Ice Cooling Towel - Micro fiber Towel With Immediate Cooling Effect

Ice Cooling Towel - Micro fiber Towel With Immediate Cooling Effect

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Cooling towels are made from one of two types of synthetic materials. The first is a plastic-y material (PVA, or polyvinyl acetate) not unlike a chamois cloth you’d used to clean your car or to soak up spills, a la that early 2000s infomercial. When it’s wet or damp, it’s spongy and malleable. When it’s bone-dry, it’s stiff and cardboard-like. The second is a microfiber mesh that feels soft, light, and fabric-like whether wet or dry.

Both materials employ the concept of “evaporative cooling,” which is a fancy way to describe the chilling sensation felt when water evaporates into the air—or precisely what the process of sweating does for our skin. Moisture from the surfaces of these towels supposedly evaporates at a faster rate, which heightens the cooling feeling on skin.

What Do Cooling Towels Claim To Do?

The claims, however, can a bit more elaborate than just “makes you feel cooler.”

Frogg Toggs says of its $9 PVA towel, “Soaking the towel in hot or cold water will allow Chilly Pad to activate quickly and cool up to 30 degrees below ambient air temp.”

The description of the $8 mesh-fabric Alfamo states, “The towel stays chilled for up to 3 hours and it reduces body temperature up to 30 degrees.”

Only Chill Pal mitigates expectations of it’s $12 towel in its sales pitch: “Truly, there isn’t [a secret]. We use high grade and extra thick PVA with evaporative technology. The more water it comfortably holds, the longer it takes to evaporate, which means the longer it stays cool for you! It is durable design paired with workable science here to bring you the best cooling for your dollar, our promise!

Do cooling towels work?

The short answer: Yes. But not any better than any other dampened gym towel would (and did, in our lab tests). And not nearly as well as some of their claims would like you to believe.

The workout tests
I washed the towels before using (per the instructions, which insist on it), in cold water. When damp right out of the washer, they did feel cool to the touch, though I don’t think significantly more than any of the other laundry I pulled out of the load.

I brought them the gym or beach for use between sets and after an open water swim. All three provided some relief, but again, no more than any other moist fabric would. The PVA Chill Pal, which was the one that came to the beach with me, emerged feeling quite warm from the plastic bag I’d packed it in (as it needs to be wet to work, I’d doused it with clear water at home), but it impressed me with how it cooled significantly to the touch once exposed to the air. All three warmed up rather quickly, though, when pressed against hot skin.