The Best Bath Towels To Buy In 2021 Leave a comment


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There’s nothing quite like stepping out of a relaxing bath or end-of-day shower and cocooning yourself in a fresh towel. But not all bath towels (or towel preferences, for that matter) are equal. We can all agree that there’s a plethora of options out there — from waffle weave to organic cotton, thin to thick, Turkish to plush — so we’ve done some in-depth research and testing to make this the last stop of your search.

Because we’re the type to get excited about good linens, we’ve broken down what makes a great bath towel by type, material, size, and weave so you can determine the details that best suit your lifestyle. Then, we tested more than 50 bath towels (like we said: a plethora) and narrowed it down to 13 overachievers.

Below are our winners for the best bath towels; all are soft to the touch, well-crafted, and designed to last — it’s why they’re winners! But does the use of organic material matter to you? Are you looking for towels that’ll elevate your bathroom decor? Are you heading to college and hunting for your first set? We’re here to help you decide what you need and what you’ll be happy with for years to come.

Read on to discover the bath towel type that’s best for you, then take your pick from our list of the very best out there.

What to Consider Before Buying Bath Towels

Depending on the material and weave, bath towels can be plush, lightweight, heavy, textured, smooth, flat, and everything in between. Here’s a breakdown of the most popular types:

The material, from its fibers to how it’s spun, can mean the difference between minimum and maximum absorbency, softness, volume, and luxury. Here are the most common bath towel materials, with a few uncommon additions.

Towels are measured by GSM (grams per square meter). Most range between 300-900 GSM, with 900 being the heaviest. A lower GSM doesn’t mean lower quality — it just means the towel has a lighter weight (and likely dries faster).

And, of course, there’s the bath towel vs. bath sheet dilemma. Simply put, bath sheets are larger bath towels, and they’re best for taller people or those who like to wrap themselves up. Bath towels are typically 52″ x 27″, while bath sheets are around 60″ x 35″. Because we know you can have the best of both worlds (sometimes), most options on our list fall somewhere in between, around 30″ x 58″.

Most bath towels are machine washable, but if you choose to invest in some ultra-soft or luxury ones, swap your dryer sheets for wool dryer balls instead. Additionally, the use of fabric softener while giving your nice towels a wash can actually reduce their ability to absorb moisture, especially over time. And a weakly absorbent towel is not only ineffective and uncomfortable, but it also loses its softness as moisture clings to its outermost threads, weighs them down, and clumps them together. Gnarly, right? Making the switch to wool dryer balls is easy, cost effective, time saving, and eco-friendly. You can even give your clothes and other home textiles longer lives, too, by making this change. 

What We Look for in a Bath Towel

We tested over 50 bath towels from a wide range of types for our list, judging them on the follow criteria:

We know, we know — but we can’t get enough. This popular DTC brand has dominated our lists of the best linen sheets, best bathrobes, best duvet covers, etc., but it really is one of the best bedding and bath companies out there. This bath towel hits the sweet spot: It’s warm, soft, and plush, yet absorbent and textured enough to swipe you dry quickly. Out of all the towels we tried, the Parachute classic Turkish cotton towel is the one we keep reaching for weeks later — and it only gets better with washing. “Now THIS is a LUXE TOWEL,” says AT commerce managing editor Ivy, who put it to the test. “This is a towel that belongs in the bathroom of a $10 million home in Malibu with floor-to-ceiling glass windows and cutting-edge smart appliances.” Flatter, heavier, and sleeker than your average bath towel, the Parachute Classic is the “weighted blanket of bath towels,” says Ivy, adding that it gave her a “luxe post-spa feeling, almost akin to being in a robe.” With each wash, it’s gotten softer and softer but has stayed as absorbent as ever. Says Ivy, “If you want to upgrade your bathroom or impress your visiting in-laws, I’d buy these stat!”

Who It’s Best For: Those looking for something warm and weighty but not overly plush; those who like a clean, modern look.

Good to Know: Parachute’s towels are free of synthetic dyes, making them safer for you and healthier for the planet. However, this makes them susceptible to discoloration when exposed to harsh chemicals found in certain skin-care items (think benzoyl peroxide). So, if you’re worried about possible discoloration, opt for a white set.

