Consumer Reports Tests Fancy Cooling Towels: They Don’t Work

Home_ColdTowel_SlavenA cooling towel seems like a great idea, especially if you plan to do any hard work or heavy exercise outdoors in the humid summer months. You just moisten the towel, wring it out, and then snap it a few times to “activate” its seemingly magical cooling properties. The problem, our colleagues over at Consumer Reports found out, is that these magical properties aren’t so magical. 

At least, they’re only as magic in that picking up a towel and flinging it through the air is magic. There’s really no difference between the two cooling towels currently hawked through direct marketing and a regular old cotton towel that you snap. The, and a great reason to snap a towel at your friends.

And yet, the Serena Williams-endorsed EnduraCool costs $22. It consists of a proprietary blend of synthetic fibers, and its ads claim that snapping it makes it 30 degrees cooler than the human body. Okay, sounds good.

A competing product, Chill-Its, is comparatively cheap at only $12, and works the same way. Chill-its are made of polyvinyl acetate and feel sort of like a chamois towel. That’s to say that when it’s dry, it feels like cardboard. That’s annoying, but chilling towels aren’t supposed to be used dry, so that doesn’t really matter.

It’s that proprietary chilling action that’s important. So Consumer Reports’ textile expert, Pat Slaven (who longtime Consumerist readers might remember from the lint carnage when we tested the Snuggie) gathered up some cooling towels and a plain old 100% cotton dish towel for some cool towel-snapping action.

Equipped with the three damp towels and an infrared thermometer, Slaven snapped the towels in turn and measured their surface temperatures. The data, which included the outside temperature and humidity, show that all three towels work pretty much the same.

Are the claims for cooling towels all wet? [Consumer Reports]