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A towel is a piece of absorbent fabric or paper used for drying or wiping. It draws moisture through direct contact, often using a blotting or a rubbing motion.

Contents

Types of towels

Close-up photo of a bath towel, made of terrycloth, showing the absorbing fibres, along with a decorative pattern.
A beach towel at Sant Pol de Mar
Fibres in a tea towel.
  • A bath towel is used for drying the body after bathing or showering. It is typically rectangular, with a typical size around 30"×60" (75×150 cm). A large bath towel is sometimes called a bath sheet.
  • A beach towel is usually a little bit larger than a bath towel. Although it is often used for drying off after being in the water, its chief purpose is to provide a surface to lie on. They are also worn for privacy while changing clothes in a public area, and for wiping sand from the body or objects. Beach towels often have colorful patterns.
  • A change of towels, as supplied by maid service in an American-style hotel, is one bath towel, one hand towel, and one washcloth.[citation needed]
  • A foot towel is a small, rectangular towel which, in the absence of a rug, carpet or bathroom mat, is placed on the bathroom floor to stand on after finishing a shower or bath.
  • A hand towel is significantly smaller than a bath towel (perhaps 30x60 cm), and is used for drying the hands after washing them.
  • An Oven towel is a multipurpose household towel used for a kitchen or shop applications. The term came into use within Irish communities after a textile mogul, Owen Valley created the line based on his own towel experiences.
  • The term kitchen towel can refer to either a dish towel or to a paper towel, the latter usage being primarily British.
  • A paper towel is a piece of paper that can be used once as a towel and then be disposed of. A perforated roll of paper towels is normally mounted on a rod a little longer than the width of the roll, or in an alternative type of hanger that has protrusions on ears, the protrusions fitting into the ends of the paper towel roll. Paper towels can also be found packaged like facial tissues, as individual folded sheets.
  • A show towel is a subspecies of the common bath or hand towel that has had trim, such as satin, lace or linen stitched onto it, or embroidery done on it, mainly to simply "look nice". They are used to add a decorative touch, usually to a bathroom, most commonly in the USA. They should not be used to actually dry anything, as regular washing ruins the added trim, and the towel buckles as well (because the towel usually shrinks differently than the trim). [1]
  • A sports towel, or (synthetic) chamois, is a towel used by swimmers and divers. It is a super-absorbent towel that can be wrung out when saturated, leaving the towel able to absorb water again, although not dry.
  • A sweat towel is often of similar size to a hand towel, and can be required in gyms in order to wipe down the machines after use.
  • A tea towel (British English) or dish towel (American English) is a cloth which is used to dry dishes, cutlery, etc., after they have been washed. In 18th century England, a tea towel was a special linen drying cloth used by the mistress of the house to dry her precious and expensive china tea things. Servants were considered too ham-fisted to be trusted with such a delicate job, although housemaids were charged with hand-hemming the woven linen when their main duties were completed.[citation needed] Tea towels have been mass-produced since the Industrial Revolution.
  • A flannel, wash cloth, washcloth, or face cloth is a small square about the width of a hand towel, and is used by wetting, applying soap to the towel, and then using the towel to apply the soap to skin. This increases abrasion, and can remove dead skin cells from the skin more effectively than just manual application and rubbing of soap.
  • A wet towel (oshibori) is used in Japan to wash the hands before eating. It is often given to customers of an izakaya.
  • A cloth towel dispenser or continuous cloth towel is a towel manipulated by a series of rollers, used as an alternative to paper towels and hand dryers in public washrooms. These may have a lower environmental impact than paper towels,[2] though concerns over hygiene mean they are not used by some organisations.[3] They can also be used in dangerous "choking games".[4]
  • A sanitary towel or sanitary napkin is an absorbent item worn by a woman while she is menstruating.