If price is the most important factor to you, we heartily recommend Fieldcrest’s casual solid bath towels. Our tester Nic, AT’s associate branded content editor, calls them “super soft, plush, and absorbent” — everything you could want in a towel. At $12 (and often on sale at an even lower price), this towel is less than half the cost of its top competitors. It’s also available in six neutral and bright colors and all the usual sizing options, including hand towels, bath sheets, and washcloths. Made from 100 percent cotton, the Fieldcrest towel is quick-drying. “Even if you take a shower in both the morning and night,” Nic says, “it dries quickly enough to be ready for twice-daily use.” Inexpensive towels are often culprits of pilling, fading, and roughing up, but Nic’s happy with Fieldcrest’s budget-friendly option, saying it “feels the same after cleaning it in the washer and dryer as when I first took it out of the package, and there was never any shedding of little bits of string/fabric.”

Who It’s Best For: Those who want to stick to a budget; those who prefer heavyweight towels; those who want bright color options.

Good to Know: This towel is available for same-day pickup at JCPenney locations, depending on availability.

Since most of us usually look to purchase more than one of the same towel, especially if they’re going to be displayed, a set is the most convenient way to go. We’re looking for consistency and color longevity — no mismatching washcloths and bath towels due to fading. They should also be soft to the touch and stay that way after lots of use and washing. After testing Bed Bath & Beyond’s Madison Park Signature Turkish cotton bath towel set, AT assistant shopping editor Britt says she “couldn’t believe how soft these towels were straight out of the box!” Even better? “These towels were even softer after washing them.” Britt adds that there was very little shedding. “I love the size of the bath towel,” she says. “It enveloped me after the shower and was warm and comfortable.” Drying at the rate of most other more plush towels and surviving some rough use during testing, the Madison Park towel proved both durable and soft after it all.

Who It’s Best For: Those who want the ease of buying a pre-determined towel set; those who prefer soft, fluffy towels; those who want to choose from a wide color selection.

Good to Know: Bed Bath & Beyond has an excellent 90-day return policy, so if you’re not satisfied, you can exchange or return them.

Honorable Mention: Amazon’s Pinzon Egyptian cotton towels ($42) are “soft but also dry very well,” according to AT director of programmatic partnerships Laina. “Would recommend for a basic inexpensive towel set!”

Waffle weave towels are gaining popularity, especially for those who prefer a unique look, more texture, and something lightweight and very quick to dry. They’re not bulky, despite the weave offering more surface area for drying, so a good waffle weave towel should take up little space when stored. They’re also much more flexible than ordinary towels; their loose weave stretches out, collecting water quickly for time-efficient drying. Our perfect waffle weave bath towel had to align with all of these expectations, maybe even with a little extra, and Onsen’s bath towel takes the cake. Assistant shopping editor Britt had never used a waffle weave towel before, but after testing Onsen’s, she says, “I plan to own them in as many colors as I can get.” Britt is particularly impressed by these towels’ absorbent superpowers. According to her, they “are just as absorbent as they claim to be, going toe-to-toe with the thicker plush towels. Additionally,” she continues, “the Onsen towels are notably lightweight and absolutely made for small spaces.” Right up our alley.

Who It’s Best For: Those who prefer a lightweight towel; those who prefer more flexible towels; those who want something quick drying.

Honorable Mention: The Citizenry Imabari Waffle Towel, according to AT news and culture director Tara, has excellent absorbency and dried quickly on its own. It’s also quite large —”nearly bath sheet dimensions” — and comes in five colors, “which is a bonus for those who like options beyond pure white.”

Strengthened by its blend of eco-conscious materials, the luxurious Kyoto bamboo bath towel from Kassatex offers both the durability and lower carbon footprint of bamboo and the softness of cotton. Since bamboo towels tend to make up for the plushness they lack with less of an impact on the environment, this is a blend you can literally feel good using. Our tester Britt considers “wrapping herself in these more luxurious linens…such a treat after stepping out of the shower.” The Kyoto towel is super absorbent, thanks to its blend of thread materials, making drying off that much quicker. Britt “loved that there’s a little loop sewn onto each one so I can hang the towel on a hook when I’m done,” a best practice for drying cotton and bamboo towels and increasing their longevity. “The grayish-navy Ink color still looks brand-new,” she continues, “even after repeated washes, and there are no signs of wear or loose threads.”

Who It’s Best For: Those who want environmentally friendly towels; those who want a luxuriously soft feel; those who want a fortifying blend vs. 100 percent cotton.

Good to Know: Want to see if these are for you? Kassatex offers a 60-day, no-risk trial period as well as free shipping.

