Choosing the Right Bath Towels

There is a common misconception that plush, absorbent bath towels have a hefty price tag. This isn’t the case if you know what to look for in a bath towel. Towels have a big impact on the appearance of the bathroom. They are also huge necessities used to keep us clean, dry us off, and clean up the occasional mud tracks in the house.

Before buying an entire set of towels, it’s important to understand what you’re looking for. Ask yourself, “Who am I buying towels for?” Your master bath, kids bath, college kids dorm—all would require different towels. With a little knowledge, your towels will look, last and perform better in their many roles.

  1. Fabric

Towels use a measurement called GSM (grams per square meter) to measure the density of fabric used to make the towel. The lower the GSM, the lighter and thinner the towel will be. The higher the GSM, the heavier and thicker it will be.

  • 300-400 GSM- Gym or kitchen towel
  • 400-600 GSM- Beach towels, bath towels, guest towels
  • 600-900 GSM- Bath towels, guest towels (more absorbent and will take longer to dry)


Most towels are made of cotton. The look and feel of the towel depends on what type of cotton. Standard Cotton is used to make everyday use towels, while Egyptian cotton is considered the “best of the best” of towel fabrics. Egyptian cotton has longer, more-fibrous threads, or more moisture-sucking loops per inch.

  • Egyptian Cotton: Ultra-soft, super-fluffy bath towels found in high end spas and hotels. These towels offer a luxurious look and feel. Egyptian cotton also has a very long lifespan when properly cared for.
  • Pima Cotton: Are grown from the same plant used for Egyptian cotton, only Pima cotton is grown in southwestern U.S., Peru and Australia. These light and fluffy towels are known for being strong and thirsty, able to last for years with the right care.
  • Bamboo: Can be 100% bamboo, but are more often a bamboo and cotton blend. These towels are lush, supple, and color-fast. The bamboo plant is naturally anti-bacterial, grows in a pest-free environment, and makes a super absorbent fabric.
  • Microfiber: A fairly new type of towel, made by blending polyester and polyamide fibers. These light and fluffy towels are thinner, with a suede like texture and excellent absorbency. Microfiber towels grab dust, dirt, dry skin, makeup and oil without chemicals.
  • Modal- Are made of cellulose from beech trees. These towels about 50% more absorbent than even cotton alone, and won’t fade over time
  • Organic cotton: Are woven from cotton untouched by unnatural fertilizers or pesticides. These towels have a looser, velvety-soft texture
  • Turkish Cotton: Made of extra-long cotton fibers similar to Egyptian cotton towels. The cotton grown in the Aegean region is soft, fluffy and strong. These heavy and substantial towels are absorbent and ideal for warm climates with excessive moisture.

When look for certain types of fabrics, make sure to read the labels because towels are not 100% of that fabric, and have synthetics.


  1. Construction

A good bath towel is both soft and strong. Bath towels can be constructed with difference methods to improve quality.


  • Combed Cotton: As the name implies, combed cotton has literally been “combed” to remove short, uneven fibers and debris resulting in longer, stronger and more lustrous cotton.
  • Ringspun Cotton: Ringspun fibers are tightly twisted together to create a stronger, smoother and finer yarn. This method produces a more refined feel than that of a basic combed cotton yarn.
  • Twist: Twist refers to the number of twists per inch of yarn. The lower the amount of twist in a yarn, the more plush the towel will be. A higher twist adds strength and uniformity to a yarn, resulting in a more durable, substantial feeling towel.
  • Two-Ply: Double the amount of yarn is used to make a very durable, absorbent, dense and substantial feeling towel.
  1. Sizes

Bath towels are not “one size fits all.” There are six different sizes, all for six different uses. When buying a towel, you should consider the size, its job, and where it’s stored.

Bath Sheet

Bath Towel

Hand Towel

Finger Towel

Wash Cloth

Tub Mat

35 x 60 inches to 40 x 70 inches

27 x 52 inches to 30 x 58 inches

16 x 28 inches to 18 x 30 inches


11 x 18 inches


13 x 13 inches


27 x 52 inches


Oversized for more coverage; spa-worthy; luxurious


Most common; easier to clean and hang than bath sheets

Used to dry hands and as decorative accents; Choose size based on towel rack area

Mini hand towels; used to accent bathroom décor or as guest room hand towels


Used to wash hands, body and face in and out of shower and bath


Absorbent; protects the floor outside the tub or shower

  1. Style

Your towels can definitely complement or change look of bathroom. You can choose to go the expensive route, or inexpensive route, depending on your budget and taste. Many designers agree that towels are like jewelry for a bathroom. They give some sizzle and style to an area of the house that’s often overlooked. When searching for types of styles, pick colors that play of the walls, fixtures, flooring or existing decorative accents. Do you want the bath towels to draw attention or blend in?

  • Neutral colors- Will look good just about anywhere. Neutral colors let other bathroom elements get all the attention.
  • Bold colors- Will make a bathroom unique and will add color to a dull bathroom.
  • Pattern towels- Will make a solid-colored bathroom interesting.

Also, ask yourself who will be using the towels? If the answer is children, darker colors or patterns may be your best option. If it’s a college kid you might get away with more neutral colors. Add some flair to your towels with monograms for each family member!

  1. Care

To get the most life out of your towels, caring for them is very important. It’s best to wash your new towels before first use because manufacturers often coat new towels in a specific fabric softener, which makes the towel look extra fluffy and soft on the shelf, but doesn’t absorb water when you first bring them home.

  • Wash once before using to help set the color, improve absorbency and reduce lint
  • Avoid fabric softeners because they leave residue on the fibers that will reduce absorbency
  • Add one cup of distilled white vinegar to the wash periodically to remove residue, improve absorbency and combat the musty smell sometimes found in damp towels
  • Avoid wiping off skin care products on your towels to minimize towel spotting and bleaching


  1. Other Considerations
  • Consider your budget. Of course you want the best quality towels, but they can end up costing a pretty penny: especially when you want to load up your bath with 5 or 6 towels. If you don’t want to break your piggy bank, consider splurging on one or two ultra-high-end towels for special use, and the rest can be mid-range towels for daily use.
  • Test out the towels. Feeling towels in the store will never give you a good idea of how they will perform at your home. Buy one towel, test it out for a few days to see if you really do like it, and then buy the rest when you are sure.
  • How many do you need? If you’re buying for a bathroom you will want one or two washcloths, at least one hand towel, a bath towel, two bath sheets, at least one bathmat. If you’re buying for a person you would want three sets per person (one for use, one for the linen closet, one for the laundry.)