Nothing feels better than wrapping yourself up in a cozy towel after you get out of the tub or shower. If your towel is feeling rough or isn’t drying you off quickly, chances are it’s time for an upgrade. The problem is there are so many bath towels to choose from at a wide range of price points, so it’s not exactly easy to shop for bath towels, especially when you’re unsure of how they’ll hold up over time.
If you’ve ever enveloped yourself up in a big, ultra plush towel at a five-star hotel, you’ve probably wished you had such nice linens at home. Well, here’s some good news: You can. These days, you can find tons of quality towels that are soft, absorbent and easy to launder, and that come in all different styles and price ranges. Our favorite on the market is Parachute’s Classic Towel, a luxe option that also happens to be eco-friendly. But there are plenty of other top-notch choices on this list, one (or many) of which is bound to fit your aesthetic and budget.
When shopping for bath towels, you want to take into consideration things like material, size and weight (which is measured in gsm, or grams per square meter). And because this is an item that you’ll use pretty regularly, it should hold up to frequent use; in other words, unless you’re in the market for a towel for a guest bath, it shouldn’t be too high-maintenance. To determine the best towels you can buy right now, we pored over customer reviews and scoured towel specs, doing our very best to ensure that only top-of-the-line designs made it onto our final list. Ahead, find our 5 favorites, all of which are guaranteed to elevate your bathroom and bathing experience.
The 5 Best Bath Towels of 2022:After our review
This six-pack costs less than other individual towels, yet still had impressive performance in both Lab and at-home consumer tests. It soaked up most of the fluid in our absorbency tests and users told us it felt both soft and absorbent when they used it after showers. The downside was that it took longer to dry both in our evaluations and at-home reviews. Still, it held up well to laundering without shedding lint, which is impressive for 100% cotton towels.
This editor-favorite towel has a unique construction of cotton on the outside so you feel the softness, but microfiber on the inside for enhanced performance. The result makes it absorbent, quick drying, strong and shrink-resistant. The fabric surface showed fuzzy signs of wear faster than others in our laundering evaluations, but it was a top performer and the only towel to ace both absorbency and drying time tests. We’re also big fans of the brand’s Ribbed Towels for those who prefer a textured feel.
At $50 for a set of four, the White Classic Luxury Cotton Bath Towels are some of the most budget-friendly options that we tested—but that’s not their only selling point. Spun from 100 percent cotton at a weight of 700 GSM (that’s grams per square meter, which correlates with thickness), they proved to be plush and fairly absorbent during testing. Our testers were able to dry their hands after just a few passes, and the towel barely felt damp after wiping.
While they’re not as soft as pricier options, these towels do a great job for the price. They’re a solid option for guest bathrooms or college students—and, because they’re on the smaller side, these towels would also be great for kids.
No matter the season, sometimes you just want to wrap yourself up in a nice, roomy towel. Bath sheets are perfect for that, and the Hammam Linen Jumbo Bath Sheet was one of our favorites. At 35 by 70 inches, this towel is large enough to accommodate a variety of body types. It earned high marks from testers for its absorbency and generous size—and the price point is reasonable, too.
One of our only issues with this bath sheet was its durability: After washing and drying, there were a number of snags and pulled threads. While this didn’t affect its absorbency or overall feel, you might want to take extra care when washing.
Made in Denizli, Turkey, these absorbent bath towels combine luxury and affordability. They’re made of high-quality cotton and have a double-stitched hem so they don’t fray or wear out on the edges, even with regular use. They’re designed to fluff up and get softer after each wash, so you’ll have them for the long haul. At 700 grams per square meter, they’re thick and plush like the kind you’d find at a high-end spa. And they’re made without harmful dyes or chemicals, so you can fully relax after your bath or shower. With a dozen colors to choose from, you’ll find a set that fits in with any decor.
How we test bath towels
Each bath towel is put through the wringer in both Lab tests and consumer evaluations. In recent years, we’ve tested more than 80 towels and reviewed over 10,000 data points from these tests. Here’s how the bath towels are scored:
✔️ Absorbency: Using the apparatus pictured above, a towel sample is set up at a 60-degree angle and water is poured on from a standard distance. Any water that the towel doesn’t absorb rolls off the fabric and into the bin below, where it then gets weighed. This test is performed multiple times on each towel, including after repeated wash cycles. A towel with perfect absorbency won’t have any run off.
✔️ Drying speed: A standard amount of water is applied to a towel swatch. Analysts then hang the swatch to dry and reweigh it every thirty minutes until it reaches its original weight, indicating that the towel has fully dried.
✔️ Washability: Each towel is washed and dried twenty times, with analysts measuring shrinkage and appearance throughout this process. They also measure weight loss from laundering to see how much each towel sheds lint.
