Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Design your life to include more money, health and happiness with less stuff, space and energy.

Waffle Towels Save Space, Dry Faster, Rock Harder

In our never ending quest to save space, we’ve found it’s often the small things that make the biggest difference. Case in point are towels. Many of us assume terry cloth is the only way to go for absorbent towels–its bulky texture seems a natural fit for absorbing water. But terry cloth’s loft takes up tons of space, dries slow (often getting moldy whilst drying) and takes up disproportionate space in the washing machine and dryer.

We came across a fancy sounding towel called nido d’ape in the book “Flanagan’s Smart Home“–author Barbara Flanagan’s wonderful book that lists 98 must-have housewares for the pared-down life. Nido d’ape simply means “bee’s nest” in Italian. Americans call them waffle towels. The shallow cavities in the fabric effectively increase surface area, wicking more water with minimal increase in bulk. They take up a fraction of the volume of their terry cloth brethren, dry much quicker and absorb amply.

We’ve been using waffle towels in the LifeEdited apartment and have been impressed by their performance. Author Barbara Flanagan warns the towel’s feel is “bracing,” and they lack the “security blanket-like fluffiness” of terry cloth. That has been our experience as well. The towels grip your skin. Her solution: “Grow up. Persist. There will be lighter loads of laundry filling fewer baskets straining fewer appliances.”

We’ve been using the Aquis microfiber towel, thinking that the synthetic material would dry quicker. It does, but we also noticed that if they are not dried off quick, they get a funky moldy smell.

This author uses a cotton variety from Gilden Tree. While they don’t have the squeegee feel of the Aquis, the towels do dry both your body and themselves quickly. The cotton is not nearly as odor retentive as the microfiber.

We also experimented with a smallish 19 x 39″ size, thinking the ability to wrap it around the waist would be sufficient. It wasn’t. It barely fit around the waist and was barely deep enough for men, much less women. The larger 29 x 55″ size proved much better and the bulk when stored is about that of a terry cloth hand towel.

Flanagan blames the excesses of the 80’s for the “hotel towel”–essentially a piece of terry cloth that could house a Bedouin village–becoming the household norm. The only problem is that if you lack daily maid service and a store-room, these towels make no sense. Waffle-weave towels do, saving space and energy while doing what they’re supposed to do: dry.

[Note: this post was originally published on August 9, 2012. After a couple years of use, we made a couple refreshes to the article.]

  • James Anthony

    6 months ago I found myself needing to purchase towels and, having read this article, I bought some linen towels from Fog Linen as they had a set of three (wash cloth, hand towel, and a bath towel) for a good price. After six months of use I’ve found that the bath towel, which get’s used once a day, dries just fine, but the hand towel, which can be used two or three times a day, doesn’t properly dry during the day.
    Can anyone else confirm if this is just an issue with this brand, or material?

    • Glenn

      I believe its not drying because your using it throughout the day and getting it wet.

      • Jeffrey Hargrove

        I have just started using 100% linen towels. They absorb faster, dry faster and take up a quarter of the space of terry cloth. They are thin and take some getting used to, but the rewards of using them are worth it. I imagine that it is difficult to compare towels here as it depends a lot of weave, thickness, etc.

  • Ellen

    I recently got turkish pestemal towels and they have a really small footprint and are great for traveling/pool, too. They take a little bit of getting used to because they are really thin, but they are pretty absorbent and dry really fast (and they look nice in the bathroom!) I pay for laundry and wanted something that wouldn’t take up much space and these totally fit the bill.

  • Elvis Eddie

    Here’s another thought: Don’t wash your towels every day. Have only one large towel per person and wash them once a week. I’d rather keep my terry cloth towels (and I tend to go for the thinner ones instead of the giant fluffy ones anyway) and do it that way than dry myself with something that is “bracing.” I don’t think minimizing/editing always has to require one to give up ALL of the luxuries of life.

    • Cihan Nakipoğlu

      Have you ever tried Turkish Towels?:

      Absorbent as much as towels.

      Easy to carry because of less weight.

      Takes up less space in your bag or on your shelf.

      Durable to frequent washing and dries easily.

      Eco-friendly as it consumes less water and detergent in washing.

      http://www.peshtemalix.com has the widest range and best prices on the web. We ship the item on the same day and it takes 2 days to recieve them.

  • Diana BGKY

    I use two large towels a week: one for my hair and one for my body. After use, they hang on the back of the bathroom door to dry. I use seven hand towels a week, one a day. Along with towels from the kitchen and sleep and/or around-the-house clothes, I get a full load for the laundry in a week. When I need towels again, I might try waffles…I’m thinking perhaps a waffle towel for my head and a light-terry for my body. Like Elvis Eddie says below, I don’t think this lifestyle should mean I give up all luxuries. In fact, I think if I choose the ones to keep, I’ll appreciate those and not miss the excess. I subscribe to the Rachel Ashwell philosophy that everything in a home should be beautiful, functional, or comfortable–and preferably some combination of these.

  • Elizabeth

    I got big waffle weave towels from Gilden Tree and now prefer them to terry. They do take a lot less storage space – but the best thing is how quickly they dry. The bathroom in my apartment has no exhaust fan – it’s a humid mess – and terry towels stayed damp for too long. These ones dry quickly so I don’t have to worry about mildew anymore. I don’t feel one bit deprived – in fact I can’t believe it took me so long to get rid of my thick, “luxury” terry towels. They are great to take to the beach too – since sand shakes right off.

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