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How to Buy the Best Bath Towels for Your Home

BY: EDITORIAL TEAM | 4.21.2017 |

As simple pleasures in life go, there are few more enjoyable than wrapping a fluffy towel around yourself after soaking in the bath or taking a hot shower. It may be a small portion of your day, but it can help get you off to a comfortable start, which makes purchasing the best bath towels that much more important.

Shopping for towels can be a challenge, with myriad materials to choose from and plenty of terminology to decode. Never fear; our towel buying guide is here to break down what you need to know.

Know The Fabrics

Cottons

  • Egyptian cotton: Generally considered the king of cottons, this premium cotton's balance of softness, durability, absorbency, and breathability makes for some of the best bath towels available. Grown under Egypt's plentiful sunshine, this plant produces extra-long staples that turn into the thirsty, fibrous threads for which Egyptian cotton towels are famous.

  • Turkish cotton: Grown in Turkey, this premium cotton shares many qualities with Egyptian cotton. Though less absorbent than Egyptian cotton, Turkish cotton naturally has an attractive sheen, which gives towels a luxurious look.

  • Pima cotton: Though it's harvested from the same plant as Egyptian cotton, Pima is grown in countries such as Israel, Australia, and Peru, whose growing conditions alter the end product. It tends to lose some softness, but it gains strength.

  • Supima cotton: A portmanteau of "superior" and "Pima," Supima is the trademarked term for Pima cotton grown by certified farmers in the American Southwest, which is also where the term Pima comes from. The Pima, a Native American tribe in Arizona, began growing the cotton in the early 20th century.

  • MicroCotton: The trademarked term for a cotton developed in India. The cotton produces long staples that turn into fluffy threads, giving towels a suede-like texture

Eco-Friendly

  • Organic cotton: This doesn't refer to a specific type of cotton; rather, it refers to how a cotton was grown. Organic cottons give you the peace of mind that its farmers used high-quality fertilizers and avoided using harsh pesticides.

  • Bamboo: While there's a chance these towels are 100% bamboo, they're usually a blend. Besides its absorbency, bamboo fabric often boasts a lush feel and silky sheen, and its colorfastness resists fading. However, bamboo's environmental friendliness is a matter of perspective. It's naturally renewable and is easier to grow than cotton, but it requires heavy processing to turn into fabric. Read about rayon in the next section to learn more.

Synthetics

  • Rayon: Also referred to as viscose, rayon is a semi-synthetic fabric made by chemically treating natural material. Bamboo is perhaps the best-known example for towels. Modal, a rayon derived from beech trees, has been gaining popularity as well.

  • Microfiber: This manmade fabric typically blends fine polyester and polyamide fibers. Though they don't feel as luxurious as their cotton counterparts, microfiber towels are light, durable, and quick-drying. Microfiber is also great for washcloths, as it does a good job of grabbing makeup, trapping dirt, and exfoliating skin.

Know How It's Made

The construction can give you an idea of how the towels function—softer, thirstier, more durable, faster-drying, and so on. Here are some common constructions and what they mean for you:

Yarn

  • Combed: Refers to cotton being combed to remove the short and uneven fibers, leaving just the long central fibers. Results in a stronger, smoother fabric.

  • Hollow: Also sometimes seen as hygro, this means that the cotton yarns have a hollow core, make them extra-thirsty. That hollowness also enhances airflow for faster drying. As a bonus, hollow yarns make the fabric feel extra-fluffy after laundering.

  • Ringspun: Means the fibers are twisted tightly together, creating smooth, strong, and fine yarns. Tends to feel more refined than combed cotton.

  • Twist: Refers to the amount of twist per inch of yarn. The lower amount, such as low-twist and zero-twist, the plusher the towel. A higher amount results in a more durable, substantial-feeling towel.

Texture

  • Loop: Different loop lengths offer different feels. Longer loops, such as those found in terry cloth, feel fluffy, dry quickly, and wick moisture more than they absorb it. Shorter loops feel denser and are more absorbent.

  • Velour: Most towels are made with loops of yarn, but velour towels have no loops. Instead, the yarns stand straight out. This makes the towel less absorbent, but it creates a soft, velvety surface. Velour also creates a great surface for printing patterns.

Decoration

  • Jacquard: This refers to the method used to weave the towel fabric. It securely weaves patterns—sometimes even quite intricate ones—so the towel looks good, but can still stand up to frequent use.

  • Yarn-dyed: Yarn-dyed towels are woven with dyed yarns, so the pattern saturates through the fabric. This offers several benefits over printed patterns, which can looker cheaper by comparison. Printed patterns are also prone to shifting over time from laundering.

Weight

  • GSM: Stands for grams per square meter. The higher the number, the heavier the towel.

  • Two-ply: Means the towel is made with double the amount of yarn. This makes the towel denser, more durable, and extra absorbent, but increases its drying time.

Know The Types of Towels

  • Bath towel: The most basic of towel types, used to dry off after a shower. Usually measures around 27"x52".

  • Bath sheet: A larger version of a bath towel, for those who prefer extra coverage. Usually measures around 35"x60".

  • Washcloth: Small square towel that can be used in or out the shower. It helps clean and exfoliate the hands, face, and body. Usually measures around 13"x13".

  • Hand towel: Smaller towel for drying your hands after washing them. Usually measures around 16"x30".

  • Fingertip towel: Smaller version of a hand towel, often used in guest bathrooms. Usually measures around 11"x18".

  • Tub mat: Dense towel for laying on the floor immediately outside a tub or shower. Sometimes called a bathmat, it helps catch dripping water. Usually measures around 27"x52".

Know What You Want

While you can choose towels a la carte using the information above, you can also do so by answering a simple question. What matters most to you: utility ("I just want towels that dry me off"), luxury ("I want the best towels; ones that make me feel like royalty"), or design ("I want towels that match my bathroom")? Use the below table to find out and get the details on the best bath towel for you.

  UTILITY LUXURY DESIGN
Fabric Pima, Supima Egyptian cotton, MicroCotton Turkish cotton, bamboo
Construction Microfiber Low- or no-twist yarns, two-ply construction Jacquard or yarn-dyed fabrics, decorative trim and embroidery
Weight (GSM) 300–400, 400–600 400–600, 600–900 400–600, 600–900