The Best Towels

best towelsWhich are the best towels? What factors should matter? Last month we talked about the best sheets for the home — and today we’re looking at the best towels. Reader K wonders…

Hi Kat, again, love your blog. I am curious as to whether you and the readers have found THE BEST towels. I am ready to do this purchase right and want to know if anyone has scoured/tested the best products so that I am not reinventing the wheel. Soft and luxurious while getting the job done. Thanks!

Great question, K — I’m curious to hear what everyone else has found. I just splurged and bought some Missoni towels from Horchow through one of their midday ClickTock sales, and I’m always on the hunt for vibrant towels with saturated colors, which I’ll admit has been my main determinant for which towels I’ve bought. (For some reason white towels have always seemed terribly impractical to me, unless they’re designed for bleach.) I haven’t had the best luck in general with towels — I splurged on some towels (even got ’em personalized) at a fancier department store a few years ago and was bummed to find that, while they were fluffy, they weren’t terribly absorbent. So let’s research this together (alas, the Missoni towels don’t make anyone’s list!)…

  • The Sweet Home has a very thorough article (as always), last updated May 2015. They tested a dozen towels on factors like softness, absorbency, durability, and affordability — I’ll have to give their $25, eco-friendly winning towel a try.
  • Good Housekeeping, after testing 55 lines, likes Macy’s Hotel Collection towels, which I think I’ve had before and liked (not like “OMG this is the best towel I’ve ever tried in my life!” liked, but, you know, “this towel doesn’t annoy me and seems to function” liked). GH apparently only tested three or four brands, though. Interestingly, they recommend washing your towel every 3-4 uses — I will have to change that one-week cycle I’ve had them on! (Towels aren’t supposed to bend, right?) (Kidding.)
  • Into the Gloss rounds up some towels, and this sentence encapsulates the experience I’ve been looking for (and missing) with my towel travels through the years: “The first time I ever tried Restoration Hardware’s 802-Gram Turkish Bath Towel, I was visiting a friend’s family home, and felt so pampered and glamorous that I made a mental note to build a home of my own around towels like this later in life.” Wow. That’s what I’m talkin’ about! (Restoration Hardware is actually having a sale right now on all towels, so a bath sheet comes to $19-$23 today.)
  • Apartment Therapy has a roundup of “luxury towels for the rest of us.”
  • Amazingly, Consumer Reports has no opinion on the matter. (They do have a ton of research regarding the best paper towel, though, which was interesting — I’ve never focused on the quality of my paper towels. Since having kids we keep a huge “rag bag” filled with old towels and washcloths that we use all the time for any major spills.)

Sadly, no one seemed to have an opinion on which is the best towel to take if you’re about to do some interstellar hitchhiking. Finally, a shoutout to two hair towels that I’ve used for years:

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  • Aquis hair towels. I must have half a dozen of these towels — great for wrapping your hair up when you get out of the shower, as well as puttering around the house while letting your hair air dry (throw the towel around your shoulders to keep your shirt dry).
  • Turbie Twist towels. As my hair has gotten curlier I’ve moved to these for any attempts at “plopping” — I flip my head over in the shower, apply product/finger-comb, scrunch out water, and then do my best to collect my curls in the “cap” part of the towel at arm’s length. I use two hands to put the cap on my head, all while upside down, then I take the “tail” part of the towel, twist it up and button it. Old t-shirts are supposed to also be amazing for curly hair, though!

Ladies, which are your favorite towels? Do you look for pretty towels, absorbent towels, or quick-drying towels? Have you ever been disappointed by a towel purchase? 

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Comments

  1. And I’m done here. Adios.

    • Wildkitten :

      Really? The post on towels, not the post on if dresses and skirts are professionally acceptable?

      • Killer Kitten Heels :

        Eh, the dresses/skirts post wasn’t as inane as this one. The title was ridiculous and click-bait-y, but the actual question was somewhat understandable – I mean, I’ve worked for weird managers who used “professionalism” to justify strange, them-specific quirks, and if I hadn’t had as much experience as I happened to have working in other office environments, I could see myself having been genuinely worried that I’d been “unprofessional” without knowing it.

