[Edited version - originally posted on June 18, 2014]
For the homemaker in all of us, there’s little more satisfying than a new set of luxury towels. Whether stacked up in a linen closet or hung on a towel bar, they’re practically sparkling with their soft newness. But underlying the thrill of these beauties is the disappointment they often invite in the form of frayed edges, makeup stains, and muted color. There must be a way to keep those towels as fresh as the day you bought them! Indeed, there is.
Maria Freitas, who has been with Matouk for 26 years and counting, and supervises custom embroidery for the company, shares her top tips for towel care with us.
What should you look for when purchasing towels?
It’s about the texture. The feel of the product tells a lot about the quality. If a towel is very light, it's not a good towel; if it has a lot of substance to it, you can feel the quality. The higher the grams of cotton per square meter, the denser the fibers become, making the towel softer and more absorbent. Look for towels made from 100% cotton or Egyptian cotton, which is even higher quality.
What other elements factor into quality (and price)?
Gram weight, like thread count in bedding, is just one metric to measure towels by. We also consider fiber content, yarn construction (i.e. low twist, zero twist, traditional twisted yarns) towel construction (whether it has a dobby, a piped edge, any embellishment, etc.), and size.
So what is twist exactly?
Cotton fibers are spun (twisted) into yarn. Typically, some yarns are made from short (inferior) fibers that have to be twisted in order to make the yarn. Yarn made from fibers that are twisted a lot get harder and less absorbent as a result. If a manufacturer uses short staple cotton (i.e. not Egyptian cotton), then the yarns will be hard and the terry will be stiff and less absorbent.
What are zero twist towels?
Zero twist is a relatively new technique in which fibers are bonded together temporarily and woven to the towel base, and then the bonding agent is removed, leaving the terry with the Egyptian cotton fibers in their nearly raw state. Untwisted cotton is soft and absorbent, like a cotton ball. Matouk’s Milagro towel is made from zero twist yarns.
White or colored towels—discuss!
White is my preferred color. Colored towels can become discolored or faded if not washed as directed on the care instructions.
What are the differences between the different towels that Matouk sells?
All Matouk towels have different weights. For example, Milagro is 550 grams of cotton per square meter, made of zero twist yarns; Cairo is Egyptian cotton at 625 grams; Auberge is 650 grams, made of double twisted yarns. Each Matouk towel has a different texture and feel to the hand which are really a matter of individual taste.
When you purchase a new set of towels and bring it home, what's the first thing you should do?
Wash and dry before using. You want to remove any residue from the finishing process that might still be on the towel, such as chemical softeners. They will hinder absorbency, so the towel will actually perform better after being washed twice to make sure all those agents are removed. A quality towel should get more absorbent and soft as you use it; not less. Inferior towels have lots of softening agents on them, so they feel soft to the touch. But as those agents wash off, the towel becomes hard and doesn’t absorb.
- Purchase quality towels without softening agents
- Don’t leave towels soaking for long periods
- Avoid detergents with Clorox or bleach alternatives, as they discolor
- Use spot stain removal
- Avoid fabric softeners as they make towels less absorbent
- Wash full loads for balance and effectiveness
- Never dry on hot! Dry on warm & finish at cooler temperature
- Store in a dry location
Any tips or tricks when it comes to washing towels that will help increase their longevity?
Don’t leave towels soaking for a long periods of time. Avoid detergents with Clorox or bleach alternatives, as they can discolor most colors. Avoid fabric softeners, as they can make towels less absorbent.
What is the best temperature for drying towels? Does load size matter?
Always have a full load of laundry; it makes the washing more balanced and effective. The ideal drying process should start warm, then finish at a cooler temperature. This may take a little longer for the drying process, but it will make the linens last the longest. Never dry on hot! And check your dryer occasionally.
What is the best way to remove stains from towels?
Where there is a stain, add stain remover directly on the stain. Gently rub and scrub the product a little bit by hand before putting it into the wash.
A quality towel should get more absorbent and soft as you use it...
What's the biggest misconception people make when it comes to caring for towels?
Washing towels with fabric softener.
Any tips on towel storage?
Store in a dry linen closet.
What’s the best way to display towels?
I like to see towels stacked on towel bars folded three ways on the length, so that if they have a monogram, it’s visible.
Personal favorite Matouk monogram?
White is my favorite color because it can mix and match easily with other colors. My favorite monogram is #2023, an interlocking script design.