The term “towel” covers a variety of fabrics and sizes, but in general, it is designed to assist with cleanup. As such, a towel is usually made from an absorbent material, and it is intended to be washed, potentially in hot water and bleach to remove bacteria. Care directions vary, depending on the material used, but as a general rule, they should not be left damp for an excessive period of time, and they should be washed frequently to discourage the growth of bacteria. Three essential characteristics dictate what type of towel one is: the materials used, size, and the intended use.
Cotton and linen are two popular textiles for towels, since they are highly absorbent and breathable. Cotton is often woven into a looped terry design, which is extra absorbent, or a waffle weave. Some manufacturers also use microfiber and similar textiles, often made from synthetic materials and designed to be extremely absorbent. As a general rule, terrycloth is used for bath and hand towels, while waffle weave cotton is used for kitchen towels, and plain cotton and linen weaves are designed for use as tea towels. Those made of microfiber are often used in spas and at hairdressers to absorb moisture from wet hair.
Size is also an important determining factor. Those used in the kitchen, like dishrags, might be very small, while generic ones and hand towels are larger. Bath towels come in a range of sizes, from minimal to quite large, and very large ones are also adapted for beach use. Other specialized types include face towels, which are usually quite small, and tea towels, which are usually the size of a hand towel.
They can be broken down by intended use. Bath, kitchen, and general household towels often have distinctly different patterns and weaves to help distinguish them. Guest towels might be a different color, or embroidered to indicate that they are intended for the use of guests. Dish towels and generic kitchen ones are usually plain and utilitarian, often made from a white fabric which can be bleached, while more ornamental types have decorative patterns.
When selecting towels, you should think about their intended use. You may find it helpful to purchase bath sets in different colors so that ownership is not confused, for example. Kitchen towels come in a range of colors to coordinate with kitchens, along with a range of sizes. It is difficult to have too many, so do not be afraid to stock up. You can also save money and the environment by using fabric towels around the kitchen, rather than paper ones.