why do some towels and hand towels, need to be washed multiple times before they actually absorb water and dry you off properly?


This is happens to me a lot, when I get new towels or hand towels. It seems they need to be “broken in” for lack of a better word, before they actually dry you off.

In: 4

The fabric is coated with chemicals that makes it easier to handle in the factory machinery

Most likely the towels have been treated with a fabric softener or other form of static charge prevention. Fabric softener is actually a soap which prevents towels from absorbing liquids as well, so using fabric softeners and other static prevention chemicals actually decreases the absorbance of fabrics

It has nothing to do with chemicals or whatever. Just plain mechanics of water and the fibres.

The fresh fibres are stiff and closed from being woven in to thread and then to fabric. Washing and tumbling them opens up the fabric’s structure and fibres.

Water has surface tension. When droplets are small enough they got really strong surface tension keeping their shape and size. This is too big to get in to the towel and soak in to the fibres.

I’m sure we have all experienced picking up water with a cloth or a cloth bag or such. Yeah it slowly drains through but it still holds it.

This is how a normal synthetic sponge holds water. It doesn’t go in to the material, but in to the cavities in it’s structure. This how the sponge can feel *dry* even if it filled with water. This is how those steel scrub pads hold water in them. It doesn’t soak in to the steel, but hangs in the space between the steel wires.

Your cotton towel isn’t any different. The fibres need to be big enough to allow the water to get in between the fibres.

This is why if you wash a towel and dry it on a line. It gets stiff, rough, and doesn’t dry properly. But this can be fixed by tumbling it or just giving it a really violent shaking.

Btw. This works with many things. Like old diapers (both babies and adults) needed to fluff up to work well. Nowadays diapers (and other similar hygiene pads and bandages) use polymers that soak up the liquid, instead of fibres.