Top Towel Care Tips from the Experts August 31, 2016 23:31 3 Comments

Expert Advice: How to Choose Towels

and How to Care for Towels

Wrapping up in soft towels feels amazing but if you don’t look after them they'll go from bath hero to zero overnight! Plus, towels and bath sets can be expensive so it's good news for you and for the environment, if you take care of towels right. Luckily, Breganwood’s team of textile designers and manufacturers has created TOP TOWEL CARE TIPS to help you shop for towels and keep that fluffy towel feeling longer. We’ll even teach you how to rescue scratchy or smelly towels!


Before you buy a towel ask yourself:
1 Where do I want to use it? The home, the gym, the beach or the pool?

2 What’s important to me apart from getting dry? Seems a stupid question right? But just take a moment:


How often should you wash towels?

Most people don’t wash their towels enough! The old rule of thumb was every 3 days but actually a better guideline is to wash your towel after every 3 uses. However, if you live somewhere hot and humid you need to wash them more often to stop bacteria growing. Hand towels need to be washed daily. It’s a good idea to have 2-3 sets that you rotate so the same towel isn’t being overused.

My towels smell and washing doesn’t help. What do I do?


Don’t worry. We can help. Often the problem is the washing machine has a build-up of soap scum and bacteria so your wash is never really coming out clean. Click here for instructions on how to clean your machine. Once your washer is clean follow the same steps for making your towel more absorbent, see below.

To stop the smell returning always hang your towel up after each use – with only one on each hook or rail so they can really air. Now, kids don’t always remember to do this we know! We’ve found this is a time when having their own character towel helps: explaining to them that Mr Zebra, Miss Elephant, or the Funny Bird is super sad when they’re left in a heap on the floor seems to work a lot better than simply asking them to pick up after themselves! Check out our kids character towels here.

Why isn’t my towel absorbent?

Soft towels feel great but to keep prices low some manufacturers use a poor quality yarn and ‘fake’ softness by adding softener. Unfortunately, the chemicals in the softener make towels less absorbent. But we have a top tip! Before using, wash your towels in warm or hot water using regular biological detergent, adding 1 cup white vinegar in the rinse, and this will remove any softener. To keep your towels absorbent, wash in this way once a month and don’t ever use fabric softener or dryer sheets



Should you wash towels with bio or non-bio detergent?

Bio detergents contain special enzymes to break down stains at low temperatures (40oC is ideal). So if you’re using the quick wash setting, or washing on a low heat, then it’s the best choice. Some people prefer to use non-bio if they have sensitive skin, or for their little one’s wash, as they feel the enzymes can aggravate. Whichever you use, make sure you only use as instructed – using too much detergent can create all sorts of problems (including bacteria growth, making the towel less absorbent and scratchy to the touch).


Should you use softener when washing towels?

No. 99% of softeners are grease based (that’s why they leave a slinky feel behind) but grease repels water which is the opposite of what you want your towel to do! We also recommend you don’t using dryer sheets in the tumble dryer for the same reason.

We love the Good Housekeeping’s easy to follow advice on looking after your towels.

Should you wash towels before you use them for the first time?

Yes. Many manufacturers add softener to towels to make them feel more luxurious. If you don’t remove this your brand new towel just won’t work well. Wash your new towels at 40c using a regular biological detergent, adding 1 cup white vinegar in the rinse to remove all softener.


Should you tumble or line dry towels?

We recommend hanging towels to dry naturally: shake the towel when it comes out of the washer to stop it from feeling stiff when dry. For extra fluffiness, line dry then pop in the dryer with two clean tennis balls for 5-10 minutes.


What does chlorine do to towels

Chlorine is used to kill bacteria in water. It’s added to water in our taps (so is present in every wash) but is in higher levels in swimming pools. However, even pools contain only low levels of chlorine. Chlorine will bleach and weaken fabric over time. Washing towels on a cool wash after swimming will help minimise bleaching and remove body oils which also damage fibres.


How do you stop towels going hard and rough?

Wash your towels regularly on a cool wash using the specified amount of detergent (excess detergent can stay in the towel even after rinsing) then shake the towel out before line drying. For extra fluffiness, finish off in the dryer for 5-10 minutes with 2 CLEAN tennis balls.

 How to be green at home: eco-friendly towel care

First, we’d really encourage any green thinking household to make sure they buy organic cotton towels which are made without the use of harmful chemicals! At home, unless towels are really dirty, or you’re trying to remove odour or softener, we recommend washing towels in cold water with an eco-friendly degradable detergent and then hanging to dry.