✔️ Fabric strength: A specialized machine called the Instron pulls swatches of towel fabric apart and measures the force needed to break each one.
✔️ Consumer tests: Dozens of consumer testers use the towels and rate them on factors like softness, appearance, whether users were dried off quickly and more.
How to shop for bath towels
Towel shopping is largely based on your personal preference:
✔️ If you want a super soft, ultra-absorbent towel, look for 100% cotton with dense, plush loops of yarn on the surface. You can also look at fabric weight, which is shown in GSM. Over 600 GSM is considered heavy, so these will typically be the plushest. Lighter towels like waffle weaves or ribs weren’t typically as soft in our test.
✔️ If you want a towel that’s quick-drying and more durable, consider a cotton-poly blend or a lighter fabric with a low pile (short loops). Fluffy loops help the towel feel soft and absorb water, but they can take longer to dry and may show more wear from laundering.
How do you stop towels from shedding fluff?
Wash them before use! Sometimes there are loose fibers leftover from the production process, but laundering the towels a few times should help get rid of them. Pro tip: Washing them also makes them more absorbent because it gets rid of leftover finishes from production.
What to Look for in a Bath Towel
While many people don’t think about the fiber(s) their towels are made from, this is one of the most important considerations, as fibers perform differently in terms of absorbance, softness, colorfastness, and durability. Further, certain fibers are also more or less environmentally friendly depending on how they’re made, and this information may impact your choice if you’re working to reduce your carbon footprint.
You’ll most commonly see towels made from cotton, thanks to their impressive absorbency and softness. There are several types of cotton towels available, including Egyptian cotton, Turkish cotton, organic cotton, Pima cotton, and more. (We’ll discuss the nuances of these cotton varieties below.) Plus, there are also towels made from bamboo, a more eco-friendly option, and microfiber, a type of inexpensive polyester.
While perhaps not the most important consideration, you should always check the size of bath towels before you buy them. There’s nothing worse than getting your towels home and realizing they’ll barely wrap around your body! Standard bath towels typically measure between 27 to 30 inches wide and 52 to 58 inches long. Towels that are 27 x 52 inches may be perfect for smaller adults, but they likely won’t suffice for larger adults. Keep this in mind, especially if you’re shopping online and can’t see the towel in person before you buy.
If you want to really bundle yourself up in a towel, look for bath sheets, which are larger, spa-like towels that typically measure between 35 to 40 inches wide and 60 to 70 inches long. As you might expect, they generally cost more than standard towels.
All fabrics, including towels, have a weight that’s measured in GSM, or grams per square meter. In general, towels typically weigh between 300 and 900 GSM—the lower the number, the lighter the towel will be (and the quicker to dry).
There’s no “right” towel weight; it’s simply a matter of personal preference. Some people like lighter towels, while others prefer heavy, dense ones. As a general rule of thumb, towels with a GSM of 300-400 are great for humid areas, while products between 400-600 GSM are standard. Towels that weigh more than 600 GSM are often considered “luxury” products.
There are some key performance differences associated with various towel weights that are important to factor into your purchasing decision. For instance, products with a low GSM typically dry faster but aren’t as absorbent. An example of this is a lightweight beach towel. On the other hand, heavy towels with a high GSM are the most absorbent and plush, but as such, they will take longer to dry.
Absorbency is another important consideration when purchasing towels, but this factor is often hard to discern when you’re shopping in-store or online. There’s no way to measure a towel’s absorbency without trying it, but you can look for a few indicators that a towel will soak up plenty of water.
For one, thicker, heavier towels are generally more absorbent, as previously noted. This means towels with a higher GSM will soak up more water—but, remember, they take longer to dry out. Further, towels made from premium cotton varieties, such as Egyptian or pima cotton, tend to be more absorbent, as are products made from a cotton-rayon blend.
Products that use “combed cotton” have literally been combed to remove shorter fibers and any impurities from the yarn, resulting in a fabric made from only the longest fibers. Combed cotton towels are extremely strong and durable, though not as luxurious to the touch. Ringspun cotton, on the other hand, means both short and long fibers have been twisted together to create the yard, resulting in a fabric that’s smooth and soft to the touch.
As you might guess, twisted yarns mean the fibers are twisted together, and different amounts of twist have different benefits. Low-twist yarns are often plush to the touch, while high-twist yarns create an extremely durable product. “No twist” means the fibers are not twisted, yielding a fluffy, absorbent towel.
No one wants to splurge on towels only to have the colors fade or become splotchy. Unfortunately, there’s no precise way to tell if a towel is colorfast, so it’s best to read the reviews on an item whenever possible to see what kind of experience other buyers have had.
What are the different types of bath towels?
