Monday, August 30, 2010

7 uses for old towels

Old towels: cut-up cleaning rags on top, gym towel on bottom
  1. Cleaning rags – tougher than paper towel and every bit as absorbent, terry cloth towels reign supreme in the mess mop-up department. All you need to make them is scissors (pinking shears, the scissors with ‘teeth’ are even better as they help prevent frayed ends). They wash well, and if you have to wipe up something especially gross, you’ll be thankful for the extra ‘thickness’ keeping your hand from whatever the offending mess is.
  2. Swiffer/Wet-Dry cloth mop cover – Walter, who posted a comment under my entry on “Homemade Cleaning Solutions”, suggested using microfibre cloths for the same purpose. Here’s a link to someone who has made a terry towel Swiffer jacket – you don’t have to be an expert seamstress to whip up one of these!
  3. Donate to the SPCA – if you have more towels than you can reasonably reuse, why not consider donating the larger ones to your local branch of the SPCA? I called the Vancouver SPCA this month about dropping by with several old towels, and they said they were more than happy to have them – just bring them in (clean, obviously) during regular office hours.
  4. Emergency car stash – useful for when you’ve had an episode of unplanned skinny-dipping, for when you spill an entire carton of milk in the back seat (it happens!), as a seat protector when you have to give a ride to someone who’s been rolling in the mud or has been out in the Vancouver rain, and in a real emergency as a blanket if you have to spend an uncomfortable night by the side of the road. You could even use it to wrap up an injured animal, which is how friends of mine met their now tail-less cat, Bob. Towels are also great padding, so if you’ve bought yourself something breakable like a mirror or picture frame, wrapping it in a towel for transport is a great move.
  5. Gym towels – I suppose it depends on which gym you go to. If you’re at Ron Zalko I might not recommend this. But at the YMCA (which is where I now go), I can happily use my revolting orange, bleached out towel. My boyfriend uses a cute mauve and aqua hand towel I once bought from Ikea to wipe his sweat off the weights and equipment. I figure there's really not much point in trying to look suave when you're sweating butter, so I'm content with my ghetto gear.
  6. Gardening kneeling pad – I don’t really want to have to invest in knee pads, so I fold a towel over several times and kneel on that. You could sew it into a proper buckwheat husk-filled pad as well, but I find folding it over does the trick. If your towel hasn’t been cut or sewn, you can also use it to carry away weeds you’ve pulled, leaves you’ve raked or veggies you’ve harvested. You could even use it afterwards to wipe the mud from your spade or your boots, too. Every garden shed or muck room could use an old towel.
  7. Crafts – you know it had to come up eventually. I can’t help myself – it might constitute a mental illness. Not only will a large bath towel work great as a drop-cloth for painting or papier mache purposes, some people actually make things out of them! I was going to include a humorous list of crafts I’ve found online, but some things are so ugly that I feel it would be a disservice to society to further promote them. Instead, here are things that may actually not completely suck: vintage towel bib , a simple hot water bottle cover , reusable cloth baby diapers for the brave, or pair it with interesting, patterned fabric and use it as a lining for an attractive bath mat.
A holey tea towel works great for covering rising bread;  large towels double as drop-sheets for painting
And finally, to finish with a passage from The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by the late Douglas Adams:

“The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy has a few useful things to say on the subject of towels.

A towel, it says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitch hiker can have. Partly it has great practical value – you can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapours; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a mini raft down the slow heavy river Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you – daft as a bush, but very very ravenous); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.

More importantly, a towel has immense psychological value. For some reason, if a strag (strag: non-hitch hiker) discovers that a hitch hiker has his towel with him, he will automatically assume that he is also in possession of a toothbrush, face flannel, soap, tin of biscuits, flask, compass, map, ball of string, gnat spray, wet weather gear, space suit, etc., etc. Furthermore, the strag will then happily lend the hitch hiker any of these or a dozen other items that the hitch hiker might accidentally have ‘lost’. What the strag will think is that any man who can hitch the length and breadth of the galaxy, rough it, slum it, struggle against terrible odds, win through, and still know where his towel is is clearly a man to be reckoned with.”

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