Bathroom Towel Buying Guide
How to Pick the Perfect Towels for Your Bathroom
Soft, fluffy, and absorbent, bathroom towels and bath mats are not only functional, but fashionable. They dry us off, wrap us in comfort, and look good complementing your bathroom décor while hanging on the towel bar. They come in such a wide range of sizes, patterns, colors, fabric weights, different yarns and blends that choosing the perfect bath linens to suit your style and needs can seem a daunting task. Before throwing in the towel on your quest, check out our tips for finding the best towels for your bathroom.
Consider Feel, Function, and Fashion
When choosing bath towels for your home, consider their feel, intended purpose, and style. Do you love a towel that is thick and ultra-fluffy, lightweight and quick-drying, extra absorbent and soft, or friendly to the environment? Will you use them for every day, for decorative or seasonal use, for guests, or will you be taking them to the beach or the pool? Your choice of materials will factor into how the towels feel and perform. Heavier, denser towels will be very absorbent and durable. Lightweight towels will be soft and fast drying.
In terms of style, you have so many options to choose from in colors, patterns, and designs in bath towels. Bold, vibrant hues give you a great way to give your bathroom a pop of color, especially if your fixtures and wall are neutral tones. You can change your color scheme easily and as often as you like when a quick swap of your bathroom linens including towels, rugs or mats, shower curtains, and window curtains. You can coordinate your master bath colors to your master bedroom color scheme and change the look of your guest bath or powder room seasonally. Solids, prints, striped designs, and different weave patterns are all variables to consider when selecting the towels to suit your home’s décor and your personal style.
Types of Bathroom Towel Materials
Towels are made from a variety of fabrics created from different materials with a range of weave patterns, levels of absorbency, and drying rates. Here’s a run-down of some of the most common choices of materials used to make bathroom towels.
Long a staple in bath linens, Turkish cotton is grown exclusively in Turkey. It is a premium fabric that is famous for its incredible absorbency, durability, and high level of comfort. Towels made from Turkish cotton will actually become softer, fluffier, and more absorbent with each wash.
Supima cotton is a superior type of Pima cotton grown and manufactured in the USA. What makes Supima unique compared to other varieties of cotton is its extra-long staple fibers that give the cotton its premium strength, softness, and color-retention properties. These qualities make it luxurious, more expensive, and sought after over conventional cotton.
One of the world’s highest quality cottons, Egyptian cotton is grown in the warm, dry climate of Egypt. It features fine, extra-long fibers that are twice as long as conventional cotton, making it ultra-soft without sacrificing strength.
Organic cotton is grown without use of pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers. This type of eco-friendly cotton is certified to meet the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS).
Tencel ™ Lyocell
Tencel is a popular fabric of choice for eco-conscious consumers and used in a variety of textile products including activewear. A brand name owned by the Austrian company Lenzing AG, it is a type of rayon like viscose and modal that is manmade from fibers that are natural in origin. Tencel’s cellulose fibers are derived from wood pulp that is chemically treated, spun into thread, and woven into cloth. It is light, stronger than cotton when wet, and holds up well in the hot wash cycle.
Micro cotton is made from high-quality, extra-long staple fibers woven by master weavers. Micro cotton towels are soft, lighter in weight, and have superior moisture-wicking properties that make them more absorbent than towels made from traditional ring-spun cotton.
Bamboo Cotton Blend
Blending cotton with bamboo, one of the world’s most sustainable resources, this fabric is moisture wicking, naturally antibacterial, and resistant to odors. These properties make it an ideal and eco-friendly choice for bath towels. They have a silky feel and combine the softness and fluffiness of cotton with the quick-drying absorbency and sustainability of bamboo.
Cotton Wool Blend
Cotton mixed with a touch of wool creates bath towels that feel soft and sumptuous to the touch. Combining the best of both fibers. this fabric blend is naturally moisture wicking and fluffy.
The fabric weight or density of bathroom towels is measured in GSM units or grams per square meter. This measurement indicates how absorbent the towel will be. The higher or heavier the GSM weight, the more absorbent the towel. Typically, you will see bath towels in the 400-900 GSM range.
Towels measuring 400-500 GSM will be lightweight and have a quicker drying time. These are great for hand towels in your powder room or towels used at the gym, by the pool, or at the beach.
The ideal medium weight, towels in the 500-650 GSM range are ideal for everyday bath towels and guest towels.
Towels weighing 750-900 GSM are considered to be a premium, luxury weight, and they will be denser, thicker, and more absorbent than lower weights. Because of their thickness and density, they take longer to dry, but will offer the ultimate in plush softness.
