To produce a soft and absorbent fabric, towel manufacturers often use materials like cotton, bamboo, or microfiber. Spinning the yarn, weaving or knitting the fabric, and then using finishing methods like dying, printing, and softening to complete the creation process.
A towel is an absorbent fabric used to dry the body after a shower/bath or wipe a surface clean after use. Although towels play an essential part in our daily lives, one must understand how they are made. This includes the different types of towels and the business potential of this piece of cloth.
From the time it was first used in the 17th century in Turkey, this towel cloth or cloth piece has evolved in its usage. It has been influenced by the types of yarn material used, various designs, and manufacturing processes adopted. 21st-century citizens choose between a bath towel and a hand towel, a fabric towel and a Terry towel, or a cotton towel and a polyester mixed cotton towel. Several big brands are into towel-making and marketing.
Did you know?
The global towel industry was valued at nearly $4 billion (around ₹3278 crores) in 2022.
A Brief History of Towels
Towels have a fascinating history. It originated in 17th-century Turkey during the Ottoman Empire. Made of Turkish cotton, they were used mainly by brides during nuptial ceremonies.
The rich and the powerful used towels, often occupying prominent societal positions. Women in wealthy families used expensive gold and silver adornments hand-crafted on towels.
With towel design and texture elements getting into the making of a towel, some towels were thin and flat, others were embroidered, and others were thick and absorbent.
Famous for their absorbent quality, towels were soon made light in weight and easy to carry. The onset of the industrial revolution heralded scaled production and therefore was available for sale in shops. This made it an essential cloth affordable for the general public in the 19th century.
Towel Materials And Types of Towels
Let’s get an idea of what raw materials are used in making towels and how many types of towels there are.
Raw Materials Used in Towel Making
Several different raw materials are used in the making of towels. The most commonly used raw materials are:
- Cotton-polyester blend
- Synthetic microfibres
Cotton is a very commonly used towel material. Being a naturally available material, it is preferred by the largest number of towel users. Cotton's natural fibres give it excellent absorption properties and are a breathable material. Cotton is also very comfortable on the skin. Bath towels are made from cotton due to their excellent absorbency properties. Bath towel manufacturers prefer cotton for making bath towels.
2. A Mixed Blend of Cotton and Polyester
After cotton, the mixed blend of cotton and polyester is the 2nd most used raw material to make towels. It provides reasonable absorbency and breathability. Cotton-polyester towels are more durable than other towels due to their blended composition. It has an inherent high colourfastness property, so colour fade is not an issue. Cotton Polyester blend is widely used for making hand towels and bath towels.
The fibre most suitable for towels is linen. Linen was the raw material originally used to make towels. Linen has inherent anti-microbial and anti-static properties. It absorbs moisture faster than other towels, dries rapidly, and is durable. All-in-all, it is a very eco-friendly material for towels. Linen towels occupy less space in bathrooms and wardrobes. Linen is, therefore, widely used to make bathing clothes, spa towels, and kitchen towels.
Lyocell is a soft raw material obtained from sustainable wood sources. It has the special properties of being very soft and gentle on the skin, besides possessing superior absorption. Lyocell is used for making premium-quality towel fabrics.
Bamboo is a raw material used in making towels. Bamboo towels are soft and silky, which is why luxurious kitchen and bath towels are made from them. Bamboo towels have very high absorption properties.
6. Synthetic Microfibres
Synthetic microfibers are made of polyester or polyamide, or a blend of both. Compared to silk, they are much smaller in diameter. They are also compact, lightweight, and possess superior absorption and quick-drying properties. Synthetic microfiber towels are appropriate for backpackers, gymnasts, and hikers, and they are also suitable for beach towels.
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Type of Towels
Depending on the type of usage, the most commonly used towels are:
- Bath towel
- Wash Cloth
- Hand towel
- Face towel
- Gym towel
- Kitchen towel
- Spa towel
- Beach towel
- Foot towel
- Tea towel
How to Make Towels - The Manufacturing Process Explained
Now, let's discuss the towel manufacturing process. Towel manufacturing includes spinning, warping, towel weaving, and many more steps. We will discuss each step in detail.
