Q: I recently purchased some bath towels that don't absorb very well. The labels read: "100 percent Indian or Egyptian cotton." Are some cottons more absorbent than others?
--Tish Maloney, Buffalo, New York
Always wash and dry a towel before using it for the first time. Some fabrics are treated with a finish that reduces their absorbancy. And avoid using fabric softener; it only makes towels less absorbent, and it wears down the fabric as well.
As for fibers, cotton is a far more absorbent material than synthetic fibers such as polyester. You are wise to buy towels made from 100 percent cotton. Although certain cottons, such as Egyptian and Pima, have longer fibers, and therefore tend to be softer, it doesn't really matter what kind of cotton your towel is made of -- it's the length of the fibers, and the amount of pile, that makes the difference. The texture of the weave is important too.
Always look for a soft, heavy towel -- the more terry piles it contains, and the longer its piles, the more surface it will have for absorbing water.
Your towel may shed a little during the first few uses. This is called linting. It's a normal process and doesn't indicate a poor-quality towel.