The carbon footprint of textiles is huge: the manufacturing stage takes its toll on the environment but we often forget about the water and energy we use as consumers during a product’s lifetime. We can all make small changes to minimize our impact on the world’s resources (it also keeps energy bills down!).



What’s makes a good quality towel?

The finished product is only as good as the materials and the workmanship used in manufacturing. Each towel is made from cotton and yarn. A good quality yarn is even, fine, strong, flexible and not too hairy! Ever had a sweater that pilled as soon as you wore it? That’s because the yarn was too hairy.  These physical properties affect the quality and durability of woven fabric.
Thickness, how long the loops are, whether it is tightly or loosely woven, and how soft it feels to touch, also measure quality but in a more subjective way. Thicker towels cost more because they use more yarn and more dye, take longer to weave and are more expensive to transport. But none of that affects how they feel when you use them and doesn’t really make them ‘better quality.’ When shopping, our top towel tip is the looser the weave, the less long the towel will last.
Every towel has a weight measured in GSM (see our What’s GSM? section for details). Luxury adult brands generally use 600 to 800 gsm for a lux ‘spa’ feel. Breganwood Organics towels are medium weight (480 to 520 gsm) as our experience has taught us that anything heavier isn't comfortable for kids.

What's a show towel?

A ‘show towel’ has a decorative satin, linen or lace trim added to the edge for ‘pizazz’ and is still quite popular in the US. Unfortunately, they’re not a good option for hard-working towels that need to be washed regularly as the trim won’t survive and the towel will ‘buckle’.


What’s the difference between a bath towel and a bath sheet?

The size. A bath towel is 26-28inches wide x 54inches long or 66-71cm x 137cm. A bath sheet is usually 35x58 inches or 89x147cm. If you’re tall, or just want to really wrap up, then you might prefer a bath sheet.

Should you have a separate towel for beach/pool and the home?

This is really down to personal choice. You may want to invest in a super lightweight linen or microfiber towel for yourself to save on the weight of a bath sheet but for many kids, they like to have their own towel with them to wrap up in after, especially if it’s fun and colourful.




What's a good size towel for your kids?

Obviously this depends on their age and height but we recommend you don’t choose a towel that’s too large or too heavy as it won’t be comfortable and might be a trip hazard.

How often should you replace your towels?

Bath towels have a hard life! Overtime, they’ll become worn and threadbare - especially towels with a loose weave. We recommend you prolong your towel life by having 2-3 sets that you rotate equally. In this way you shouldn’t need to replace towels more than every 2-4 years.

What’s GSM?

Grams per Meter Square (GSM) is how manufacturers measure the weight of a towel. In each factory there’s a machine that cuts a circle out of a piece of fabric: this is then put on a special scale that measures the GSM. But two towels of the same weight don’t necessarily feel the same as weight is also affected by the length of the loop and how tightly woven it is. Most bath mats for example have a short loop and are tightly woven. Again, tightly or loosely woven, short loop or long for the most part is not an indication of quality as much as style, though a very loosely woven towel won’t last.


How thick do you want your towels to be

What’s the difference between terry cotton and velour?

Terry and velour are woven the same way, but with velour one side is sheared so all the loops are cut off. The sheared side is not as absorbent because the loops are what trap the water, but it is very soft to the touch.


What's the difference between a jacquard design and a printed towel?

Jacquard cloth has a complex pattern woven directly into it. It was first made in the 1800s in France by Monsieur Joseph Jacquard; the inventor of a loom that could produce intricate patterns using interchangeable punched cards that control the cloth's weave. A printed towel has the design screen-printed on top of the finished fabric which means it's easier to produce but can can peel off or fade. See a Breganwood jacquard towel being made:


What’s the difference between organic cotton and regular cotton?

Organic Cotton Field

99% of all cotton is grown using synthetic fertilisers, pesticides and fungicides then artificially harvested to meet production schedules. These chemicals enter into the fabric, the soil and the air around the fields. It’s not good for the farmers or the environment and many people feel uncomfortable being in close contact with these chemicals every day in their home. Organic cotton farming does not use harmful chemicals, uses much less water and is sustainable. You can find out more here


Towels and sensitive skin

Sensitive skin can be as mild as a sense of tightness or stinging when you come in contact with certain household products, to chronic and painful conditions such as eczema or contact dermatitis where medical treatment is needed. To look after your skin use towels made from a natural, breathable fabric such as cotton. Wash them regularly, using non-bio detergent if you prefer. Primarily, you need to stop towels from getting rough and becoming abrasive. See both our Should you tumble dry or line dry towels? And Should you wash towels with bio or non-bio detergent? sections for further instructions on proper towel care.



