Bath towels have a seemingly infinite combination of features, making it hard to understand which ones will actually work.
This guide will give you the insider tips and tricks to choosing the best bath towel for your own unique needs.
We’ve broken down this simple guide into five parts.
1. What is the best bath towel material?
Bath towels can be made of all sorts of materials. You may find the following in your search:
Most people agree that 100% cotton towels are the best bath towel material.
However, not all cottons are the same. Just because a towel is 100% cotton doesn’t necessarily mean that it’ll be soft and absorbent.
When you think of cotton, you think of that small white fluff ball. Cotton is a plant, and each one of those fluffs has nearly 300,000 individual cotton fibres.
Every fibre in a cotton plant has its own length, strength, and quality.
Higher quality cotton fibres are longer and are grown using methods that promote strength.
Often times, a 100% cotton bath towel still may shed or not be absorbent. This is most likely due to each cotton strand being shorter, making it easier to fall off the weave.
When searching for cotton bath towels, look for long-staple cotton. With long-staple cotton, each cotton fibre is between 1.1 inches to 1.4 inches, giving it extra absorbency.
Longer fibre length when woven yields a smoother surface with fewer loose strands, translating to less shedding. Because of this, each one of these long-staple strands can even become softer with more uses.
Another thing to look out for when fining the best bath towel are claims of Egyptian cotton or Turkish cotton.
While it’s true that sometimes towels that claim they have Egyptian or Turkish cotton are extra soft and absorbent, the claim alone doesn’t mean anything. It’s very common for companies with these claims to mix fibre lengths.
Even if the cotton plant is from Egypt, you still could be getting short staple cotton in your towel, making it more likely to shed. Always verify these claims by looking for “long-staple” or by finding out the fibre length.
Woven from natural fibers, linen tends to be a more durable and lightweight alternative to cotton bath towels. They absorb water more quickly, and the naturally antimicrobial and breathable fabric is less likely to mold and fall culprit to mildew.
Plant-based modal bath towels are manufactured from naturally derived cellulose sources such as the macerated wood pulps of birch or beech trees and tend to be slightly more absorbent than cotton.
We recommend staying clear of bamboo bath towels. Bamboo is highly absorbent, but also takes significantly longer to dry than cotton towels.
Origins of bamboo towels are also hard to trace. Several environmental groups have raised concerns over the ethics of mass forest harvesting to make bamboo towels.
The environmental advocacy group, Dovetail, found in a recent study that “Degradation of natural forests, tremendous biodiversity loss, widespread use of fertilizers and pesticides, loss of resilience in bamboo resources, and increased social and environmental risks linked to large-scale monoculture agriculture are among the costs [of bamboo products]”.
Comprised of super-fine synthetic fibres, often featuring polyester, microfibre bath towels are known for their durability and extremely smooth texture. Commonly used for cleaning, microfibre towels are also known for their quick-dry properties.
Bath towels are measured in GSM, or grams per square meter. This is the easiest way to compare the density of a bath towel. Higher GSM bath towels will be softer and more absorbent than lower GSM bath towels.
When shopping, look for bath towels between 600 and 800 GSM. These bath towels will have a softer feeling, and will typically be more absorbent.
You should also be wary of bath towels that have claims they are over 800 GSM. There is a point where a bath towel will become too stiff and too heavy.
That point varies based on the type and origin of material, but that point is typically over 800 GSM. You wouldn’t want your bath towel to feel like a bath mat!
Bath mats however, can go up to 1200 gsm. The main reason for this is its role to absorb as much water as possible. Click here to see some examples.
Another consideration is the raw weight of the towel. If you’ll be using the towel to wrap your hair or lounge around for a long period of time, you wouldn’t want the towel to feel like a brick on your head. However, you still need to balance high absorbency with weight.
Finding what weave a bath towel uses can be difficult when shopping online. A good rule of thumb is if it’s not explicitly listed, assume the bath towel uses a lower-quality twisting method.
Bath towel construction can be broken down into two main categories: twist and zero-twist. Here are several keywords to look out as clues to determine how the towel is made.
Twisted (lower quality)
– Combed Cotton
– Ring Spun
– Two Ply
Zero-Twist (higher quality)
– Zero Twist
The main difference between zero twist and twisted cotton is exactly how it sounds. Twisted cotton twists cheaper strands of cotton to make more durable fibres.
Zero twist towels use a longer and stronger cotton strand to begin with, and therefore don’t have to twist fibres together.
Look up close on any towel and you’ll see it for yourself. There are either twists or loops. Which one would you want rubbing up against your body? The edge of a pointy twist or a long, smooth, draping loop.
As hinted at above, the reason why all towels aren’t zero-twist is simple economics.
Manufacturers can pass off towels as high quality “Turkish Cotton”, even though they are actually using cheap twisted cotton methods.
Zero-twist cotton also has an extra benefit in how much it’s able to absorb and how quickly it’s able to dry. Because the cotton is looped, more surface area of the cotton is exposed, and therefore it can absorb more water.
With cheap twisted cotton, the fibres may be more inclined to push the water away, rather than absorb it. With zero-twist, or looped cotton, those loops create tiny pockets to better trap water and more quickly absorb it.
Another benefit of having more of the cotton surface exposed? Faster drying.
Because of the greater surface area, more of the fibre is exposed to air, which allows the water to evaporate quicker.
Identifying a quality towel means taking a closer look at the intricate details that make it great. You use your bath towels every day so it’s important to look for premium quality fabrics and construction that will hold up to regular usage.
- Loop density: For terry towels, the bigger, longer, and denser the cotton loops are, the higher the GSM will be. This means an extra soft, absorbent towel.
- Double-turned edges: This is when the ends of the towel are double-stitched to inhibit fraying or have a ribbed detailing (those signature straight lines that extend the width of a towel) for a clean, modern finish.
- Sewn-in loops: A sewn-in loop makes towels easier to hang, a great feature for thinner options, which can dry quickly even when slightly bunched together.
We preach the importance of shopping sustainably, and while researching companies to ensure they abide by standards is important, understanding what they are certifying is just as crucial. Most towel labels boast their certifications; here’s what they mean:
- OEKO-TEX Standard 100 Certification: Every aspect of a textile (right down to its threads), has been tested for harmful chemicals.
- Made in Green Certification: Another OEKO-TEX certification, this ensures products are made under sustainable practices and free of all harmful substances.