How to Choose Bath Towels

By Benna Crawford

It's all about the color -- once you've satisfied every other criteria for selecting bathroom towels. Your towels should envelop you in a soft, absorbent mantle that wicks away the water after your shower or bath. Then they should dry swiftly, fresh and fluffy, ready for your next spa date with the tub. That level of luxury is achievable without serious budget-busting, if you do your homework and know what to look for when you shop. Just remember: Quality first; value second; color seals the deal.

Fibers & Quality

Most people look for cotton towels that can be tossed in the washer and dryer and used for years. It pays to get the best thread you can afford so your towels will grow softer and more absorbent as they age -- and age, and age.

  • Egyptian cotton and pima cotton -- grown in the U.S. -- have long and extra-long fibers that are strong and durable and soften over time. 
  • Turkish cotton -- grown in Turkey, towels made of this fiber are soft and soak up water.
  • Combed cotton has been sifted in the manufacturing process to remove short or broken fibers and debris before the threads are spun. 
  • Two-ply towels use twice as many threads, resulting in a very thick, heavy towel with good absorbency.  

Softness & Absorbency

Turkish towels are soft and soak up water; cotton terry towels are rough and invigorate your skin; velour towels are terry cloth with the loops sheared off on one side. They feel smooth and velvety but they resist absorbing and holding water -- for display only. Jacquard towels have a reversible raised woven design, unlike design-printed towels with paint impressed on the fibers so the towel feels scratchy. Pre-shrunk towels won't pucker around the dobby -- the flat stripe near the end of the towel -- once they've been through the washer and dryer. Organic cotton means no pesticides were used growing the cotton used in your towels, which is better for you and the environment. Your ideal towel is soft, dense, thick, tightly woven with high pile, even selvages and hem stitching, in a price point you can manage. Hint: Wait for white sales.

Beautiful Bath

Towels can be the color accents in a neutral or all-white bath. Choose yours to complement wall or porcelain color, pick up a pattern in the tiles, or just add a note of calm or cheer to spare decor. Keep them as gorgeous as the day you bought them by washing them in warm water and gentle detergent that doesn't "brighten" or "soften" or otherwise alter the color or absorbency of the fibers. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets coat fabric so the towels can't soak up water easily -- protect your investment and the indulgence of high-quality, pamper-the-guest bathroom towels.

About the Author

Benna Crawford has been a journalist and New York-based writer since 1997. Her work has appeared in USA Today, the San Francisco Chronicle, The New York Times, and in professional journals and trade publications. Crawford has a degree in theater, is a certified Prana Yoga instructor, and writes about fitness, performing and decorative arts, culture, sports, business and education .