There are few feelings more comforting than stepping out of a hot shower and being wrapped up in a warm, fluffy towel. From the wonderfully luxurious towels we use to pamper ourselves with to the humble hand towel we use every day yet rarely notice, towels are among most practical and well-worn items in the home.
To help you make the right decisions and avoid costly mistakes, our design team have put together their top tips for buying the perfect towels for you.
Fabric and construction will be the first major consideration when buying new towels – there are dozens of different styles out there and when many look and feel similar, it can be hard to know the difference.
First, look at the towel’s pile. The pile is the loops on the towel – the length and number of loops will determine how absorbent a towel is. The more loops per square cm and the longer they are, the more absorbent your towel will be.
Towels can be made from a variety of fibres, including bamboo, linen and hemp. Cotton is by far the most commonly used fibre for making towelling because it’s soft, fluffy, naturally breathable and absorbent – all the qualities you look for in a good towel.
Even so, there are still dozens of types of cotton towelling to choose from when selecting your towels. These include:
Recognised as one of the best, most luxurious cottons in the world, Egyptian cotton towels are soft, warm and absorbent. Typically made with a deep pile formed of twisted yarn loops, Egyptian cotton towels absorb water by trapping them in the loops and yarns of the fibres.
Grown exclusively in America, Supima cotton towels have extra long fibres and feel almost silk-like in their texture. They feel soft and luxurious, and are strong, durable and very absorbent.
Combed cotton is extremely soft to the touch, and is made by ‘combing’ off any tiny fibres from the cotton before being spun into yarn. This reduces shedding and makes for an incredibly versatile, durable towel that can withstand the pressures of frequent washing and daily use.
Zero twist cotton
Zero Twist, also known as Hydro cotton, is a method where yarn is spun with a low amount of twist. The result is a towel that feels as soft and plush as Egyptian cotton, but is much lighter, incredibly absorbent and fast drying.
Most families use towels in a combination of sizes to meet the demands of living. Bath towels and hand towels are the most common – these are the sizes you will find as standard in most hotel rooms, and are a good place to start when purchasing towels for the first time if you aren’t yet certain what you’ll need.
While the dimensions may vary slightly, these are the six standard sizes for towels:
The weight of your towels is another important factor in the selection process. Different weights will be appropriate for different tasks – most families use different towels in the kitchen than they do in the master bathroom because they perform separate functions.
The standard unit of weight used to measure towels is grams per square metre or gsm. The higher the gsm, the denser and more absorbent the towel will be. When choosing the right gsm for you, consider what the towel will be used for and how frequently – lighter towels will dry quicker, while heavier towels tend to feel more luxurious.
Lightweight – up to 350gsm
Lightweight towels have the lowest grams per square metre – they are thinner, lighter and typically not as soft as towels with a heavier gsm. These towels are perfect for high traffic areas of the home because they are quick to wash and dry – you can use them in a kitchen or entryway for everyday tasks. Lightweight towels are also ideal for a trip to the gym, swimming pool or beach; they fold away easily and dry quickly for life on the move.
Medium weight – 400-600gsm
Most standard towels are of medium weight. They are just as absorbent as towels with a higher gsm but aren’t as heavy or dense, making them faster drying, lighter and cooler. Medium weight towels are ideal for warmer climates and busy families; they dry quickly and are durable enough to withstand life in a family bathroom.
Heavy weight – 700-900gsm
Heavyweight towels are the softest and most luxurious. They are super absorbent, warm and feel very substantial. Heavyweight towels are durable and long lasting, and although more expensive, if cared for properly will be with you for years to come. Heavier towels tend to be slow drying, and are best used to luxuriate after a shower or bath rather than for daily family life.
Choosing the right towels comes down to preference, lifestyle and your interior design style. Think about where you will be using your towels and what you need them for – you may want to keep a set of soft, heavyweight towels for the guest bathroom and use something a little more durable and lighter for the family bathroom.
When you buy, always look for quality. The softness you feel in store can be misleading – most towels are softened by the manufacturer to make them more appealing to consumers, and when you first test them may struggle to see the difference until after a few washes when the look and softness have changed.
Spend as much as you can afford; higher quality towels are more expensive, but will last much longer and wear well over time. Considering that your towels will be used every day, it’s a worthwhile investment.
How many towels you need depends on how many people are in your household and how often you like to change them. A good rule of thumb is to keep:
- 2 x bath sheets, bath towels and face cloths per family member
- 2 x hand towels per bathroom
- 2 x bath sheets, bath towels and face cloths per guest bedroom
This ensures you have a set to use and a spare set ready for when the other is in the wash.
Taking good care of your towels will help them last longer and stay at their best. It’s a good idea to wash your towels as soon as you get them – it takes a few washes to achieve their maximum absorbency, and washing them right away will also help prevent any possible colour transfer.
Two of the most common hazards for towels are pulling and stains. Keep your household towels from coming into contact with strong cleaning products that contain bleach to prevent staining. Skin treatments can also damage towels so be mindful of that, too; strong products with benzoyl peroxide in particular are prone to leaving permanent marks on clothing and towelling.
Don’t worry if your towel gets caught or pulled – the pile is different than a traditional knit and won’t cause the towel to unravel. Carefully snip off the pulled loop and your towel will be like new again.
Most towels can be washed in the machine on a medium heat, but it’s always worthwhile to check any special care instructions. Group coloured towels together and use colour boosting washing powder to preserve the colours. White towels should be washed with other white items to protect them from greying. Though tempting, avoid fabric softeners – they coat the towels and will reduce their absorbency. The best way to ensure they stay fluffy is through the drying process.
Tumble dryers are great for fluffing up towels after washing. Use textured ‘dryer balls’ to help get air inside the towels and restore their soft, fluffy texture.