Italy Towels are so-named because the viscose rayon material they’re made of comes from Italy, but – Mama Mia! – their concept is 100% Korean.
A staple of every Korean home bathroom, these rough towels are designed to get you clean. And I mean really clean, by intensively scrubbing off the dirt from your skin. And your dead skin cells along with it. The original korean name, ddeh meeruh, means to push the dirt. Visually, think back to the school pencil erasers, how the little black shavings came off the eraser. That’s what it will look like as you scrub your arms, legs and and wherever else you dare to venture with the cloth. (Note: it’s not recommended for face scrubs).
Korean kids grow up with mum scrubbing them until they’re pink after bathtime, and you too can experience this type of intense treatment firsthand at Korean jimjilbangs. Many Koreans don’t feel ‘really clean’ until they’ve had the once-over with an Italy towel, and the scrub does indeed make your skin smoother, after the pinkness has faded. Many people have a 40-minute scrub before they relax in the sauna, as it helps to open pores.
You can also stock up your own Italy towels at home, and try them out gently (after a nice soak in the bath, mind you – about 30 minutes is best). The classic green towel with black stripes, manufactured by Songwol, is the best selling type. Softness varies by brand, but pink ones are generally a bit softer and yellow and blue ones are rougher than the green. Take a look at some advice from a scrubbing woman at Dragon Hill Spa before you start.
Pick up a Korean brand Italy Towel from some ebay sellers, they’re cheaper than Amazon:
Mitt versions in a variety of colours from a reasonable Korean seller
Soft pink Songwol brand from a UK seller
A 4-pack of the classic green Songwol towel from a US seller
Watch this: how to use an Italy towel
Watch this for the horror: US TV host Conan O’Brien gets scrubbed with one at a Korean spa