Am I killing my towel?
February 7, 2009 2:59 AM   Subscribe

Do I harm my towel when I nuke it in the micro-wave to dry it faster?

I'm started a fairly regular training-regement that take place before my workday. Now, since I live, hrm - work - in a cubicle I can't have a towel hanging around all day to dry.

So, I've taken to putting the towel in the micro-wave for a minute (it's in a Rubbermaid, so it's not unhygenical, mind you) since it will dry faster that way.

Will this method degenerate the towel faster than ordinary drying?

I've don't really have any sentimental attachments to my towel, but it's fairly soft and nice. I would regret if I put it to an untimely exit due to death by microwave.
posted by Rabarberofficer to Grab Bag (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Just a thought, but perhaps it could help to alternate daily between two towels. Find someplace not in your cube to hang the one that needs to dry.
posted by hungrysquirrels at 3:11 AM on February 7, 2009

The microwave isn't hurting your towel any more than a tumble dryer would - probably less - but I would be really, really disgusted if I found out my co-worker was using the microwave where I cook my food to dry his sweaty workout towel, rubbermaid or no rubbermaid. Seriously. Your sweat is turning into steam, which condenses on the walls of the microwave, and if someone used it right after, it could mix with the steam condensing from the food being cooked and drip into the food. EW EW EW EW EW. Just buy another towel and rotate.
But if you're the only one using the microwave, ignore what I just said and microwave away.
posted by cilantro at 3:34 AM on February 7, 2009 [12 favorites]

You probably won't harm it. But then again you might. I'm pretty sure that water molecules aren't the only thing that the microwaves cause to vibrate.

How about using a ziploc bag to store the towel in while you're at work?
posted by Solomon at 4:41 AM on February 7, 2009

I'm guessing you've checked into it already, but on the off chance you haven't, maybe your gym has towel service?
posted by The Michael The at 4:44 AM on February 7, 2009

Wait... All you do between gym sessions is dry your towel, not wash it? Dude!!! Shove used towel in a bag; take it home and give it a bath and use another (fresh) one every second day. Microwave question thus rendered irrelevant.

Also the towel service suggestion is a good one.
posted by springbound at 4:47 AM on February 7, 2009

Is it a "wipe workout sweat off" towel, or a "dry off after showering" towel? If it's the latter, maybe you could just hang it in your cube. Maybe your workplace doesn't like that, but I keep my lunchtime run shower towel hung up in my cubicle to dry. So does the guy in the next cube over. So does that other woman around the corner. Maybe it's different at your job, but here no one cares.
posted by teragram at 5:16 AM on February 7, 2009

wait--please clarify whether you are nuking clean towel or sweaty towel. Please.

Nuking won't harm towel, but would be much more considerate to use your own microwave for that.

Hang the frickin' towel. No one cares.
posted by agentwills at 6:52 AM on February 7, 2009

Get more towels. Rotate between them. If you like *this* towel, buy more of it. Many. Wash your towels every weekend and rotate through the week so that you're not using the same towel two days in a row.

And don't put it in the microwave.

I don't even want to think about what your towel *smells* like, let alone what germs may or may not be on it.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 6:55 AM on February 7, 2009

can't you hang it on your chair?

How about hanging it in the car - behind the seat or on those hanger thingys near the passenger-side windows?
posted by bitteroldman at 7:19 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

You are probably not going to hurt your towel, but I think drying a towel in a commonly used microwave is disgusting for everyone else using it.

Additionally, this method of drying is probably not very effective, considering there is no air movement in the microwave.

Please hang up the towel or throw it in a bag and take it home, for your sake and your coworkers'.
posted by mesh gear fox at 7:49 AM on February 7, 2009

Best answer: all grossness aside, have you considered getting a swimmer's/diver's chamois? they appear fairly inexpensive and obviously dry quickly by wringing them out.
posted by wocka wocka wocka at 9:03 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

This microwaving a towel thing isn't hurting anyone, since it's not like you're liberally wiping down the inside of the microwave with the thing. It may gross out some people who kneejerk on it, but it's okay for hygiene.

On the other hand, all the stuff that comes off your body that's on the towel? That's not coming off when you steam it. What you're doing is not nearly as good as cleaning the towel, and might result in a lower lifespan.
posted by TypographicalError at 9:15 AM on February 7, 2009

wocka wocka wocka makes a good point. I'm a swimmer and I carry a chamois in my bag along with a regular towel. I use the chamois and dry myself off as much as possible - even my hair - wring it out, stuff it back in its case. The regular towel is just to wrap around/stay warm while I'm drying off.

This would be just as effective post-shower as it is post-pool. Then your towel will be at best *slightly* damp and the chamois, as I said, comes in a case. You just wring it out. That's it. You don't have to hang it to dry at all.

I also use mine for heated yoga classes and if it can mop up that kind of sweat, it can take whatever you're dishing out at the gym.

