Beginner’s Bath Towel Guide

Bath towels may be the hardest working members of your household. After all, we expect our towels and washcloths to keep us clean, dry us off, add to the look of our bathroom and, occasionally, wipe up after your dog Fluffy tracks mud into the house. However, despite their versatility, towels are often underappreciated, with many people putting little thought into which type of towel they buy and bring home.

Visit any store selling bath towels and you’ll see confused consumers. Faced with stacks and stacks of towels, in a wide range of prices and awash in advertising claims, it’s hard to choose. The mission? To buy soft, absorbent towels. Here’s some advice from the experts at Best Reviews Hunt.

Bath Towel Materials

A towel’s durability, feel, and ability to retain its color are largely due to the type of fibers used to produce the towel. We run through the most common towel materials.

Cotton Towels

Pima Cotton Towels: Considered a superior blend of cotton, Pima towels are light and fluffy due to the rich, extra-long staple fibers. Pima cotton is known for its absorbency and strength.

Supima Cotton Towels: 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.

Egyptian Cotton Towels: Extremely durable and light and fluffy to the touch, Egyptian cotton also has extra-long fibers that give towels more density and absorbency.

MicroCotton Towels: This trademarked cotton is known for its high-quality long staple fibers. It boasts excellent absorbency and a fluffy feel.

Turkish Cotton Towels: This premium, extra-long staple cotton tends to have longer loops that make the towel heavier and more substantial. Turkish cotton towels are highly absorbent and soft.

Eco-Friendly Towels

Organic Cotton Towels: are woven from cotton untouched by unnatural fertilizers or pesticides. Certified organic cotton is grown and harvested to leave the smallest possible carbon footprint, and organic cotton bath towels are usually created under the same earth-friendly mantra.

Bamboo Towels: Most often blended with cotton, bamboo towels are lush, soft, and retain color well. Bamboo plants are naturally anti-bacterial and their fibers are super absorbent.

Synthetic Towels

Rayon Towels: 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 Towels: These towels are a blend of polyester and polyamide fibers. It is a very absorbent material and has trends to dry quicker than 100% cotton towels.

Bath Towel Construction

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


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 an added 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.


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.


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.

Gold Dust: For the ultimate in luxury, buy towels saturated with particles of gold. Not only does it glimmer in your bathroom, it will also leave you dusted in golden sparkles after every use, leading some to mistake you for an ancient god.

Bath Towel Weight

All towels have a fabric weight, measured with a GSM (grams per square meter) number. This refers to the density of the fabric used to make that particular towel. Lower GSM towels are lighter and thinner, making them a great choice for a gym bag or trips to the beach. You’ll likely want to save your heavier, thicker, higher GSM towels for use in the master or guest bathroom.

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Two-ply towels are a bit more durable than one ply. Cotton is stronger than rayon. Cotton/polyester towels are also durable—that’s why hotels and gyms use them—but are less absorbent than all cotton.

Good bath towels are described as feeling heavy, but heavy does not always indicate quality. A lighter towel made with luxury fabric may feel superior compared to a heavier towel made with lower grade cotton.

Bath Towel Sizes

TowelTypical SizesUse
Bath sheet35 x 60 inches to 40 x 70 inchesOversized for more coverage; spa-worthy; luxurious
Bath Towel27 x 52 inches to 30 x 58 inchesMost common; easier to clean and hang than bath sheets
Hand Towel16 x 28 inches to 18 x 30 inchesUsed to dry hands and as decorative accents; choose size based on towel rack area
Finger Towel11x18 inchesMini hand towels; used to accent bathroom decor or as guest room hand towels
Wash Cloth13 x 13 inchesUsed to wash hands; body and face in and out of the shower and bath
Tub Mat27 x 52 inchesAbsorbent; protects the floor outside the tub or shower

Towels aren’t one size fits all. Choose your bath towel size on the job it needs to do, where it will be stored and personal preference.

Know How Many Towels You Need

Towels are sold individually, but they’re also sold in bath towel sets; for example, a set of towels might come with two bath towels, two hand towels, and two washcloths. Which is better for your home depends on which of these advantages means more to you.

Advantages Of Buying A Towel Set:

  • It’s more economical. This is especially true for families. Sets usually present greater value than purchasing piece by piece.
  • It makes buying decisions easier. If you know the core things you want in your towels, then looking at sets can simplify finding what you want, saving you time over comparing towels individually.
  • It makes coordinating easier. Many towel sets have pieces with different colors or embellishments that are meant to complement each other, bringing visual enhancement to bath decor.

Advantages Of Buying Towels Individually:

  • Focus on the pieces you want. Maybe you already own some hand towels and a memory-foam bathmat. Maybe you love a thick washcloth but need a quick-drying towel because you work out twice a day. Whatever the reason, buying a set might either overload you with pieces you won’t use, or it doesn’t supply you with the versatility you need.
  • More design freedom. For some, even the most design-friendly sets aren’t design-friendly enough. Buying pieces individually gives you more freedom to choose colors, patterns, and textures to support the look of your bathroom.

Caring For Your Bath Towels

If properly cared for, a high-quality towel can retain its softness, durability, and absorbency for years. If not properly cared for, even the most premium cottons can degrade rapidly. Above all else, read the care label on your towels. Beyond that, here are some care tips for getting the most out of your towels for as long as possible.

  • Read the care label before you wash. Machine wash on the hottest temperature-setting recommended, with similar colors.
  • Wash before using. Many towels have a coating that makes them look brighter and fluffier when they’re sitting on store shelves, but this coating can impede absorbency. An initial wash also helps set color and reduce lint.
  • Use vinegar. Occasionally adding distilled white vinegar to the wash offers a number of benefits: it helps prevent fading and also gets rid of any musty odors that thicker towels can be prone to.
  • Fluff them before and after drying. A small thing, but it helps the yarns stay full and flexible.
  • Avoid fabric softeners. They may make your towels feel nicer, but fabric softeners can leave residues that inhibit absorption.
  • Avoid bleach, even on bleach-safe towels. If it says no chlorine bleach, don’t use it! Even some white towels have a finish that should not be bleached. Bleach may weaken the fibers over time and make towels less absorbent.
  • Go easy on the heat. Similar to avoiding bleach, excess heat can dry out your towels, making the yarns stiff and brittle. Consider alternating dryer cycles, hang-drying on a sunny day, or holding your towel out of the window while driving.
  • If your towels are pilling, try a lint roller or wrap tape around your hand (sticky side up) and press over the towels to lift the balls. Also be sure to clean the lint filter in your dryer after every use. Heloise’s hint: Place a large piece of nylon netting in the dryer along with the towels. The netting will tumble against them, causing the fuzz balls to fall off.