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Posted by Nicholas Crusie

The Ultimate Guide to Towels: Everything You Need to Know When Shopping for your Next Set

What’s worse than stepping out of the shower squeaky clean, only to realize you’ve forgotten to grab your towel? Probably stepping out of the shower squeaky clean and wrapping up in your towel only to find it is as rough as sandpaper, or (eek) still damp, or, heaven forbid, realizing it smells of...mildew. Yikes. At that point, you might as well hop back in the shower and do it all over again. 


We’re here to teach you everything you need to know about towels for the ultimate post-shower experience.

Finding your new Favorite Towel

Most manufacturers soak their towels in fabric softener before shipping them off to hit store shelves. Well, guess what. That softener quickly washes out and you’re left with a once-soft towel that now feels...quite rough. 


Buying the right towel is all about buying the right fabric. 


Bamboo

Most “bamboo” towels are actually made from a cotton-bamboo bend. The bamboo lends a nice sheen, similar to Turkish cotton. Bamboo is also said to have antibacterial properties, as well as being rather eco-friendly. They hold their color well and are super absorbent. 


Turkish Cotton

Made with long fibers, these towels are soft and absorbent. They feel heavier, more durable, and have a natural sheen that makes them stay lookin’ good, even after many washes.


Egyptian Cotton

These towels are made from even longer threads than Turkish cotton, making them even softer. They are luxurious, absorbent, durable, and tend to retain their softness after multiple washes. They are thick and fluffy, which although sounds great, actually makes them slow to dry and not very ideal for humid climates. 


Supima Cotton

Also called Pima cotton this material makes a high-quality bath towel for sure. More affordable than Turkish and Egyptian, yet made with similar long fibers creating a soft, durable, and absorbent towel.  


Microfiber

These towels are made from polyester, and the fastest to dry of all, but are not as soft or fluffy as towels made from cotton. They are thin, which means less absorbent, yet easier to store.

Qualities to look For


Absorbency 

Thicker, heavier towels are more absorbent than thinner lighter towels. But, they do take longer to dry. Towels made with premium cotton brands such as Egyptian or Pima are super absorbent.


Durability

For a real durable towel, go for a two-ply. Cotton is always stronger than rayon, and cotton blended with polyester is durable too, (but less absorbant).


Softness

Like we said before, don’t be tricked by the soft towels on the store shelf. They are likely coated in a fabric softening finish that feels soft at first, but will wash out in a day or two. For extra softness that lasts, look for Pima and Egyptian cotton, their yarn is smooth and silky, and less prone to fuzz and pilling. 


Decoding the Label

Your work doesn’t end with choosing a material. Now it’s time to take a look at the label. 

Here’s a list of bath towel terms to know. 


  • Combed if your towel has been combed, it means the short and uneven cotton fibers have been combed out. This improves the smoothness and strength of the towel. 
  • Dobby a decorative weave usually featuring small geometric patterns woven into the towel.
  • Ringspun – the fibers in ringspun towels are twisted together into find yarns. Meaning, they are even smoother than combed towels. They will feel even softer and elegant. 
  • Terry  terry cloth towels are woven with extra yarn to make absorbent loops. Dense, longer loops create a more absorbent towel. 
  • Twist this refers to the amount of twist per inch of yarn. Twisting the yarn makes the towel stronger and more durable, but less plush. For example, zero-twist towels feel most plush, but will not be as durable. The higher the twist number, the stronger the towel. 
  • Weights just like sheets have thread counts, towels have grams per square meter, aka GSM. The higher the GSM, the fluffier the towel. The towels in luxury spas, like a cozy blanket, are of the highest GSM, from 600-900. At the lower spectrum, are the 300-400 GSM towels. Think: gym and community pool towels. They are thin, dry quickly, become coarse after several washes, but last forever. Shoot for a weight somewhere in the middle, like 400-600 GSM. 
  • 2-ply similar to toilet paper, two times the material makes them two times as durable and absorbent. Since the yarn is doubled, the towel will be thicker. 

  • Sizing


    Bath Sheet

    These babies are oversized. Measuring 39” x 60”, this is what you want to wrap yourself up in after sliding out of a relaxing bubble bath.


    Bath Towel

    Your go-to shower towel. Measuring 30” x 56”.


    Hand Towel 

    Use this for, yup, you guessed it, drying off wet hands. They average about 20” x 30”. 


    Large and Extra-Large Hand Towels

    Why? Well, some people prefer to have a designated hair towel, and hand towels are often too small to wrap up long hair, and bath towels can be too large and sometimes quite heavy. In addition, larger hand towels can be the perfect size for little kids. 


    Face Towel 

    12” x 20”. It’s nice to have your hand towel and face towel two different sizes so you don’t accidentally use your hand towel on your face. Yikes! 


