As you know, I have 3 kids, which means that summer is officially towel season at our house. The kids take towels everywhere…the pool, the lake, and the park. My son is required to bring 2 towels to day camp every day, my daughter creates makeshift tents out of towels, and my other daughter treats our bathtub as if it’s our town’s swim club! We go through towels like other people go through milk.
We expect a lot out of our towels. Towels need to look great hanging up in the bathroom. They must keep looking great, even after several dozen washes. Towels must also feel nice against your skin. They also need to be great at actually drying you off. With towels being such a prized commodity at my house, I did a lot of research on getting the best towels at a reasonable price.
This ultimate towel-buying guide will teach you everything you need to know.
Microlush towels from Home Dynamix and Pinnacle Bath Mat set by Daisy Fuentes
The Right Stuff
Just like you can’t trust the lighting in the store fitting room, never trust the softness of a towel sitting on a store shelf. Most manufacturers soak their towels in softener before shipping them off. That softener will quickly wash out. You may find your once indulgent, soft towels now feel like sandpaper against your skin.
Buying the right towels for you is all about the fabric. Different materials have different qualities. Here is what you need to know about what your towels are made of:
- Turkish cotton– Made with long fibers, towels made from Turkish cotton are soft and absorbent. They also tend to have a natural sheen that makes them continue to look nice, even after many trips through the laundry. These towels are heavier and feel more substantial. Turkish cotton towels are durable.
- Egyptian cotton– Made from even longer threads than Turkish cotton, these towels are luxurious, soft, and absorbent. Egyptian cotton is the most common material in bath towels. They are durable and tend to retain their softness. However, they are slow to dry and may not be ideal for humid climates. These towels are thick and fluffy.
- Bamboo– Most bamboo towels are made from a cotton-bamboo blend. The bamboo gives towels a beautiful sheen, similar to Turkish cotton. Bamboo is also said to have antibacterial properties. These towels hold their color well and are super-absorbent. Bamboo is less resource intensive to grow and tends to be better for the environment than cotton.
- Microfiber- Towels made from microfiber dry the fastest of any towels. They are not as fluffy or soft as towels made from other materials. They are easy to store and their thin size makes them easier to pack than other towels.
- Organic cotton– The cotton in these towels is grown as sustainably as possible. No chemical pesticides are used. Only organic fertilizers nurture the crops. The absorbency, fluffiness, and durability of organic cotton towels varies considerably.
- Pima cotton- The cotton used in these towels is actually the same plant variety used in Egyptian cotton, except the cotton was not grown in Egypt. Instead Pima cotton comes primarily from Peru, Israel, and Australia. The different climate produces slightly different towels. Pima cotton towels are not as soft as Egyptian cotton towels, but are stronger and more durable.
Making Sense of the Label
Once you have decided what you want your towels to look and feel like, it is time to take a look at the label. Towel labels offer a wealth of information, if you know how to decode all the jargon. Here is what your towel labels are trying to tell you.
- Combed– If your towel has been combed that means as part of the manufacturing process the short and uneven cotton fibers have been combed out. This improves the smoothness and strength of the towel.
- Ringspun– The cotton fibers in ringspun towels were twisted together into fine yarns. This makes them even smoother than combed towels. Ringspun towels will feel softer and more elegant than combed towels.
- Twist– This is a number that refers to the amount of twist per inch of yarn in the towel. Zero-twist towels will feel the most plush and soft. The higher the number the less plush, but the stronger and more durable the towel.
- 2-ply– Just like with toilet paper, two times the material means these towels are more durable and absorbent. Because the yarn is doubled, the towels feel thicker.
- Weights– Sheets have thread counts and towels have GSM, or grams per square meter. The higher the GSM the fluffier the towel. At the top of the scale are 600-900 GSM towels. These are like the towels you will find in luxury spas. You feel like you are wrapping up in a cozy blanket. At the bottom end are the 300-400 GSM towels. These are the towels you will find at they gym. They are thin, last forever, and dry quickly. But, they tend to become coarse after several washes. Most bath towels are in the middle between 400-600 GSM.
What Size Do You Need?
Towels come in a surprising variety of sizes. Here are the standard sizes and types of towels you will need for your bathroom.
- Bath Sheet– Save these over-sized towels for your self. These usually measure 35” x 60”, and the softer, plusher, and more luxurious the better. These are what you want after getting out of a bubble bath.
- Bath Towel– These are the towels everyone else can use when getting out of the bath to shower. The standard size of a bath towel is 27” x 52”. Your decorative towels should also be this size.
- Finger Tip Towel (Hand towel)- These are what people are supposed to use after washing their hands. Finger tip towels are 11” x 18”.
- Washcloth– These square towels have tons of uses, although they are mostly designed for scrubbing your face. The standard washcloth measurements are 13” x 13”.
- Tub Mat– A good tub mat saves your floor from water damage, pulls the room together, and makes getting out of the shower or bath a little less jarring. These should be super absorbent. A good size for a tub mat is 27” x 52”
Colors and Quantities
The best color for your bath towels depends on your personal taste and style. However, remember that even the nicest towels will fade. Make sure you can live with a faded coral towel before you commit to buying a ton of them.
When buying decorative towels feel free to break away from the suggestions you will find in the store. While many people buy towels that are just different shades of the same color, buying towels that are different, but complementary, colors will make your bathroom pop.
When it comes to buying towels for your family to use, consider doing what hotels do. Buy only white towels. These will not fade and they will never bleed. If they get dingy, you can simply bleach them. It also makes it easier for everyone to tell the difference between the towels they use and the towels they look at.
The number of towels you buy is another personal preference. But, if you want to find the right balance between feeling like a towel store and washing towels twice a day, consider buying three bath towels per person. This leaves one for use in the bathroom, one in the laundry, and one ready in the linen closet. Three per person also works for finger towels. Consider buying additional washcloths as they wear out faster than larger towels. Don’t forget to buy one or two bath sheets just for you and maybe your significant other.
Now you know everything you need to walk into your favorite store and buy towels like a pro. It’s just a matter of knowing what you like and decoding the labels to see what each towel is made of.
Do you have any tips for keeping your towels nice, bright, and soft after you get them home? Leave a comment and tell me your secrets.