Encyclopedia > Towel

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A towel is a piece of absorbent fabric whose chief intended use is for drying objects, by drawing moisture[?] (usually water) from the object, into the fabric, through direct contact and either a blotting or rubbing motion.

Towels are often provided in hotel and motel rooms for the guests to use, and the theft of these towels from the rooms is very common.

Types of Towels

  • A bath towel is used for drying one's body after washing oneself. It is typically rectangular, with a size somewhere around 75x150 cm.

  • 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 it to provide a surface to lay on. Beach towels often have colorful 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 tea towel is a cloth which you use to dry dishes, cutlery, etc., after they have been washed. (Used in British English.)

When a towel is particularly old, or particularly dirty, or in very bad shape, or made from some other waste material, and is used for cleaning up spills, perhaps in a kitchen or garage, it is sometimes referred to as a rag[?].

Alternate Uses

Towels are often used for purposes other than drying things.

  • Wrapped around one's body, a towel acts as a make-shift garment (also for changing clothes on the beach etc.).

  • When wet, coiled up, and popped like a whip, a towel can be used as a weapon, whether playfully or seriously.

  • Waved around like a flag, towels are reasonably useful for signalling, perhaps for help.

  • Removing sand from the body on a sandy beach

  • To sit, lay and stand on, to avoid direct contact with the ground, rock, chair, etc. This may be to avoid getting dirty or sandy, or because it is softer, or, especially in the case of partial or full nudity, for hygiene.

Cultural Significance

Towels have long been thought of as nothing more than utilitarian objects that everybody has, but about which nobody really thinks twice. This changed when Douglas Adams' The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy attained cult status in the 1980s. He described his characters travelling around his universe, often as hitch-hikers, finding that towels were the most "massively useful" objects they could carry.

Fans of Adams' books 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.

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