How to Pick the Perfect Bath Towel, Because It’s Harder Than You Think

How to Pick the Perfect Bath Towel, Because It’s Harder Than You Think
Photo: Piece of Cake, Shutterstock

The first time (or maybe every time) you’ve purchased towels, perhaps you based your selection on 1) what’s cheapest and 2) is it a towel. But as it turns out, if you’re in a position where you have some flexibility in your towel budget (keeping in mind that they are an investment), you may be interested in learning more about the different types of towels out there.

Here’s how to pick one that’s best suited for your unique bathing needs, courtesy of Jackie Revere of Wirecutter in an article for the New York Times.

Figure out what you want from a towel

According to Revere, “a good bath towel should do several things at once — dry you off quickly, feel good (if not fantastic) on your skin, fit with your décor, and be durable enough to last for years.” So essentially, the same qualities you’re looking for in a potential partner.

Let’s address those one-at-a-time:

Material

Terry cloth or waffle/lattice? That is the question.

Terry cloth

  • Thick material with tightly woven loops
  • What you think of when you think of a classic soft, fluffy towel
  • Long-lasting

Waffle/latice

  • Thinner and rougher fabric
  • Dries faster
  • Takes us less shelf space

Size

There is no standard size for a bath towel, but Revere says that a 28-by-55-inch towel should work for those of average height. And while towels may seem like something that should be one-size-fits all, they’re not. Technically, if you’re only using the towel to dry yourself off inside your bathroom, size doesn’t really matter that much.

But if you want to do the thing people do on TV and in movies where they wrap a towel under their armpits and wear it like a strapless shift dress while dancing around their living room, those who are particularly bosomy or on the broader side may want to opt for a larger towel. Or, more accurately, a bath sheet — which is just a longer and wider version of a bath towel, Revere says.

Your décor

If your bathroom has a certain style or colour scheme, then you may want to consider buying towels that match your décor. But that’s not our focus today, so we’ll move on.

Purchase a single towel and test it

Sure, a towel might feel nice and soft when you touch it in the store (if that’s still a thing people do) or when you first open the package when it comes in the mail, but Revere says that it takes a few washes before the towel reveals its true qualities.

So instead of buying a whole set of towels and finding out after washing them (at a point when it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to return them) that they’re not up to your softness standards, buy one towel of the brand/style you’re considering and test it. Here’s how Revere says to do that:

When washing your test towel, skip fabric softeners, which can leave buildup that changes the feel, and chlorine bleach, which can alter the colour. Wash in cold water and dry on low to medium heat.

Then, once you’ve landed on a towel that works for you, Revere suggests buying at least three bath towels for every person in your household. “You should change your towel every two to three days,” she writes, “so if you do your laundry once a week, that should give you enough to see you through between laundry days.”

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