From Academic Kids

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

Missing image
A beach towel in use.

Types of towels

  • A bath towel is used for drying one's body after bathing or showering. It is typically rectangular, with a typical size around 30"×60" (75×150 cm). Some are designed for use as bath mats.
  • 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 colourful patterns printed or woven into them.
  • A hand towel is significantly smaller than a bath towel (perhaps 30x60 cm), and is used for drying one's hands after washing them.
  • 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 indentations on ears, the indentations fitting into the ends of the paper towel roll. Paper towels can also be found packaged like Kleenex tissues, as individual folded sheets.
Fibres in a tea towel.
Fibres in a tea towel.

The term kitchen towel can refer to either a dish towel or to a paper towel, the latter usage being primarily British.

Alternative uses

Towels are often used for purposes other than drying things:

  • To sit, lie and stand on, to avoid direct contact with the ground, 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.

Pop culture trivia

Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Towels played an iconic role in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (HHGG). They are described as the most "massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have." The fictitious time/space traveller and Guide Researcher Ford Prefect uses the idiom "a frood who really knows where his towel is" to mean someone generally alert and aware.

In the HHGG universe, a hitchhiker who carries a towel can always find a ride, because if someone is carrying a towel, it is assumed (however illogically) that they also have a toothbrush, a bathroom kit, shower shoes, hair nets, maps, a toolbox, tickets to the opera, finely lapped silicone wafers, a set of encyclopedias, an astonishing array of credit cards, travellers checks, etc. For this reason, hitchhikers were directed by the Guide to always carry a towel to maintain the appearance that they would make a good guest.

In addition, a towel can be used as a hammock, a blanket, or a cape. The corners of the towel can be soaked in vitamins, and useful bits of wire can be woven into the towel. The corners of a towel can also be tied together to make a bag. If wet, the towel can even be used in mele combat. You can use it to hide from the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-bogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you — daft as a brush, but very very ravenous).

Some fans of Douglas Adams have seized on this idea, and towels are now considered a symbol of one's devotion to the Hitchhiker books, radio series, TV series, website, etc. Towel Day, is held each year in memory of Adams.

See also List of uses for towels in Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Other references

See also

he:מגבת ja:タオル


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