        This one reads an awful lot like “How do I adult the bestest?”, which, to me, is more grating. Then again, my towels are from Target, and I bought them because they were the right color, they felt nice when I touched them, and they were on sale, and that’s about as much thought as I ever put into towels, so it’s entirely possible I’m just not the target audience for these types of posts.

        • dry and lint-free :

          No, it’s a little grating. “Being ready to do this purchase right” sounds like someone who is still high on her first paycheck (not that there’s anything wrong with that! I remember that feeling and the accompanying urge to upgrade *all my stuff to the best stuff* for the sake of it) and is assigning overwrought importance to this decision. “Being ready to do this purchase right” is a sentiment that is more appropriate for a house, car, or major household appliance.

          I have used the same Target towels for a decade, and I am doing fine.

          • anonymiss :

            Whoa, just because you don’t care about towels and have used those Target towels for 10 years doesn’t mean no one else cares about them or wants to compare notes. It’s a purchase, like sheets, silverware, etc., that you basically use every day of your life, so why are you judging people (that’s what it seems like you’re doing) who do care about the quality of that stuff? People who don’t have much money to spare might want to know which towels will give them the best bang for their buck, while other readers who can and want to splurge on towels might want to know which are the very best. You can just skip the post if you want — it’s not difficult.

          • dry and lint-free :

            Oh calm down. I said its “a little grating.” I’m not judging her- I even said I empathized. I was merely agreeing with the two other posters above me and trying to express why it felt overwrought.

            You could have skipped my whole post too, instead of getting yourself all worked up over it. Take a Xanax maybe.

    • Thank you, anonymiss — the above posts were not at all constructive and were – dare I say – “grating” . . . Relax, people – and enjoy your Target towels!

      Thanks to everyone else for the positive feedback and suggestions. Splurging on new towels is something I have been excited about and I appreciate having the benefit of other people’s experiences before making that purchase.

      Thank you, Kat, for providing a positive and constructive forum to discuss everything career and lifestyle.

    • The best towels are Turkish peshtemal towels. They can be used as gifts, bath, gym, beach and home. Try these guys out.

      http://fabricdome.com/

  2. Oh! Great topic! I realized about a month ago that my “new” towels are now 6(!) years old.

    How often does everyone replace their towels?

    • Our wedding shower towels made it about 7 years before the edging fell apart and I got tired of cutting the stringy pieces off after every wash (I was amused that it happened to both our bath towels and the bathmat within a month or two of each other – consistency!)

      FWIW, they were the Charisma line at Bloomie’s and we were happy enough with them to purchase the same brand for replacements (waited for a white sale to pull the trigger).

      I will only buy white bleachable towels – you can tell when they are dirty and therefore the normal 1x a week wash cycle needs to be advanced. I probably use bleach only 2-3x a year but refuse to give up the option.

    • Yay! I love good towels. Cannon is the bast, Grandma Leyeh says, tho I like Mochado. I useually keep them about 5 year’s, and once they even start to get ratty, OUT they go! With one exeption: I just bought new towels b/f Sheketovits moved in, and he soiled all of them within a year, so I had to replace them. He soiled the next set and this time I threw Sheketovits out with the towels. I think he is actually using my soiled towels. FOOEY!

    • I replace them when they’re worn out to the point that I don’t want to use them as bath towels, and retire them to spill-mopping towels, then they eventually downgrade to garage towels, then binned. There’s no magic number here.

  3. We have been on a hunt for towels that we like for a long time. Current favorite is Nordstrom hydrocotton towels–I just got some at the anniversary sale. They are soft, absorbent, dry quickly, and stay nice-looking even after a week of use. We got the Restoration Hardware towels a few years ago and I found them to be too stiff–they’re now our guest towels, since others seem to like them. We also have a few Pottery Barn hydrocotton ones, which are soft and absorbent, but are thin and lose their shape after a few uses.