And please, stop doing this to your towel.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:52 AM on February 7, 2009

In addition to agreeing with everybody above, I'll point out that (if you insist on continuing this) you can't ever take your eyes off the towel when it's in the microwave. People often moisten sponges and put them in the microwave in order to sanitize them. If they aren't thoroughly wet, they often catch fire. I see no reason to think the same wouldn't happen with a towel.
posted by madmethods at 11:01 AM on February 7, 2009

Along the lines of what wocka3 said, I had a small one of these for a trip I took a while ago. Did the job, dried fast, no microwaving required.
posted by phunniemee at 11:04 AM on February 7, 2009

Do people here really think that bacteria and germs are really going to survive the microwaving and establish colonies on the walls inside? Well, if they do, your co-workers probably think that too. So you should stop zapping your towel even though it's a harmless thing to do. Because you don't want to be the weird guy that grosses out everyone at work by putting his gym towel in the microwave. Even though it doesn't hurt anybody.
posted by oneirodynia at 11:09 AM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

1. Get a fast-drying camp towel (example link).
2. Rinse in sink
3. Wring dry
4. Stuff into bag
5. ???
6. Profit
posted by Ky at 12:05 PM on February 7, 2009

Best answer: For the ridiculously squeamish in this thread, a few points:

1) 30 seconds to 1 minute in the microwave is enough to kill any microorganisms present on the towel, so there's no problem there

2) Salt and other minerals from sweat won't evaporate with the steam and condense on the walls of the microwave. Stick some salt water in a pot and boil it dry. What's left in the pot? Surprise - all the salt.

3) Doing this is unlikely to harm your towel in any kind of significant way. In fact, they make special microwave dryers that are for delicate fabrics.

So, from a fabric-care and hygienic standpoint, there's not really any reason not to be doing this. If your co-workers are anything like the people in this thread, though, there may very well be social reasons not to use the microwave. Do so at your own discretion.
posted by chrisamiller at 12:32 PM on February 7, 2009 [1 favorite]

Microwaving your wet towel is not very efficient. If it's slightly damp, it can help. However, microwaving cloth is a great way to kill the bacteria and germs living in it, and get all of those nasty smells out. So you better do it inside a tied up airtight bag, unless you want to gross everything out with sweat and bacteria fumes.
posted by ye#ara at 12:40 PM on February 7, 2009

Best answer: I also agree that there's no earthly reason why this is a hygiene issue (unless the towel is so manky it's actively smelly, which is a hygiene issue for you anyway), and I'm a biologist with some clue what I'm talking about.

But if you use any kind of hair products or aftershave or deodorant or whatever that gets on the towel while you dry yourself then the fire risk goes up noticeably. My drier specifically says not to use it on dirty towels for that reason and it adds a lot less heat than a microwave. If you've just showered and washed your hair then probably not such an issue.
posted by shelleycat at 3:17 PM on February 7, 2009

I microwaved a towel once and only once. It lit on fire. I was at work, too.

I realize that this probably isn't the case for you---your towel is probably wet and all--but please, do be careful. There are many other ways to get the towel dry, as others have suggested above. You do not need to be drying your towel in the company microwave!
posted by librarylis at 1:44 AM on February 8, 2009

Best answer: You murderer!!

If your towel is made of nylon, polyester, or contains other "plastic" materials, I think it's possible to melt it a bit. Not directly from the microwaves, but if the water get's hot enough. Microwaves heat water in a weird way... normally water doesn't go above the boiling point--which is why it's so useful for cooking, it keeps food from getting hotter than that. But with a microwave it's possible to superheat water to temperatures much higher than boiling . Also, the steam continues to be heated after it evaporates, so that is another reason it could get really hot.

All things considered, though, I doubt it's getting damage--you'd probably only have it in for one or two minutes. I highly doubt it would be affected in that time.
posted by brenton at 2:27 AM on February 8, 2009

Response by poster: Hello all,

I now understand that I should have included a ridiculous amount of details - or asked this question anon.

(Details would include: a) that I share the cubicle with another person, and can't hang my towel there. b) That I work evenings and have the gym around the corner from work. So I nip up to get my bag an hour before I start my work, do my training, and leaves the bag at work till the next day. c) Every friday I bring the bag home and switch the towel (and underwear etc). d) Already carries a bag with books for school - ergo don't want to carry my gym-bag home every day. e) Puts the towel in a family-size Rubbermaid with lid in the microwave. In that way I don't contaminate the micro, and my towel doesn't smell like tv-dinners. f) I work evenings, so I'm just about the last person to use the microwave, which is cleaned in the morning by trained personel. g) when I've microwaved my box, I bring it to my cubicle, takes out the slightely fuming towel, waves it gently and hang it over my desk to dry during my workhours. Then I put it away in my bag again. Without microwaving, it won't dry enough to be put away properly. And since I use a low-class gym, there's no towel-service. h) I've noticed that not drying the towel between sessions produces a moldy growth that I don't fancy very much. i) Well, yeah - I could bring a fresh towel every day, but that would break the efficiency-habit I'm trying to create in my life. j) It's an ordinary drying-towel that I use after the shower to get rid of excess humidity on skin-level. The towel contains mostly ordinary H2O, no bodily liquids.)

Anyway - thank's for your replies and reassurance that I'm not killing my towel.

chrisamiller - I didn't know that microwaves are commersially used to dry fabric, thank's for that nugget.

shelleycat - thank you for the fire hazard-warning about hairspray et al.

librarylis - thank you for your anecdotal evidence that fire is a real danger. I'll be careful.
posted by Rabarberofficer at 9:07 AM on February 8, 2009

Response by poster: Ding, ding, ding - a new result is in.

wocka wocka wocka: The Chamois seems to be a perfect replacement for my towel. They seem to fit well with my needs and slightly obsessive hunt for efficiency.

I've ordered some and will try them out next week. Great tip!
posted by Rabarberofficer at 10:04 AM on February 8, 2009

I had one of those swimming chamois and while it was small, it was was fantastic for being able to keep it in my gym bag for a couple of days. It did eventually get kind of grungy though, so make sure you give it regular washings. Don't believe the "just wring it out!" hype.

Also, don't hang it from a wooden drying rack when you do wash it because it can bond with the wood somehow (IANAScientist) and wreck the towel.
posted by '' at 10:15 AM on February 10, 2009

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