Don’t throw in the towel!
How do I choose the right towel?
To some, they are just a commodity, but choosing the right towels for your business whether you are a hotel, bed and breakfast, massage/salon, medical facility, or a restaurant can make a big difference in your bottom line as well as with you brand and image. If you Google the search term, towels, you will find over 191,000,000 selections for you to view. In other words, it can be a daunting task to make sense of the choices you have as a business when it comes to selecting your towels and linens.
My advice, don’t throw in the towel. Let’s take a step back and make sense of finding and purchasing the right towels.
Know your towel types and sizes
Towels come in all forms of shapes, sizes, and colors. Following are the most common types of and sizes of towels.
- Bath towel – This is the workhorse of towels. Whether stepping out of the shower, lounging by the pool, or wrapping up at the spa, the bath towel is essential for most massage, salons, bed and breakfast, and hotel businesses. The typical size is 27”x54”. An oversize bath towel is sometimes called a Bath sheet and will be around 32”x60” and up.
- Hand towel – The hand towel is the one you usually find hanging near the sink at a hotel or fine restaurant. It measures about 16”x30”. This towel is the Swiss-Army knife of towels; you will find this handy size most common at the spa, fitness center, hair salon, and of course in any bathroom.
- Washcloth – A small square towel is about 13”x13” and is mostly used for washing the face, hands, feet, or body. A rectangular washcloth is sometimes called a Fingertip towel. This towel is most common in restaurants, hotels, and bars.
- Bath mat – About the same size as a bath towel, these are thicker and more absorbent and are used on the floor outside a shower or tub to prevent slips and falls.
The common thread in towels
A cotton towel is a cotton towel…. Right? Well not exactly. While most bath and spa towels are cotton or a cotton blend, there are many nuances and differences in the blends and fibers used that can affect the feel, longevity of use, and performance.
- Organic cotton – Certified organic cotton is culled from earth-friendly crops that don’t use synthetic fertilizers or pesticides and are harvested using sustainable methods. Towels made from these fibers may have the same look and feel as conventional cotton but without the excess baggage and larger carbon footprint.
- Egyptian Cotton – considered the highest-quality cotton because of its extra-long fibers and high-absorbency, Egyptian cotton is the top choice for luxury hotels and spas. It tops the list for absorbency and luxurious feel, and the long/dense fibers give Egyptian-cotton towels a very long life when well cared-for.
- Turkish cotton – Similar to Egyptian cotton with extra-long fibers, this premium cotton is grown exclusively in the Turkish region. Turkish cotton towels are soft, luxurious and absorbent.
- Pima cotton – Grown in the American Southwest using the same plants as Egyptian cotton, Pima Cotton is considered a superior fiber and renowned for its absorbency, strength, and durability. Also known by the brand name “Supima.”
- Bamboo – Usually a Bamboo/Cotton blend, but sometimes 100 percent bamboo. Bamboo is a sustainable, Earth-friendly choice because it grows quickly and doesn’t require pesticides. It is highly absorbent which makes it an excellent choice for many businesses. Bamboo blends are very soft, supple, color-fast, luxurious, and are a naturally anti-bacterial fabric.
- Microfiber blends – Microfiber is starting to make headway in the commercial towel market as a newer alternative. Typically a polyester blend, microfiber towels can absorb a remarkable amount of water. The high-tech blends can be adjusted to create towels that are plush and luxurious.
Quality towel material is only half the battle
Having quality materials is only half the battle. How you put them together goes a long way toward the quality and durability of the final product. Double-stitches, double-turned edges and tightly-packed loops can make a world of difference for the end-product, but the construction method used for the yarn is key. Following are the most common methods:
- Combed – Combed threads are exactly as they sound. The fibers are combed to remove shorter threads and extra material leaving only the longest, strongest and highest quality cotton fibers for weaving the final products
- Ringspun – Unlike the combed cotton, ringspun combines the long and short-staple fibers and tightly twists them together to make a smoother and stronger yarn. The end product has a more luxurious feel than conventional combed cotton.
- Twist – With this method, the fibers are twisted together at different rates to achieve different results. A low-twist yarn results in a smoother and softer feel and works great with longer fiber cotton such as Egyptian Cotton. A higher-twist yarn yields a stronger and more durable towel, though at the expense of feel.
- Terry – Terry Towels use extra yarn to create larger thread loops resulting in a high-absorbency towel.
Making your towels last longer
Below are some tips for getting the most out of your new towels and making them last for years:
- ALWAYS wash new towels – New products have many unwanted chemicals and debris from the manufacturing process, plus you don’t know where they’ve been since coming off the assembly line. Also, towels are shipped tightly packed in vacuum packages to distributors, and the compression removes the feel and fluffiness. Always wash new towels before their first use.
- Add vinegar to the wash cycle – A half to full cup of vinegar to the occasional wash load is a great natural way to increase absorbency (by changing the water Ph) and also remove the musty smell that damp towels tend to produce. Baking soda can also be helpful here.
- Avoid fabric softeners – We all like that fresh flowery smell, but fabric softeners also change the Ph of the rinse water and reduces the ability of the towel to absorb water. Ever tried to use a fresh, clean, dry hotel towel, only instead of getting you dry it just moves the moisture around on your skin? I guarantee you that they used too much softener.
- Avoid chlorine bleach – While chlorine is a great stain remover and whitener, it can significantly reduce the life of your towels by damaging and weakening the fibers. Instead, use an Oxygen-based bleach/whitener or spot-treat the stains.