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Best Towels: Materials, Sizes and What to Look For

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High-quality towels can make a world of difference in your bathing experience. With the right materials and weaves, you'll feel like you're being pampered in a luxury spa every time you step out of the bath or shower.

Of course, not all bath linens are created equal. So what are the best towels? The answer depends on your personal needs and aesthetic taste. This article will guide you through selecting the best option for your unique preferences.

We'll go over the different materials, sizes, styles and price points, answer frequently asked questions and provide tips for buying top-tier towels. Let's get started.

What Is a Bath Towel?

A bath towel is the standard choice for drying off when getting out of the bath or shower. It's usually woven from thick, absorbent, quick-drying materials, such as terry cloth cotton. Bath towels typically measure 30 inches wide and 56 inches long, but the exact dimensions often vary among brands.

This type of towel is ideal for most adults and children. The medium size makes it the best shower towel for tousle-drying your hair or wrapping around your head when it's wet.

What Is a Bath Sheet?

A bath sheet is basically a larger version of a bath towel. It usually measures 40 inches wide and 70 inches long, but the exact size will vary among brands. The oversized design offers more coverage than a standard towel, making it easy to wrap around your entire body, almost like a blanket.

This type of towel is best for folks who appreciate the spa-like feel of being wrapped up, as well as those who want to "wear" their towels while doing their hair, shaving or applying makeup. Though it's too big for most kids, the larger surface area is also ideal for tall people and larger bodies.

bath sheet and towel sizes

Best Towel Materials and Weaves

The best towels are typically made of Turkish cotton or organic cotton. They most often feature a terry cloth, waffle, ribbed, or Fouta-style weave. Here's what to know.

Turkish Cotton

Turkish cotton bath towels are sourced from cotton plants grown in Turkey. The extra-long staple fibers make for an exceptionally durable and long-lasting yet soft and highly absorbent fabric.

What Is Turkish Cotton? Learn more about this all-star textile in our blog.

Organic Cotton

Organic cotton bath linens are loomed from organically grown cotton plants. The soft, durable material makes for ultra-absorbent, quick-dry towels that feel amazing against the skin. To be labeled as certified-organic cotton, towels must adhere to strict production standards set by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTSⓇ).

Terry Cloth Weave

Terry cloth is one of the most popular towel weaves. It's created with a looping technique to form a soft, fluffy texture that quickly soaks up water.

The classic terry towels from Parachute are made using Aerocotton technology, an innovative spinning technique that encourages air to pass through the fibers. This creates longer yarns with more surface area, ultimately making the material more absorbent and quick-drying than standard cotton.

Waffle Weave

Waffle-weave towels have a distinct honeycomb look and feel, with small square indents within a grid-like pattern. Though it's often loomed from long-staple Turkish cotton, the material is lighter-weight than traditional terry cloth.

Still, it's surprisingly durable and absorbent, making it one of the best towel materials for heavy use. Waffle-weave bath linens are also not quite as bulky or fluffy as regular towels, so they fold more compactly and take up less space when hung from a towel bar or hook.


Ribbed bath linens, as the name implies, feature a sculpted rib texture. The weaving technique is similar to terry cloth (with the same looped threads), except the finished result features distinct vertical lines.

If you're looking for the softest bath towels on the market, a ribbed design might be your best bet. The options you’ll find at Parachute are created using Spinsoft technology, a process that generates a larger surface area for the individual yarns, making the towels more absorbent and long-lasting.


Fouta towels have a long history, with their first uses dating back to ancient Hamman spas and Turkish bathhouses. The Mediterranean-style weave is notably flatter than most other bath linens and often features a signature stripe against a plain white or off-white background.

While they fold compactly and take up minimal space hanging in a bathroom, this type of towel isn't as thin or lightweight as you'd expect. It's actually among the best towels when you need something durable and absorbent.

Want to learn How to Turn Your Bathroom Into a Spa? Read our blog for tips and ideas.