    Also, does anyone else have a problem with the Aquis and Turbie Twist towels starting to smell? After less than a week of use, mine start to stink of mildew, no matter how well-ventilated the bathroom is.

    • I use white vinegar instead of fabric softener for towels and that helps some with odor. I also have some Smelly Towel Cleaner detergent that I use every third wash to keep them fresh. A sports/technical fabric detergent like sportsuds should work on the Aquis too.

  4. Diana Barry :

    The best towels that we have are Garnet Hill. I buy them on sale and don’t really care about the colors.

  5. IDoNotLikeTheConeOfShame :

    Great timing for this article – I have been doing some internet research on this. Last week bought the Lasting Color (Best Buy) towels recommended in a few of the articles. Not thrilled with them – yes they are cheap but not at all soft. They are meh. Buying some other towels this weekend – probably the Pottery Barn Hydrocotton.

  6. I’ve recommended these here before and I will still stand by them: Restoration Hardware Turkish Towels. We got ours 9 years ago (wedding!) and they still look like new except for one edge of one that got hit by a splash of bleach. We got 2 sets each of 2 colors (brown and sage) and we wash weekly and rotate. We use natural detergent and vinegar as a rinse in the wash. NO fabric softeners. This is basically how we do our other laundry too so it’s not babying them but I do think that how you take care of your linens affects their longevity. I love, love, love my towels. I don’t love love love the colors anymore but I think I’ve got another 10 years to go before I have to replace them so my advice might be to pick a neutral color. :)

    • How much vinegar do you put in the wash?

      • I just fill the softener dispenser (front loader) with vinegar. An extra rinse helps get out any lingering vinegar smell.

  7. This definitely not an answer to the reader’s question, but I’ve been quite happy with my $7.99 Ikea towels. They had to be washed a couple times to stop the shedding, but otherwise they seem to be holding up remarkably well (better than most of the more expensive towels I’ve bought). They’re not super thick and soft, but I prefer them that way, and they are absorbent and quick-drying.

    • Wildkitten :

      I love the Ikea bath sheets. They might be a few bucks more than standard towels. They also have a place to be hung on a hook which I appreciate.

    • Not Ikea, but I’ve been using plain white mid-level Target towels. Also not thick and fluffy, but feel more absorbent. I went with white to avoid bleaching issues from benzoyl peroxide acne products. It also avoids the color matching issue. I can buy one or two at a time as needed without having to worry about color. Haven’t had any significant staining in the 4-5 years I’ve had them, so no need to even bleach. Might throw in some Oxiclean here and there, though.

  8. “best” or “best quality/price ratio”? ’cause there’s a difference.

    Best: Garnet Hill has fantastic towels, in great saturated non-patterned shades, and I love them lots. Unfortunately, even on sale, they are $$$, and if you add shipping to Canada they’re outrageously expensive.

    Best quality/price ratio: whatever a good department store has on sale during a really good sale. Personally, I like white towels (with colored/patterned hand towels and washcloths, since those stain more). At The Bay (Canadian equivalent of… Bloomingdale’s, I guess?) I just found really nice, plush Calvin Klein ones for under 7$/towel.

  9. Costco Charisma spa towels, hands down.

  10. I have Ralph Lauren towels. They’re about 5 years old and still in fantastic condition (only 1 pulled thread that I cut off and everything has been fine since!). They’re incredibly plush, even 5 years later! I don’t remember the exact style name, but they seem to be like the Langdon ones listed on the Ralph Lauren website. Also, RL has them listed 30% off right now so that helps deal with the fact that they’re fairly pricey.

    Also, my towels are white. I only like white towels and bed sheets because I like to bleach them. #1 I like the smell of bleach (weird, I know…) and #2 I like the ability to get out any stain, not just hide it because they’re a dark color (feels much cleaner to me that way).