A lot goes into determining the best option in a category like Best Plush, which, arguably, could very well define a great bath towel. It’s true that a plush towel isn’t everyone’s preference — waffle weave for the win — but in terms of what makes that post-shower moment so blissfully cozy, we have to credit the robust, rich, and soft feel of a plush bath towel. “These towels are absolutely the most soft, plush bath towels I’ve ever used,” commerce intern Grace says of our winner, Brooklinen’s Super Plush towels. “They feel like a sort of a cozy blanket and a super absorbent bath towel hybrid, so you dry off super quickly” — and feel comfortable while doing it. At 820 GSM, these towels are weighty, lending to their overall coziness. “They’re so comfy and high quality, and I feel like they will definitely last a long time.”

Who It’s Best For: Those who love a thick, ultra-soft towel; those who prefer towels with more weight.

Good to Know: There are four limited edition colors worth jumping on while they’re available, including lilac, seafoam, and navy.

Made in Portugal from 100 percent long-staple cotton, the Snowe Classic bath towel has news and culture director Tara texting friends about it. “Snowe’s classic bath towel will please everyone in your household, from the person who loves a soft and fluffy towel to the one who wants it to be quick-drying,” which is a tall order when you live with others, especially others with opinions. This is why Snowe’s Classic towel is our winner in its eponymous category. “Don’t let the fact that they look a little thin fool you,” Tara says. “These are practically cloud-like right out of the package.” They’re even 2 square inches larger than the average bath towel, and for someone like Tara — a self-proclaimed “bath sheet devotee” — this regular size even did the job. Complete with Snowe’s own innovative absorbing technology and details like the “super convenient loop on one long side so that the towel doesn’t fall off your wall hooks and onto the floor,” this is a perfect classic cotton towel. Tara’s right: “They’ve thought of everything.”

Who it’s best for: Those who prefer plush, slightly larger bath towels; those who want classic cotton towels that will last.

Good to know: It’s not recommended to use fabric softener, as it weakens absorbency, but if you do use it accidentally, add a 1/2 cup of white vinegar to your next wash cycle to re-soften your towel.

Many of the organic towels we’ve tested in the past felt scratchy and didn’t last in the wash. That’s certainly not the case with these towels. A winner in this category for some time now, the Boll & Branch Plush bath towel not only “gets better after each wash, they’re the perfect mid-weight and do a phenomenal job at drying me off in seconds,” says AT commerce writer Sarah. Her favorite part, though, is that they don’t pill, which is one of her “ultimate towel pet peeves.” At 700 GSM, this towel is definitely on the plush, more weighted side, and Sarah confirms “they are nowhere near rough. In many ways, they’re the Goldilocks of towels — just right.”

Who It’s Best For: Those who prefer a towel with a bit of texture; those who prefer a high-pile towel; those who prefer organic-, fair trade-, and eco-friendly-certified materials.

Good to Know: Boll & Branch’s organic farming methods lead to towels that use 91 percent less water to produce than conventional cotton towels.

For our Best Luxury category, we’re looking for the best, high-quality towel at any cost. These should transport us to a 5-star resort with every use and make every post-shower moment a treat. We’re looking for something with a bit of heft and somewhere right between pillow-plush and textured. Coyuchi’s Cloud Loom organic towel is it: “super-soft with a textured plushness from its fibers,” says our tester Britt. “To get the most out of the Coyuchi bath towel,” she advises, “give it a wash before using it. A freshly washed Cloud Loom bath towel feels heavenly.” Britt says it’s very absorbent to boot. According to her, it “dries faster than I expected it to, considering it’s already fluffy and gets fluffier over time.” Not only has the Cloud Loom towel held up really well through weeks of use and washes, but it also just seems to get better. “The coloring of the Palest Ocean bath towel is lovely!” says Britt. “It’s not a solid light teal, there are variations in tone that make the towel look like it got its hue straight from the sea.”

Who It’s Best For: Those who prefer a thick, absorbent towel; those who want earth tones to elevate their bathroom decor; those who want to invest in long-lasting towels; those who want organic towels.

Good to Know: If you don’t love this towel, you can send it back for a refund with Coyuchi’s 30-day trial period. If bleaching, non-chlorine bleaches are best since chlorine can turn cottons yellow and weaken the fiber.

