Terrycloth is to be found in nearly every residential and commercial bathroom; yet few people know much about it. For the hospitality industry in particular, being able to judge a towel's durability, as well as softness and absorbency, is necessary for determining par levels and maintaining profit margins.
WHAT IS TERRYCLOTH?
This ubiquitous toweling material is characterized by yarn loops protruding above the surface of the fabric. It is most commonly a woven fabric made of cotton or cotton blend.
WHY IS TERRYCLOTH USED FOR TOWELS?
The loops on terrycloth make it the ideal choice for toweling. Benefits include:
- Exceptional absorbency
WHAT MAKES A GOOD TOWEL FOR THE HOTEL BATHROOM?
Fiber content, yarn spinning method and weave all play a part in creating the qualities of the final terry fabric. Even more style and durability can be added during the towel design and manufacturing process. Following is an overview of each of these factors.
Terrycloth is usually made of cotton (a natural fiber), sometimes blended with polyester (a manmade synthetic). Cotton delivers the absorbency, breathability and softness guests love. Polyester increases fabric strength and reduces drying time, an important consideration for hoteliers.
To make both guest and host happy, a polyester blend yarn can make up the ground fabric while 100% cotton loops are the only thing users feel. An example of this is our Dry IQ towel:
For terrycloth made of 100% cotton, there are ways to make that textile stronger, as we'll see in the spinning and weaving sections below. It is certainly possible to meet and exceed the requirements of an institutional laundry.
Bamboo — or more accurately, rayon made from bamboo — is gaining in popularity as a textile fiber. Its advantages are high absorbency, silky hand, mildew- and bacteria-resistance, and eco-friendly production methods. Its drawback is that in high-temperature commercial washing and drying, this fiber is not as durable as cotton. Our luxurious Orchid towels blend cotton and bamboo for the best of both worlds.
Raw cotton available on the world market varies widely in quality, the most important factor being staple length. (Staple is the individual "hairs" that are spun into yarns.) Longer staple makes smoother, stronger yarns — which in turn make a softer, more durable fabric.
Cotton varieties renowned for their long staple include Pima and Turkish cotton. These types of cotton are mostly popular in retail, while the hospitality industry often uses Upland medium staple cotton.
Pima cotton is used in luxury hotels, providing softer hand feel and a generally longer life than regular cotton. We offer a premium Pima cotton towel for the ultimate in guest comfort.
To counteract the loss of smoothness in using shorter staple cotton, a pre-spinning process of combing is sometimes employed. Combing removes short pieces, nubs and impurities — any little bits that would protrude from the surface of the yarn and make the finished textile feel rough.
The strength and smoothness of the yarn also depends on how it is spun: the twist and the ply. In choosing the twist and ply of a towel, the hotelier must balance the relative merits of softness and durability, given that the most silk-like option is also the most fragile.
WHY MULTIPLY THE PLY?
Ply means a single strand. Thus, single-ply yarn is one twisted strand, while a two-ply yarn is composed of two strands which are first twisted individually, then twisted together. Two-ply yarns in the ground fabric of the towel provide extra strength and thickness. Using them for the terry loops adds fluffiness and a luxurious density.
WHY DO THE TWIST?
You may have seen the phrases "low twist" or "zero twist." In this spinning method, a wrapping thread, rather than twisting, holds the yarn together. These types of terry are marketed almost exclusively to retail customers, for a very good reason: although super soft to the touch, zero/low twist towels simply don't survive in the hotel laundry. Twisted yarns are more stable, don't unravel so easily, and resist wear and tear.
TERRY WEAVE: STYLE & SUBSTANCE
The final factor that contributes to textile quality is weave. The hospitality buyer must look at mechanical features such as towel weight and loop height, as well as design elements such as jacquard patterns.
WEIGHING THE EVIDENCE
LBS/DZ (pounds per dozen) = how much the finished towel weighs
GSM (grams per square meter) = how much the textile alone weighs
The weight of a towel indicates its thickness, which in turn influences durability, absorbency and drying time. Following are the weights preferred for hospitality applications. (Note: LBS/DZ weights partly depend on towel size.)
- 9-12 LBS/DZ (300-400 GSM) — A lighter weight towel allowing a faster drying time.
- 15-20 LBS/DZ (400-620 GSM) — A versatile, medium weight towel.
Once the hotel has established its budget and required par level for towels, pound weight can be used to select a towel that meets its needs. (Learn more about hotel linens par levels here.)
CREATING SPECIAL EFFECTS
Decorative weaving techniques add surface interest to the design of a terry towel and create a signature style for the hotel. The most popular techniques are:
Jacquard: A woven-in pattern of high and low loops in the terrycloth. Patterns can range from simple stripes to complex florals.
Dobby: A woven-in (non-loop) geometric texture made by raising or lowering the warp yarns on the loom. Often used as a border treatment on towels.
The last stage in the process of making a towel includes choosing dimensions, cutting the fabric and sealing the cut edges.
For after-bath drying off, guest preferences are trending toward larger sizes, such as 35" x 70" for a bath sheet and 27" x 56" for a bath towel. Hand, wash, vanity and tub mat dimensions remain the same.
To prevent fraying, all edges of the towel should be hemmed. At T-Y Group & Harbor Linen, we double-stitch each short end for extra stability and durability; long edges are single-stitched.
For the final finishing touch, we can also add custom embroidery to a hotel's towels: a word, logo or whatever is desired. For cost savings, larger quantities are embroidered overseas. For faster delivery, it will be done locally in the U.S. Please reach out to us if you'd like a quote.
OUR TOWEL GUIDE
Here's a quick cheat sheet to our terry collections and how they stack up with regard to the towel qualities we've discussed above.
PRESERVING TOWEL LIFE
Given that towels have the highest par levels of any items in the hotel linen closet, it pays off to care for them in a way that doesn't cause premature loss of strength, softness and absorbency. Our laundry experts have put together this list of tips for optimum towel care:
- Wash towels before first use to remove any lint and manufacturing residues.
- Wash full loads for balance and cost efficiency.
- Wash like colors together.
- Avoid using fabric softeners, which erode the towel's yarns and reduce absorbency.
- Briefly shake out towels after washing to restore fluffiness.
- Make sure towels are completely dry when they come out of the dryer, to prevent growth of mold and mildew.
- Don't over-dry towels either, because it weakens cotton fibers.
- Allow cotton towels to "rest" on the shelf for at least 24 hours after laundering, to allow the fiber to absorb humidity and regain its strength.
- Do not iron towels; it decreases absorbency.
WE CAN HELP YOU CHOOSE YOUR IDEAL TOWELS
Terry quality, towel manufacture, par levels and budget all play a role in deciding which towels are right for your hotel. Feel free to pick the brains of our T-Y Group and Harbor Linen experts when making your selections. With our wide choice of fiber content, loop weave and towel weight, there's something for every need and taste. We're the hospitality industry's one-stop shop for the guest room and beyond.
FREE TERRY CONSULTATION