Best Towels: Features to Consider

There are a few things to keep in mind when shopping for towels. This includes size, material, weave, absorbency, drying time, weight, plushness, softness, feel, durability, care requirements, certifications, color, design and price. Here's what to consider.


Standard bath towels are an excellent choice for most adults and kids. The medium size makes it easy to hang, fold or roll up for storage and works well for drying your hair and twisting around your head.

Bath sheets tend to be too large and heavy to wrap around your head. However, they're good for draping over your body and quickly toweling off. If you're tall or just like a bigger towel, this is a great option.

What's the best way to store towels and other household linens? Read our article to learn How to Organize Your Linen Closet.

Material and Weave

As mentioned above, high-quality towels are often made of long-staple Turkish cotton and certified organic cotton. As for weave, some of the best towels are terry cloth, waffle, ribbed or flat-loomed Fouta.

Absorbency and Drying Time

Absorbency shouldn't be overlooked when buying bath towels. The more absorbent the material, the more water it'll soak up, and the quicker you'll be able to dry off your body.

On the other hand, thicker towels with excellent absorbency often take longer to air-dry. But if you bathe once a day, this shouldn't be an issue. Even the thickest, most absorbent bath linens likely won't take more than 12 hours to dry completely after getting damp.

Weight and Plushness

Towel weights are measured in grams per square meter (GSM). Organic cotton and terry Turkish cotton usually have a weight of 600 to 700 GSM, whereas waffle-weave bath linens are closer to 200 to 300 GSM. Ribbed towels are typically right in the middle, with a weight between 400 and 500 GSM.

A higher number generally indicates a thicker, plusher material. But everyone's idea of the best towels is different. Some people prefer thick, fluffy fabrics, while others prefer lighter-weight textiles and flatter weaves.

Softness and Feel

Weight and absorbency are one thing, but you should also take into account softness and overall feel. The thickest towels aren't necessarily the softest towels. But if a soft, cozy feel is a priority, look for designs made of Turkish cotton with a terry cloth, ribbed or waffle weave. Also, keep in mind that high-quality towels will often get softer over time.


Nice towels will not only feel good against the skin but also hold up under daily use and frequent laundering. They should generally resist shrinking, tearing, unraveling, pilling and fading. Some shedding is normal with new towels, but it should subside after a few washes.

Care Requirements

Most towels are machine-washable and dryer-friendly, but you'll want to check the brand's care instructions before laundering yours. If you want towels that stay soft, avoid adding too much laundry detergent. While you might think lots of soap will make your towels cleaner, it can actually cause the fabric to become stiff. With concentrated detergent, about a quarter-cup per load should suffice.

Air-drying is a popular choice for those who want to cut down on their energy usage, but since towels are highly absorbent, they take a long time to dry completely when soaking wet. For this reason, you'll usually want to put them in your dryer after most of the water is wrung out in your washer's spin cycle. To speed up the drying process and make your bath linens extra-fluffy, toss in a few wool dryer balls.

For more on this topic, see our blog on How to Wash and Properly Care for Towels.


The best towels will have an Oeko-Tex Standard 100 certification. This textile label tells you the fabric fibers and all other components (like threads and dyes) that went into making the product are free of upwards of 100 potentially dangerous chemicals, including substances that could harm you or the environment.

When buying organic cotton textiles, look for the GOTS certification. This indicates that the material was sourced from organically grown cotton and that the finished product met the organization's strict sustainability criteria.

Color and Design

Bath linens come in a variety of colors and designs. While it's mostly a matter of personal preference, you'll want to choose something that complements the rest of your bathroom decor.

Though there's nothing wrong with vibrant colors and bold motifs, some of the coolest towels come in neutral hues. If you want yours to stand out, consider a unique texture, like ribbed or waffle weave.

Single Towel vs. Bundled Set

You can buy bath sheets and towels individually, but most people opt for bundled sets that include matching hand towels and washcloths. If you have enough hand towels and washcloths but need additional bath towels, you can always add more to your collection.


