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Do you know how to pick a good bath towel? What an expert says you should be looking for

Don't worry; you won't have to do too much extra work.
Vivian Le / TODAY

Be honest: the last time you bought a bath towel, how hard did you really think about the choice you made? Did you grab the first one that fit your budget or aesthetic or that just simply felt nice?

Would you believe us if we said there's a rhyme and reason that should go into picking something as simple as a bath towel? It isn't a complicated process but keeping a few things in mind can make a world of difference — and help you get the most out of your money.

We consulted a textile expert about what those things are and a laundry expert to break down the do's and don'ts of washing. Plus, we shared a few of our favorite bath towels that have withstood the test of time.

What to look for | Bath towel care tips | Editor faves | Meet the experts

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What to look for in a good bath towel

There are two main things you should be looking at to determine the quality of a bath towel: fiber and fabric. You might think they're one and the same, but textile expert Deborah Young is here to explain that they are, in fact, two different things.

Fiber: The fiber is what you'd usually think of when you hear the word fabric. Fiber is your cottons, bamboos, modals. Since the purpose of a towel is absorbency, Young says cotton is the "icon of the towel industry." While she says other materials have cotton the absorbency part down, they don't deliver in the thickness department. "These newer fibers are very drapey, you don’t need that in a towel." She recommends opting for 100% cotton towels instead of cotton blends because the other material it's blended with can impact absorbency.

Fabric: Contrary to what most people think they know, fabric refers to the structure of the fibers. "Towels have always been terrycloth with a loop on one side or both sides. The loop structure makes it ridiculously more absorbent which is why it’s so popular," she explains. "Sometimes you’ll notice that it’s loops on one side and cut on the other side. It looks more like a velvet on one side. That’s more attractive for a guest towel, [but] it doesn’t work as well as the loop in terms of removing moisture from your body."

Understanding the difference between fiber and fabric is key to picking a quality towel while you're in the store, Young emphasizes. Can't remember all of the technical stuff while you're out shopping? No problem — just look for a thicker and heavier towel. "We’ve all picked up a cheap towel. It’s thin and limp. Nobody wants to touch that," she laughs.

Do's and don'ts of bath towel care

Once you've made your selection, you'll want to take the best care of them so they can last as long as possible. Rechelle Balanzat, founder of New York-based laundry and dry cleaning service Juliette, shared her do's and don'ts to get the most out of your bath towels.


  • Wash first before using. "During the manufacturing process, sometimes there’s a coating on the towel. So you want to remove that first before you use it."
  • Separate your towels from other clothes and even kitchen towels. She explains that lighter-colored towels can pick up pigments from other clothes and kitchen towels have different bacteria on it that you might want to follow other care instructions for, like washing in hot water.
  • Dry your towels completely. "Try not to leave them damp in the dryer because it can attract mold. If you don’t have time to fully dry it, then just take it out and air dry it."
  • When in doubt, read the care instructions. If you're not sure whether to wash in cold, warm or hot water, just refer to the instructions on your towel's tag. (And if you have an iPhone, did you know that your camera can decode those symbols for you?)


  • Use too much detergent. Balanzat says there's a possibility of the detergent not completely washing out depending on the wash cycle. This can leave a residue on the towel which breaks down the towel over time, leading to reduced fluffiness and absorbency. Instead, she recommends considering using half the recommended detergent amount for that load size, which is usually found on the bottle or the cap.
  • Use too much fabric softener. Balanzat previously mentioned this when we spoke about why you shouldn't be using fabric softener at all. She echoes it this time, too, saying it leaves a waxy residue that reduces the absorbency of your towel.

Shop TODAY editor-approved bath towels

Tommy Hilfiger Signature Solid Bath Towel

What we like
  • Hanging loop
  • Durable and washes well
Something to note
Nothing to note at this time

Colors: Four | Fiber: 100% cotton

Associate editor Allie Wise has endless praises for this bath towel from Tommy Hilfiger. "I’ve had it for years and it looks just as new as the day I bought it. It is extremely soft, affordable and durable. Highly recommend!" she raves.

Threshold Performance Plus Bath Towel

What we like
  • Hanging loop
  • Wash well
  • Thick and absorbent
Something to note
  • Certain colors prone to shed

Colors: 24 | Fiber: 100% cotton

Senior partnerships editor Francesca Cocchi Zabloudil first experienced these towels at her mother-in-law's house and was immediately impressed with how soft and cozy they were.

"I asked her where she got them, expecting an expensive brand, but she said Target! When I got back home after the holidays I ran out to my local store almost immediately to get two for my place. I prefer them over the more expensive towels I got for my wedding!"

Hotel Collection Turkish Bath Towel

What we like
  • Absorbent, dries quickly
  • Very plush
Something to note
  • Feels a bit heavy

Colors: 13 | Fiber: 100% cotton

"My mom gifted a set of these Turkish bath towels when I moved into my first apartment about 15 years ago and I still have them to this day," says senior SEO editor Jess Bender. "Despite knowing when exactly I should replace my towels, I can attest that they’ve mainly stayed in relatively good shape over the years, minus a stubborn makeup stain or two and the occasional fray around the trim."

Brooklinen Super-Plush Bath Towels

What we like
  • Soft to the touch
  • Unique color range
  • Durable material
Something to note
  • Slight pilling

Colors: 16 | Fiber: 100% Turkish cotton

Bender says that now she earns a "proper adult income," she can splurge a bit more on quality and this purchase was one of the first she made after a promotion a few years ago. "They haven’t let me down yet! They’re soft, they’re thick, they’re absorbent, they comfortably wrap around my body after a shower — what more could I possibly want?"

Cozy Earth Ribbed Terry Bath Towels

What we like
  • Wash well
  • Durable
  • Plush
Something to note
  • Not long enough for large body

Colors: Three | Fiber: 60% cotton, 40% bamboo viscose

While Young doesn't recommend opting for a cotton blend, these are my personal favorites. I've been using them for the past year and was them constantly. They've held up better than any other towel I've ever had. They always come out of the dryer as fluffy as the first day I opened them and I haven't noticed any reduced absorbency over time.

Cozy Earth Premium Plush Bath Sheets

What we like
  • Very soft
  • Wide variety of colors
Something to note
  • Loses softness over time

Colors: Eight | Fiber: 60% cotton, 40% bamboo viscose

Associate editor Emma Stessman is also a fan of these cotton-blended bath sheets from Cozy Earth. "They are so plush, absorbent and soft and they’re much larger than a typical towel so I can wrap my whole body. It makes me feel like a large toddler (and I mean that in the best way possible). It’s perfect for people like me who like to hang in their towel for a while after a shower."

Meet the experts

  • Deborah Young is a Los Angeles-based instructor, author and textile expert with more than 25 years of experience.
  • Rechelle Balanzat is the founder of Juliette, a laundry and dry cleaning company based in New York City.