Towels should dry us and dry out quickly, but there are definitely some that outperform others. Slowtide, activist towel brand and our winner of the best quick-drying bath towel, has crafted their Guild waffle towel with sustainably sourced cotton. While we already have a waffle weave category winner, waffle weave towels are some of the most absorbent and quick-drying on the market. “First impressions of the Slowtide towel is that it was very lightweight,” our tester, AT social media strategist Brian, says of his first experience with a waffle weave. “I was a little skeptical about how absorbent it could be,” he confesses. But after its first use and each one since, “it proved me wrong!” In fact, he says, “I was extremely impressed by how much water it was able to pick up. It dried me off relatively quick.” That’s due to the waffle weave’s sneaky large surface area. As it stretches slightly, it’s able to collect water between its weave more efficiently than plush terrycloth designs. The towel “wraps around my body with plenty to spare,” Brian says. “I highly recommend if you’re looking for quick-drying and versatility in a towel.”

Who It’s Best For: Those who prefer the quickest dry; those who want a modern design and pop of color; those who want something with a bit of texture; those who want a larger towel; those who prefer lightweight towels.

Honorable Mention:  The Brooklinen Hammam towel impressed AT senior commerce editor Jasmine, with how well it dried her and two others on a beach trip. Not only was it “not sopping wet” but it also dried by the time they’d packed up their beach bag.

Turkish towels are flat, tightly woven, lightweight, quick drying, and usually intricately beautiful, as is expected with anything traditionally Turkish in design. Our winner of the best lightweight towel is all of these and a little more. “I’ll be buying at least two more of these,” our tester, AT style and shopping editor Blair, says. “I couldn’t love this towel more.” The Serena & Lily Fouta bath towel has both texture and softness — it’s soft on the skin but with enough friction to dry you quickly. “It felt SO soft when it first arrived,” Blair recalls. “I worried the washer would ruin it…but a few washes later, it’s still perfectly cozy and comfy.” For those who prefer lightweight towels over bulky, toasty, and plush, these are the perfect option. Despite its ability to roll up into a compact, easily storable towel, “it’s still incredibly absorbent,” Blair says. “I can’t emphasize that enough.” Delicate stripes make these chic and something we want to show off. Blair agrees: “The style alone is also a huge plus. I tried the Smoke/Fog coloring, and it makes my tiny New York bathroom look, dare I say, luxe.”

Who Kt’s Best For: Those who prefer lightweight, non-bulky towels; those who prefer towels with color and design; those who prefer Turkish towels.

Good to Know: Serena & Lily offers a 30-day trial period, so if you’re unhappy with this towel (which we guarantee you won’t be), you can return it for a refund.

There’s just something about a bath towel with some heft that makes us want to continue to lounge post-shower. Like weighted blankets, towels with higher GSMs can even encourage calm and relaxation when swaddled in one. We’ve found our favorite — the weighted blanket of bath towels — and it’s this organic Turkish cotton one from Crate & Barrel. Our tester, Kitchn associate food editor Nicole, calls this towel “soft, thick, and very absorbent!” After washing, she notes that “there was zero shedding…which is something that I usually experience with new towels, so I was thrilled about that.” They’re so luxurious and plush that they gave Nicole a towel epiphany: “I wouldn’t usually spend $27 on one towel, but now I’m realizing why people do!”

Who It’s Best For: Those who love a high-pile, thick, ultra-soft towel; those who prefer towels with a bit of weight.

Good to Know: This Crate & Barrel towel ships free and is available for in-store pick-up.

Many of our winners qualify as beautiful to display and thoughtful in design, but the Weezie Piped Edge bath towel really stands out. Not only is it a truly excellent, fast-drying, plush-as-anything towel, but it’s also able to be monogrammed, and the piped edges give it a luxe, attractive look. “The best word to describe the Weezie towel? Luxury!” says senior commerce editor Jasmine, who loves the soft surface and pretty design. “In fact,” she says, “it feels like the towel equivalent of a fancy hotel robe.” Soft, well-constructed, and “just the thing I want to wrap up in after a long shower or bath.” It’s on the larger side as far as bath towels go, which Jasmine says is “great for drying off both my hair and body.” Jasmine vouches for this towel being one you’ll want to show off to guests. She ordered it with the piped edge in navy blue, because “it gives it a really expensive and elevated look.”

Who It’s Best For: Those looking for unique or personalized towels; those shopping for towels for the whole family; those giving housewarming gifts.

Good to Know: Monogram whatever you’d like on these towels, from initials to names, inspiring words to pronouns. Returns are unavailable for customized or used towels.





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