The spinning process involves the conversion of cotton, polyester, or a blend of both yarns into threads. Threads are then woven into fabrics.
The spinning process for towel-making involves:
- An automated machine loosens up the bales by cutting a little of the top portion.
- The repeated beating of cotton fibres or blended cotton-polyester fibres results in further blending and filtering of impurities.
- Driving the blended through tubes into a machine called the 'Carding machine'. This is where further straightening of the fibres and their shaping into parallel fibres takes place.
- The parallel cotton fibres are further compressed and converted into a sliver' twisted structure. These slivers undergo further blending and straightening.
- Combing of Slivers with a set of fine wire teeth that further straighten and remove shorter fibres, leaving intact the fine and long cotton fibres.
- The Roving machines then further twist and straighten the long fibres in the Sliver.
- At the last stage, the spinning bobbin mounted on a spinning machine pulls the cotton fibres into a single strand of continuous thread.
The warping process involves the arrangement of several threads running from respective spools into longitudinal and latitudinal frames.
Warping for towel-making includes:
- A longitudinal thread called a warp in a portion of woven material is stretched or warped on a beam.
- Spools of cotton thread warped on a beam are inserted into the loom for weaving.
- Latitudinal threads called Weft or Filler are passed under and over the warp to make the fabric.
3. Towel Weaving
Weaving is a process of close networking of threads arranged longitudinally in the Wrap and latitudinal threads being passed through the Weft or Filler.
Specific to towel-making, it comprises:
- Towels are woven on dobby looms, with each loom having two warp beams.
- A set of warp threads is taken through a network of metal holes before being strung into a harness.
- The harnesses raise and lower the Warp threads enabling the Weft or Filler to pass between them.
Bleaching involves dyeing the fabric into natural bright whites or using chosen colours. Dyeing involves treating cloth fabric with bleaching chemicals in order to get it white. Bleached fabrics are washed thoroughly 2-3 times to remove all chemical residues.
The bleached white towel fabric is then dyed with the required colour or combination of colour dyes.
- Dried towel rolls are immersed in large special containers containing prescribed chemical or vegetable dyes.
- The towel rolls are then further pressed between two heavy rollers. This forces the dye deeper into the fabric, followed by a final steaming process that helps set the colour and dries it further, rendering it dry and fluffy.
6. Cutting and Packaging
White and colour-dyed towels are cut to the required sizes and hemmed at the long ends and sides. They are then labelled, folded, and packed into pre-determined, designated boxes and bags.
7. Quality Control
Visual checks at all stages are an integral aspect of quality control. White or colour-dyed towels undergo thorough quality checks to prescribed standards throughout production. This includes:
- Random checking of purchased yarn for weight correctness.
- Periodic checking of bleached and dyed vats to ensure that they have the correct chemical constitution.
- Checking the quality of the weaving as the cloth passes over an illuminated inspection table.
- Monitoring by quality inspectors to check for weaving imperfections.
- Straightening is attempted for slightly unevenly woven towels; otherwise, those that cannot be straightened are sold as "seconds".
8. By-products and Waste
Towel manufacturing results in the production of potentially harmful by-products, which are present in the water used for bleaching, washing, and dyeing the towel fabric.
Water treatment plants in the towel factories ensure that the bleaching processes ingredients like peroxides and caustics are suitably treated.
Only treated wastewater that complies with minimum prescribed standards is discharged.
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The commonly used Towel has a fascinating history of being made for the rich initially in the 17th century. It has since evolved to be commonly used by all and for various applications.
Towels are made from pure cotton, linen, cotton blended with polyester, and bamboo, each with unique properties influencing its usage.
The towel-making process portrays the exciting journey from yarn to a finished towel. Entrepreneurs in the MSME sector should explore the economic merits of taking up Towel manufacturing.
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