Colourful cotton towelsWhat’s a towel?

A towel is simply a piece of cloth to dry yourself! First woven in Turkey as a flat cotton cloth 300-400 years ago, weavers later discovered how to add a second loop of cotton to the fabric, which is how most towels are made today. Towels first spread through the Turkish Ottoman Empire, finally becoming a home essential far and wide thanks to mass manufacturing in the late 1800s.

Today, man-made and natural fabrics mean there's a towel for every occasion and in every price range: lightweight microfiber is ideal for the gym bag; a polyester/cotton mix is very cheap, linen is great for drying off at the beach but 100% cotton is hard to beat if you want to feel warm and cosy after your shower every day.

Jumping on the trend for Egyptian or Pima cotton bedding, some manufacturers now use it to make towels too but ALWAYS check the label - you may be paying a lot for a blend with a really small percentage of ‘luxury’ yarn. And beware too that although Egypt does grow some very high quality extra-long staple cotton, which is arguably worth the high pricetag, it’s actually only a small amount of what’s sold worldwide as ‘Egyptian Cotton’! Why? Because for a fabric to be labelled as ‘Egyptian cotton’ it just needs to be grown there, it doesn’t need to be the special variety that gives such lovely results.
Bamboo towels are another recent trend. It grows quickly so it’s been marketed as an environmentally friendly fabric, unfortunately the process of making rayon fibre from bamboo is actually HARMFUL to the environment as the chemicals used in the process are often dumped afterwards. Many eco-conscious consumers simply don’t know. Check out how rayon is made:

As designers, manufacturers (and families) we agree with consumers that cotton is still the best material for hardworking towels. Right now, only 1% of cotton is certified organic but this percentage is growing as consumers not only appreciate the material, but want to support natural farming communities and minimise manufacturing’s impact on the environment. Check out the facts of organic cotton farming in this excerpt from The True Cost, a documentary.

Breganwood towel factory
The most important quality in yarn is the ‘evenness.’ In a perfect world, yarn would be uniform but since cotton is a natural product, this is impossible so we just have to use our knowledge and skill to get as near perfect as we can! Why it matters:

  • Irregular yarn breaks more easily during the weaving process. When a yarn breaks the machines have to be stopped and the break repaired. If breaks aren’t caught immediately they’ll be imperfections in the cloth and a lot more wastage at the cut and sew stage.
  • On smooth fabrics uneven yarn shows up in the surface of the fabric.
  • During the spinning process, yarn is twisted. Thinner areas twist more than thicker areas. During dying, the more twisted the yarn the less the dye will penetrate, which means a patchy looking finished product.
  • Absorbency, pilling, hand-feel are also affected by unevenness.

Did you know yarn evenness is measured by the “Count CV%” (count co-efficient variation)?


Linear density
Linear density refers to the fineness of the yarn: producing a fine yarn relates to the quality of the cotton and length of the cotton staple. For towels we use yarn counts of 16s/1, or 20s/2. In terry cloth manufacturing, the linear density is less of an issue than the evenness of the yarn.

Strength and elongation
During the weaving process the warping machines and looms put the yarns under amazing stress and strain. Yarn that breaks easily is a problem both at the weaving and at the cut and sew stage. Strength and elongation are measured by a co-efficient percentage, showing how much pulling force can be placed on the yarn before it breaks.

Twisting the yarn
During manufacturing, cotton fibers are combed so they are parallel before being twisted together to form the yarn. If a yarn is not twisted enough or twisted too much, it won’t be strong, it won’t feel as good to touch or absorb dye evenly. Twist is measured in “twists per inch”.

What makes a towel hairy?
A yarn is ‘hairy’ when bits of the fibre stick out from the body. In some products hairiness is an acceptable feature, but in a towel, too much hairiness can be one of the reasons for pilling and can make the towel feel rough to touch.

We hope you’ve found this blog on TOP TOWEL CARE TIPS FROM THE EXPERTS useful. If you’ve got any questions or comments please get in touch. Contact us direct from the site  or drop us a comment on Facebook.

Breganwood Organics team


Our Blog | Breganwood Organics ...