There are many different types of bath towels. Egyptian and Turkish cotton towels are the most-high end types you can buy. They are both made from long-staple fibers, so they are super soft and absorbent and typically carry higher price points than other types of towels. Pima cotton towels are similar to Egyptian and Turkish cotton towels, but they are domestically sourced in the U.S.
Then there are bamboo towels, which are a great option for those looking to reduce their environmental impact. Whether they are 100 percent bamboo or a bamboo-cotton blend, these towels are naturally antibacterial.1 Unfortunately, they are not as absorbent as other options and are usually high in price, too. Linen is another great eco-friendly option that dries super fast; just note that they aren’t as soft as regular towels.
Microfiber towels are a fast-drying and inexpensive option since they are made from finely spun synthetic fibers. They also prevent mildew from growing, so many people use this type of towel beyond their bathroom and take them to the beach, gym, and other travels.
Then there are peshtemal, hammam, or fouta towels, also known as Turkish towels. These trendy towels are aesthetically pleasing and quick-drying. Like microfiber towels, many people love to take these towels to the beach and other travels. An authentic Turkish towel is made up of 100 percent Turkish cotton.
Finally, there are organic towels. These towels are generally made from 100 percent cotton and are certified by a third-party vendor. These towels are made from cotton that is not treated by pesticides. These are very soft and plush but do take longer to dry than other options.
What’s the best way to care for a bath towel?
Believe it or not, caring for your towels is not as simple as just throwing them in the wash. All bath towels should be washed before you first use them as this will wash off the finish they have and help with absorbency.
Bath towels should never be laundered with fabric softener, which will add a film onto the towel and weaken the absorbency. “If you like the scent of fabric softener, you can add a few drops of your favorite essential oils to your dryer balls in the last 10 minutes of the load, after everything is already mostly dry,” says Thornburg.
Your towels should be laundered more often than you think (ideally every three uses!) and should be washed with other towels at the highest temperature the label says they can handle. Use a gentle detergent and dry on low or medium heat with wool dryer balls to help speed up the drying time and control static.
How many bath towels do you need?
In general, you should have four bath towels per person. This allows you to have two in use while the other two are being washed. However, the number of bath towels you need will vary from household to household. If you have a larger family, you may need a few more than average.
How do you store bath towels?
How you store your bath towels is up to you. Towel bars and rings, wall shelves, over-the-door towel racks, towel stands, heated racks and bins, and over-the-toilet units are all different types of organizing systems that can hold your towels. You can simply hang them over the bars or rings or fold or roll them and place them on shelves, in baskets, and more.
How often should you replace bath towels?
Generally, you should replace your towels every two years. If your bath towels are not absorbing water as well as they used to, developing odors after one use, or have frayed edges and holes, it is time for you to replace them. However, high-quality towels tend to last longer, so you may get away with more time between purchases.
Which Type Of Bath Towel Is Best?
The gold standard for towels is 100% cotton because it’s durable, soft and absorbent. You may come across Turkish or Egyptian cotton in product descriptions, and these varieties are often considered the best of the best because their fibers are longer, giving a softer feel and added longevity. On the other end of the spectrum is microfiber, a synthetic material crafted from nylon and polyester. While this fabric makes for much more affordable, quick-drying towels, it’s not usually as soft or absorbent as cotton.
Which Bath Towels Absorb The Most Water?
Cotton is one of the most absorbent materials (rayon can technically absorb a little more, but it’s harder to care for). It likely comes as no surprise that thicker, heavier towels—including premium cotton varieties like Egyptian and Pima—are also the most absorbent. That said, you may not necessarily want to reach for the heavier options first; they take longer to dry than their thinner counterparts and they’re difficult to handle for people with arthritis and other hand ailments.
Are Expensive Towels Worth Buying?
Paying up for towels doesn’t always result in a better overall bathing experience. In fact, features that are billed as “luxurious” could actually result in more of a headache for the consumer. A heavy towel, for instance, may not dry out as easily, which means the buyer needs to be on the look-out for signs of mildew. A towel boasting “quick-dry” capabilities, on the other hand, may be too thin for most people’s liking. Instead of shopping by price alone, we suggest taking the overall quality of the towel into account along with your personal preferences.
How Do You Wash Bath Towels?
Bath towels require regular laundering, and if you want your linens to last as long as possible it’s important to wash them properly. While you should check the instructions on your towel’s care tag for specific guidelines, in general, you should wash bath towels by themselves in cold water. (Mixing them with clothes will increase the chance of snagging.) When it comes to drying the towels, use a low-heat setting to prevent damage to the cotton fibers.
One genre of product you should avoid using on your bath towels: any kind of fabric softener, including both liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets. Fabric softener actually reduces the absorbency of fabric and, in turn, will reduce the effectiveness of your bath towels. Instead of using dryer sheets, opt for dryer balls to increase air circulation, cut down on dry time, prevent clumping, and help fluff and smooth fibers.