Since bath towels are smaller than bath sheets, they tend to be among the best towels for shoppers on a budget. But for those who prefer more surface area, a larger bath sheet might be a worthwhile investment.

You don't necessarily have to spend an exorbitant amount of money on towels. Having said that, investing in a high-quality set will elevate your bathing experience and prevent you from having to replace your bath linens sooner than later.

How Often Should You Replace Towels, Shower Curtain Liners and Other Bathroom Essentials? Read our article for insight.

Frequently Asked Questions About the Best Towels

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the best bath towels below.

What type of towels do 5-star hotels use?

Five-star hotels and resorts typically use terry cloth towels woven from high-quality Turkish or Egyptian cotton. The thick, fluffy material lends a luxurious, spa-like experience while offering excellent absorbency.

Are Turkish or Egyptian towels better?

Both Turkish cotton and Egyptian cotton are woven from extra-long-staple cotton plant fibers. This makes the fabric exceptionally strong and durable with standout absorbent properties. If you want soft bath towels that stand the test of time, both Turkish and Egyptian cotton are great choices.

Are expensive towels worth buying?

The best bath towels aren't necessarily the most expensive ones, but you probably don't want to get the cheapest set you can find, either. Opting for the mid-to-high price range is a good idea, as you can generally count on a high-quality design that'll last multiple years.

How can you tell if towels are good quality?

Good-quality towels are often made of long-staple Turkish cotton or organic cotton. These materials are naturally soft, durable, absorbent and quick-drying. You can also look out for the Oeko-Tex certification for chemical safety and the GOTS label if you're buying organic bath linens.

How often should I wash my towels?

You should wash your bath towels at least once a week or every three to four uses. Lots of folks wash their towels on laundry day when they change their sheets. This prevents dirt, dead skin cells, bacteria and sweat from accumulating on the fabric and keeps musty smells at bay.

How long should bath towels last?

With daily use, bath towels should last about two or three years. Higher-quality materials will have a slightly longer lifespan and are less likely to tear, pill, thin out or become otherwise ragged over time. Still, the fibers break down with each use and wash, so eventually, all towels will need to be replaced.

Other Types and Sizes of Bath Linens

In addition to finding the best towels and bath sheets, you'll want to consider other types and sizes of bath linens. This includes hand towels, washcloths and bath mats.

Hand Towels

Hand towels are roughly 20 inches wide and 30 inches long. They're supposed to hang from a small bar, ring or knob, and are meant for drying off your hands after washing them in the bathroom sink.


Washcloths are small, square-shaped towels measuring about 12 x 12 inches. They're meant for washing your body in the shower or your face at the sink. You can also use washcloths to exfoliate your skin and remove makeup, though you might consider getting dark-colored, designated makeup towels to avoid staining your light-colored washcloths.

Bath Mats

Bath mats (or tub mats) are absorbent, quick-drying, towel-like sheets that you place in front of your bathtub or shower. When you step out of the tub or shower, it protects your bathroom floors from moisture damage and helps prevent you from slipping. Tub mats are usually around 20 inches wide and 31 inches long.

What's the difference between Bath Mats vs. Bath Rugs? Read our article to find out.

Parachute Has the Best Towels to Buy Online

Feeling inspired to invest in high-quality bath linens? You've come to the right place. When you browse the bath collection at Parachute, you’ll find some of the best Turkish towels on the market, including classic terry cloth, waffle-weave, soft ribbed and Fouta stripe towels, as well as eco-friendly organic cotton towels.

All bath linens from Parachute are Oeko-Tex certified, so you can have peace of mind knowing they're a healthy, safe choice for you and the planet. Shop the selection today!

Read Next:

What Is Organic Cotton? Sustainable Cotton Fabric Guide

What Is Oeko-Tex? Learn About This Textile Certification Standard

Fouta Stripe Bath Towels: Behind the Design

56 Bathroom Decor Ideas for Styling Your Bathroom

Best Sustainable and Organic Bathroom Products