Once upon a time, choosing the best bath towel was as simple as rubbing the damn thing between thumb and forefinger in the department store to check if it felt soft. These days, a certain amount of intuition and science needs to be applied to the purchase to ensure you’ve got a towel with longevity, durability and that intangible ability to give you a warm, nourishing embrace each and every time you emerge from the shower.

Though it might sound absurd, as with picking out your clothes, cosmetics or shoes, you need to put in similar research efforts to search for the right bath towels. If the durability, fluffiness, and drying capacity of your towels matter to you (if not, we’re certainly not staying over), then it’s essential to consider certain important features. 

Whether you need towels for the beach, swimming, exercise, camping or bathing, here are 5 ways to ensure you’re buying quality bath towels.

LIVING IN A MATERIAL WORLD

Towels are generally made of cotton, bamboo, microfibre or polyester. Though cotton is the preferred fabric for bath towels that are generally soft and absorbent, it can be heavier than other materials. Should you be buying a cotton towel, prioritise those made from 100% Supima or Pima cotton. 

Bamboo towels tend to be lighter, and are incredibly soft. In fact, they are said to get softer the more you use them; a welcome change from the rough effect your cotton towels might develop after a few washes, don’t you think? Though bamboo towels are absorbent, they take a really long time to dry comprehensively. What’s more, they have no antibacterial properties.

Microfibre is another option, and makes for a high-performance material. It is soft, ultra-absorbent, and lightweight. If you have sensitive skin and hair, microfibre is a wise choice, as it has amazing moisture-wicking, ensuring towels made from microfibre dry fast. It also boasts antimicrobial properties, which means these towels work well for allergy sufferers. That said, microfibre towels tend to be rougher than cotton or bamboo, making them ideal as a guest towel, but perhaps not for everyday use.

If you’re keen to learn more, then click here to explore lightweight and compact towels. 

WEIGHT

The weight of your towel is usually measured in terms of GSM (grams per square metre) and generally speaking, the higher GSM, the more absorbent the towel. 

A good quality, everyday bath towel should have at least 450 GSM, and preferably more. Less (between 300 and 400) indicates that the towel is lightweight and easy to carry for your trips to the pool, gym, or beach. 

The weight of the towel also highlights its density and absorbance level. It’s best to strike the right balance between weight and density to get the right absorbency level for your use, but for bath towels, you should be aiming for the 500s. Anything below 300 GSM and let’s be honest, it’s probably better suited as toilet paper. 

SIZE 

When you buy bath towels online or in the shop, you need to ensure that they are the right size. Pay attention to the sizing for a comfortable, comprehensive wrap around effect with a cosy and luxurious feel. 

Standard towels measure 140cm x 70cm. If you prefer extra-large or jumbo sizes (known as bath sheets) these are available at around 160cm x 90 cm, though they cost considerably more. For kids, 120cm x 60cm is standard. Hooded bath towels for the little ones are a great option, and look super cute to boot!

And if you’re looking for a hand towel, 100cm x 50cm is about right.

IS IT PRONE TO SHRINKING?

Though it’s understandably not widely advertised, the truth is that all towel materials are prone to a little shrinking, particularly when machine washed. Cotton is most liable to shrink, though some of that loss is mitigated if the GSM of your towel is especially high. Bamboo tends to shrink over time, particularly when washed on a high heat. If you’re keen to avoid shrinkage, it’s best to hand wash your towels, though this is less hygienic than high heat machine washing.

On the other hand, microfibre tends to be less prone to shrinking. Since these materials are made up of synthetic components, they don’t wrinkle or shrink under high heat in the same way as cotton or bamboo. 

DESIGN

It’s an element of bathroom interior design so often overlooked. But your bath towel – if you hang it on a radiator or dedicated towel rack – is always on display, and therefore, its appearance does matter.

Therefore, the bath towels you choose should look elegant around the home. For this reason, it’s wise to select solid colours which complement the overall aesthetic and colour palette of your bathroom. Not doing so may cause a jarring, clumsy effect.

THE BOTTOM LINE

To wrap up (pun intended), choosing the right bath towel is a matter of personal preference. However, consider your requirements and make the ideal choice. If you want denser towels with plush loops of yarn, cotton may be the right choice. But if you want a more robust material with a soft, ultra-absorbent, quick-drying, and durable towel, consider microfibre towels.