    Guest Towel or Fingertip Towel

    Sized between hand towels and washcloths, these towels are ideal for hanging up in the guest bathroom near the vanity, and since they are smaller, require less clearance space. It is always nice to provide a fresh, clean towel for guests when you are expecting them. 


    Washcloth

    Square-shaped towels with many uses, but designed primarily for washing your face. Measures 13” x 13”. 


    Tub Mat

    Although some people have specific bath mats designed to keep outside of their shower, others use towels measuring about 27” x 52”. This saves your bathroom floor from water damage, offers a sturdy support for that fearful, slippery shower side-step, and can be utilized to enhance bathroom decor. 


    Form and Function

    Towels can be used to enhance the aesthetic of your space, too. Feel free to go crazy and purchase a set of towels for each season. Then, if you get behind on your laundry, you will have a back up, (even if you have to use your burnt-orange-fall-aesthetic towel during the summer).


    Colors

    The best color for your towels depends on your personal taste and style. But keep in mind that if you’re washing as often as you should be, bright colors may fade. So be sure you can live with the lightened pigment before buying a ton of them. 


    Many people buy towels that are just different shades of the same color, but feel free to express yourself! Try complementary colors (yellow and purple, blue and orange, red and green) to really make your bathroom style pop. 


    You could also consider doing what hotels do. Since pigmented colored towels are subject to fading and color bleeding when washed in hot water, you might want to opt for the all white look. That way, they can be bleached and look good as new. Using white towels may also be a helpful reminder to wash them more often.  


    Storing

    Since towels should always be hung to dry out after each use, pick a towel that you think looks pretty that way you won’t mind seeing it hanging in plain sight. Trust us, you do not want to store your towel in a heap in your laundry bin. 


    After finishing your towel shopping, be sure you have a place to store and hang them. You have a range of options from over the door hangers to wall mounted hangers. Countertop towel holders and wall mount towel rings are perfect for smaller hand towels and washcloths. However you decide to style your drying towels, just be sure they are hang-dried so they dry out evenly and don’t stay in a moist pile on the floor. 

     

    Towel Hygiene

    Let’s embrace the power of the sense of smell for a moment. Close your eyes and imagine nuzzling a towel you haven’t laundered in say, a week. What comes to mind? Moist mold, mildew...how about multiplying-by-the-millisecond bacteria? 


    Towels’ very job is also the reason for their quick demise. Towels absorb a lot of water and remain damp for hours, making it the perfect breeding ground for unwanted germs. With 19 million skin cells and 650 sweat glands over every inch of your body, many will scrub off in the shower, but most end up on your towel. 


    You should be washing your shower towels, ideally, every 3-5 uses. And be sure to hang them up to dry after each use. 


    Some towels have antibacterial properties, like natural silver infused cotton, that help them stay clean on their own. The cleaner your towels are, the cleaner your skin will be, especially if you are acne-prone. Cut yourself a break and think about investing in quality towels that help keep themselves clean. 

    Do I really need a face Towel?

    Uhm, yes. 


    Reason #1: Your facial skin is delicate and sensitive. Your body and hair carries different oils and bacteria that should never be transferred to your face. 


    Reason #2: Even though you’re “clean” when drying off your body after a shower, you might have missed some spots on your body. You wipe it with the towel, and now that bacteria lives there, dirtying your towel over the course of the week. 


    Reason #3: Do you really want to be drying your face off with the same towel you use to dry your bum? Think about it… 


    Don’t even think about Sharing

    Sharing is a nice thing to do. Except when it comes to towels you wipe your body oils and bacteria all over. That’s not so nice. When sharing bath towels, you’re sharing much more than you know. 


    This is why His and Hers towels are such a hit. If you don’t want to dish out the extra cash for the fancy embroidery, just pick your own favorite colors! 


    How many towels do I Need?

    A good rule of thumb is to have three towels per person. This is the perfect balance between a jam packed linen closet and having to wash towels twice a day. With three towels, you’ll have one for use in the bathroom, one in the laundry, and one clean and ready in the linen closet. Stock up a little more on hand towels and washcloths since they tend to wear out faster than bath towels. 


    If you or a family member uses products for treating acne, benzoyl peroxide is often an ingredient, which can bleach towels or leave a faded blotch. Think white - or pick up some inexpensive towels with them in mind.



    Summary


    In conclusion, towels are just as important as the body wash you use. After all, towels get rubbed all over your clean body. Put the work in to find yourself the perfect set of cozy towels, and keep them clean and fluffy. Your shower-fresh self will thank you. 



    Sources:

    https://www.healthline.com/health/how-often-should-you-wash-your-towels

    https://www.cleaninginstitute.org/cleaning-tips/clothes/laundry-basics/do-i-need-wash

    https://www.consumerreports.org/bed-bath/how-to-choose-bath-towels-that-last/



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