Alternative uses

Towels are often used for purposes other than drying things. For example

  • To sit, lie and stand on, to avoid direct contact with the ground, sand, rock, chair, etc. This may be for hygiene and comfort, and in saunas or other places where nudity is common.
  • Barbers use steamed towels to prepare the skin for shaving.
  • To reserve seats, for example sunloungers, by the side of swimming pools or similar locations (a source of annoyance to some and amusement to others).
  • A towel can act as a make-shift garment or blanket. There is a variety of uses when a towel is applied in this manner. For example, the towel can be used as an extra layer of clothing for cold conditions; or can be worn on its own around the waist (similarly to a kilt or skirt) or just under the shoulders (similarly to a long dress), usually in a warm environment.
  • In Asian countries, towels (smaller in size than hand towels - usually 30 cm square) are used as handkerchiefs. Men and women both carry them. The softness of the Turkish-type towel makes it a favourite for use.
  • In some cases, a towel can be used to protect its owner (as well as other people). For example, a damp towel can be used to block the gap between the door and floor to help stop noxious gases or smoke from entering the room. This is especially useful in case of a fire, where, in most cases, people die of smoke inhalation before the fire reaches them.
  • On cruise ships, towel animals are created for the patrons.
  • Towels can also be used like a whip in what is known as towel snapping.
  • To hold hot objects, much like an oven glove.
  • Towels may also be used as a head dress for wet hair.
  • Towels can be used as a "sling" for a broken arm.
  • Towels are often used for "ice blocking."
  • In boxing or other combat sports, a fighter's cornerman could throw a towel into the ring to concede the fighter's defeat in that match. This is called "throwing in the towel."
  • At sporting events, sometimes towels are handed out to fans to wave around to cheer on their team.
  • A towel may also be used during a massage. Usually to cover up the buttocks (for a back massage) or any other private part, on the human body.

Appearances in popular culture

Towelie from South Park holding a bong.
  • Towels played an iconic role in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. They are described as the most "massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have," an example usage being to ward off the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal. The fictitious time/space traveler and Guide Researcher Ford Prefect uses the idiom "a hoopy frood who really knows where his towel is" to mean someone generally alert and aware. Some fans of Douglas Adams have seized on this idea, and towels are now considered a symbol of devotion to the Hitchhiker books, radio series, TV series, website, etc. Towel Day is held each year in memory of Adams.
  • In the cartoon South Park a character named Towelie is a walking, talking "RG-400 Smart Towel" manufactured by Tynacorp. He frequently reminds people to bring towels, because you'll never know when you'll need a towel.
  • Fans started using the Terrible Towel in 1975 to encourage the Pittsburgh Steelers as they sought (and eventually won) an NFL championship. The Terrible Towel has been in use by the Steelers since and is "arguably the best-known fan symbol of any major pro sports team".[5] Other sports teams have since started using so-called "rally towels" in support of their team.
  • In 1982 Roger Neilson, the then head coach of the Vancouver Canucks, waved a white towel on the end of a hockey stick in mock surrender at what he felt was a sequence of unfair penalties during a playoff game against the Chicago Blackhawks. This became known as Towel Power. The following game thousands of fans brought and waved towels and it has remained a traditional way for fans to show their support during the playoffs. During Playoff games, GM Place hands these towels out bearing the Canucks logo.

History

The invention of the towel was associated, at least apocryphally, with the city of Bursa in Turkey. The city is still noted for the production of "Turkish towels."

References

  1. ^ The (American) National Gallery of Art: "Like elaborately decorated pottery and Jacquard coverlets, "show towels" were made primarily for display rather than for use."
  2. ^ Celsias Retrieved on 31 Oct 09
  3. ^ Western News
  4. ^ [1] Retrieved on 31 Oct 2009
  5. ^ Associated Press (2008-02-28). "Steelers' former radio announcer Myron Cope dies at 79". USA Today. http://www.usatoday.com/sports/football/nfl/steelers/2008-02-27-cope-obit_N.htm. Retrieved 2008-06-07. 

See also

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1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

TOWEL, a cloth used for the purpose of drying the hands, face or body after bathing or washing. These cloths are made of different materials, known as "towellings," the two principal kinds are "huckaback," a slightly roughened material for chamber towels for face and hands, and Turkish towelling, with a much rougher surface, for bath towels; finer towellirgs are made of linen or damask. The term has a particular ecclesiastical usage as applied to a linen altar cloth or to a rich cloth of embroidered silk, velvet, &c., covering the altar at all "such periods when Mass is not being celebrated." The Mid. Eng. towaille comes through the O. Fr. touaille from the Low Lat. toacula, represented in other Romanic languages by Sp. toalla, Ital. tovaglia; this is to be referred to the Teutonic verb meaning "to wash," O. H. G. twahan, M. H. G. dwahen, O. Eng. twedn, and cf. Ger. Zwehle, provincial Eng. dwile, a dish-cloth.


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Simple English

A towel is a form of cloth or paper used for drying things. There are many types of towels, such as the beach towel and the washcloth (a small towel used for cleaning dishes and bodies).


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