    • Anonymous :

      +1 for RL towels, often sale at your local dept store. Last forever and are colorfast.

    • Also forgot to add that my mom has Frette “checkerboard” towels and, while they felt extremely luxurious when we first bought them, they’ve lost their plushness and some have frayed along the seams during the last 8-10 years she’s had them. I know that’s a while, but for towels from a brand so well-known for “luxury”, I would have expected them to hold up better.

  11. I love Lands End towels (we have the supima cotton but they have a couple other varieties as well) and the Chaps from Kohls, actually. Those have held up the best over time and I like the colors & sizes (I prefer a bath sheet, my husband wants a “regular” size towel so I like to buy separately, not sets). Conversely, the Vera Wang from Kohls is not colorfast at all and I hate them (they are absorbent and soft, though, so – 2 out of 3? I am using but would not buy again).

    I will probably try the Costco Charisma towels next but have been put off by the lack of color and lack of a bath sheet….

    • Second this. I used them at a friend’s house and waited til a sale, then bought 6 for my house in white, the bath sheet. Far and away the best towels ever. Lands End!

  12. For our wedding almost eight years ago, we got towels from Bed Bath & Beyond and Crate & Barrel. The BB&B towels held up well and are still soft, comfortable, and absorbent although the colors are beginning to fade. The C&B towels, which were roughly twice as expensive, started fraying and feeling rough after only a few months. Very disappointing. I’m thinking of replacing towels in the near-ish future — those RH Turkish Towels sound amazing!

  13. AssociateInDC :

    Matouk Milagro. They are super soft and look great (wash them a few times to get out the loose fibers).

  14. Pottery barn organic cotton towels. Had for 10 years, still great shape. Just bought new set to match new bathroom design (yay!)

  15. The Restoration Hardware towels have been my go-to for years. They have a large variety of colors, sizes, matching rugs, etc., and they are really nice. My only complaint is that they give off fuzz for several washes before they calm down. So, wash them well before using (natural soap, no fabric softener or they lose absorbency).

    My parents swear by the Macy’s Hotel Collection, so we use those when we visit, and they are great too.

    Love the vinegar tip – will give that a try! Have had trouble with towels smelling after just a day or two, after moving to a more humid climate.

  16. Turkish Pestemal spa towels, hands down, are the best towels I’ve ever used. They have the loft of a kitchen dish towel which made me uncertain that they would work at first, but they absorb water like mad, get softer with every wash, do not produce mountains of lint, do not unravel, and come in lovely colors. Plus, they are huge–large enough to wrap around my body with extra to spare. My husband, who is a hairy beast, loves them too because he can get dry much faster than with a fluffy normal bath towel. Plus, we live in a humid climate, and the Pestemal towels dry so quickly that they never get that horrible mildew smell that’s so difficult to get out of fabric. We are slowly replacing all of our bath towels with them, although I’m keeping a few sets of fluffy towels for guests who might not immediately understand the excellence of the Turkish towels.

  17. On the need for “vibrant towels with saturated colors” I recently started a brand for gym towels with super bright colours and patterns that were appropriate for sweaty activities called Sogz. If anyone is looking for fun towels for that use I’d encourage you to check them out as it’s hard to find good, colourful towels that are also practical for the gym!

  18. We’re converting to the Martha Stewart towels sold a Macy’s, in white. Soft, fluffy, luxurious by our standards, and they’ve held up well to several months of washing, with the occasional bleach

  19. Have you ever tried Turkish Towels?:

    Absorbent as much as towels.
    Easy to carry because of less weight.
    Takes up less space in your bag or on your shelf.
    Durable to frequent washing and dries easily.
    Eco-friendly as it consumes less water and detergent in washing.

    Perfect choice for; Leisure centres, SPAs, Pools, Saunas, GYM, sport/massage facilities, in the beach as a pareo.

    www.peshtemalix.com has the widest range and best prices on the web. We ship the item on the same day and it takes 2 days to recieve them.

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