Old towels can frequently lose their fluid-absorbing powers over time as soap residue builds up. To loosen them up, run them through a wash cycle once with hot water and a cup of vinegar, followed by another load with hot water and half a cup of bicarb soda.
Forget about oven mitts and pot holders. The pros use folded towels for just about everything. How do you tell the veterans from the noobs? The former have a neatly stacked pile of cooking towels, crisply folded at the edges and tucked into their aprons.