry cloth?

It is safe to handle hot kitchen utensils only with dry materials that can withstand high temperatures, such as cotton towels. Synthetic materials are prone to melting, such as microfiber, which has a melting point of only 60°C / 140°F, making it unsafe for holding hot items.

If you handle hot dishes with a thick enough towel, or perhaps one that has been folded over a few times, it can provide good protection against burns. However, make sure that your kitchen towel or mitts do not come into contact with the oven’s heater or the flame of the gas stove, as they may catch fire.


How to protect your hands from hot pans?

Most of us come into contact with hot appliances and dishes on a daily basis while preparing food. Therefore, it is important to choose items that can provide adequate protection from heat.

Kitchen towels made of thick fabric are suitable for holding hot kitchenware. This is how it is done in most professional kitchens. We also used kitchen towels for this purpose in the confectioneries where I worked.

A kitchen towel is always at hand for kitchen staff, as it’s usually tucked into their aprons. However, they don’t keep oven mitts with them, and it would be very unsanitary if everyone used the same pair of mitts.

Towels are more hygienic to use than oven mitts because we usually have a lot more of them on hand and wash them more often. They are also cheaper to buy, withstand washing at high temperatures and can be bleached.

However, make sure that the towel is big enough to grip the hot pan or pot safely, or even better, use two towels. A large kitchen towel can be folded over several times, so it certainly provides adequate protection. Grabbing a kitchen towel is faster and easier than putting on oven mitts. In addition, mitts do not always allow for a good grip.

It's very important to use only dry kitchen towels or oven mitts to handle hot items, in order to avoid burns. According to a study conducted by the Oklahoma State University, using wet oven mitts can lead to third-degree burns in as little as one second.
How to treat burns?

It’s easier to drop the kitchen towel from your hand if hot oil or water spills on it, to prevent serious injuries. Removing the mitts is slower. Also, if you accidentally get your mitts wet, you can’t use them until they dry, which takes quite a while. A good feature of mitts, on the other hand, is that, unlike towels, they protect your forearm when you reach into the oven.


I have come across oven mitts that were too thin and therefore overheated quickly. If you still insist on using mitts, keep several pairs so you can change them often. When buying oven mitts, be sure to choose thicker ones, because they insulate better. The material of poor-quality mitts quickly thins out during use and gets holes. They are by no means safe at that point. It may therefore be better to use kitchen towels instead.

Crocodile-shaped green silicone oven mitts
Silicone oven mitts

How safe are silicone oven mitts?

The good thing about silicone is that it can handle very high temperatures up to around 250°C / 480°F without melting or catching fire. This property makes silicone the perfect material for oven mitts.

Silicone mitts are waterproof, so you don’t have to worry about spilling hot liquids and reaching your hands. They are easy to keep clean and are dishwasher-safe. In most cases, silicone mitts have a non-slip surface, so they provide a good grip.

Silicone oven mitts, on the other hand, can be bulky, so it is a bit difficult to put them on and off your hands. They allow you only a few seconds to handle hot dishes because they overheat quickly.

Final thoughts

During food preparation, our hands are often exposed to the risk of burns. Most of us know from experience how painful these can be.

Using a wet towel to handle hot kitchen items is not a good idea, and you should never do it. Wet textiles transfer heat to your hands extremely quickly and cause burns. Hot pots, pans, and other items should only be handled with dry towels or oven mitts of the appropriate thickness to make baking and cooking safe.

You may also wish to find out why people use kitchen towels to dry their dishes.


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