Common Sizes of Bath Towels and Linens
Bath linens come in several types and sizes. Each type can be sold individually, in sets of same sizes, or in combination towel sets containing one or two of each commonly used sizes such as a washcloth, a hand towel, and a bath towel.
This small square towel is used to wash your body or face rather than to dry them off. Washcloths generally measure 12” x 12”, 13” x 13”, or 12” x 14” in size. Most are sold in sets of two.
Also called fingertip towels, this type of towel is smaller than a hand towel and is used for drying hands. They are typically used in powder rooms or next to the sink in a guest bathroom. Sold individually or in sets, tea towels can also come in a variety of novelty patterns and designs. They range in 11” x 18”, 12” x 18”, and 14” x 20” sizes.
Like their name implies, hand towels are everyday towels used to dry hands after washing. They are used in master bathrooms, guest bathrooms, and powder rooms, and are usually hung close to the sink for easy access. They also make a great decorative accent and come in many seasonal and novelty designs. Hand towels comes in 16” x 30”, 18” x 30”, and 19” x 30” sizes.
An everyday essential, the bath towel is the do-it-all size used for drying your body after a bath or shower. It’s also the perfect size for wrapping up wet hair after a shower to absorb moisture before drying and styling it with a hairdryer. Most bath towels will measure 30” x 54” or 30” x 56” in size.
Larger than the standard bath towel, oversized bath sheets are perfect for anyone who wants more coverage after their shower or bath. They are the ultimate bath time indulgence that let you wrap yourself in their plush softness. Bath sheets can come in 35” x 68”, 39” x 68”, or 40” x 68” sizes.
Bath Mat or Rug
A bath mat or small rug is used to keep the floor or bath rug dry when you’re stepping out of the shower or tub and can be placed where you want to protect wet feet from slipping on the tile or to provide warmth and cushioned comfort beneath your feet such as in front of the vanity. They come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Choose the size needed based on your available floor space. You can use multiple mats in large bathrooms or if you have more than one location where a mat is needed such as in front of a standalone shower stall and alongside a bathtub that is separate from the shower. Although size and shape varies, a typical rectangular or oval bath mat will come in standard 20” x 35”, 30” x 36”, or 22” x 35” sizes.
Towel Terms to Know
When shopping for bath towels, you may come across certain terminology that is commonly used. Here’s some terms you are likely to encounter in your search for the perfect towel:
Combed cotton is cotton that has had the short fibers and any impurities from the harvested plant removed before processing. Combing out these fibers and impurities makes the cotton extremely soft and strong and creates the highest quality cotton fabric available.
Dobby refers to a pattern in the weave that contains simple geometric forms or motifs. This design is made on a loom using a mechanism called a dobby head to create the special woven pattern.
Jacquard is a raised pattern that is woven onto the fabric using a special loom. It uses hundreds of threads to weave the designs instead of printing or dying them onto the surface. Common designs found in jacquard fabric includes damasks, florals, and traditional geometric motifs.
Created by twisting and winding yarns simultaneously and continuously during the manufacturing process, ring-spun cotton has enhanced softness, smoothness, and durability.
Terry cotton is woven using longer loops of yard for a distinctive look and texture. Terry is very soft, flexible, and absorbent. You will find it used in towels, robes, and clothing.
Other Things to Consider
If you see "STANDARD 100 by OEKO-TEX Certified" on the label or packaging, it means that the source materials used to make the towel have been tested and verified by an independent lab that they do not contain any of a listed 350 harmful substances. Seeing this certification enables you to make responsible decisions to keep you and your family safe.
If you are concerned about helping the environment, look for towels made from organic or eco-friendly materials that are responsibly sourced and made from sustainable resources. To save on water, hang towels after use to thoroughly dry before reusing them rather than launder them after each use. This will reduce the amount water, detergent, and electricity used during cleaning, and save you the time needed to wash more loads of dirty laundry.
How many towels should you have?
A general rule of thumb is to have at minimum two sets per family member. Also have some extra sets on hand for guests. Others prefer to keep three sets of towels each (6 total): one hanging in the bathroom, one stored in the linen closet, and one in the laundry. A set includes a washcloth, a hand towel, and a bath towel or bath sheet. You can adjust amounts based on personal preferences and individual family/guest needs.
FUN FACT: When the Titanic set sail, the ship was stocked with 7,500 bath towels, 8,000 lavatory (hand) towels, and 25,000 fine (fingertip or tea) towels.