Best Bath Towels 2023 - Tested Bath Towels Review - Forbes Vetted

There’s nothing quite as luxurious as wrapping yourself up in a large, fluffy towel after a long shower—but if your linens are scratchy, thin or even just less than perfectly plush, the quality of your daily bathing experience can be diminished. Recently, I set out to find a solution to this problem once and for all, rigorously testing eight of the best bath towels on the market. Without a doubt, my top overall pick is Frontgate’s Resort Cotton Bath Towel, an incredibly soft, highly absorbent towel with a blanket-like feel and a whopping 26 colorways to choose from. Amazon’s Quick Dry Bath Towels clocked in as my best value pick, while Brooklinen’s Super-Plush Towels proved to be the best choice for fans of thicker towels. If you’re looking for a waffle weave towel, I recommend the Onsen Bath Towel, an exceedingly lightweight option that soaks up moisture quickly. And for those with a few extra dollars to spare and an appreciation for the highest-quality linens, Matouk’s Milagro Bath Towels, my best luxury pick, are worth checking out.

I tested eight of the most popular bath towels in an effort to find the best ones. Matouk's Milagro ... [+] Bath Towel, Brooklinen's Super-Plush Towel and Onsen's Waffle Bath Towel were some of my top picks. Bath Towel 70x140

Best Bath Towels 2023 - Tested Bath Towels Review - Forbes Vetted

The following is a list of all the winners from my testing process:

Preferences for bed and bath linens can certainly be subjective, so I focused on a series of straightforward criteria to maintain as much objectivity as possible in my personal testing process. I determined that there are a few characteristics that make up the perfect bath towel: Its plushness should be counterweighted by its absorbency, offering a smooth-to-the-touch feel but also ensuring that users can get sufficiently dry; it should be neither too thick nor too thin; and it should dry reasonably quickly while hanging on a rod or hook. Finally, the best towels should be able to stand up to a somewhat aggressive, frequent laundering regimen.

Material: Long-staple Turkish cotton | Construction: Terry | Size: 30 x 58 inches | Weight: 700 GSM

Close your eyes and think about the best hotel towel you’ve ever wrapped yourself in. Now, imagine upgrading that towel. That’s how I felt about the Frontgate Resort Cotton Bath Towel. It’s far and away the softest and thickest towel I tested, more like a blanket than a utilitarian linen, and it also boasts one of the highest gsm (grams per square meter) of all the towels I tested. That means it’s mathematically proven to be fluffy and absorbent—and as expected, it did perform very well in my absorbency test, sucking up a whopping 97.5% of the water I used in my tests. (It’s important to note that this towel did tie for first in the absorbency competition with the Matouk Milagro Bath Towel.)

Of course, all this talk about luxury and extreme softness brings me to an important point: This isn’t the towel for everyone. It’s particularly thick, as I mentioned, so if you’d prefer a towel whose primary function is just to get you dry—as opposed to one you’d want to, say, lounge around in for hours on end—I might direct you to the Onsen option below. It’s free from frills, but it’ll get the job done. Meanwhile, Frontgate’s high-pile terry is more of an experience all around; standard and durable enough to be used daily, but exciting and high-pile enough for the more discerning towel users out there.

Despite its thickness, this towel was also among the best when it came to a quick drying time—though there are faster options. What’s more, through all the rigorous washing and drying cycles to which I subjected it, my Frontgate pick also retained maximum softness and showed no signs of stiffening, shrinking or fading. And last but not least, this towel comes in 27 different colorways (multiple whites, grays, beiges, greens, blues and pinks, including the Terracotta color I used for my testing purposes), so you can find a set that matches even the most niche color scheme. Overall, it’s a veritable win for design lovers and everyday users alike—and it’s safe to say I was impressed.

Material: Cotton | Construction: Terry | Size: 30 x 54 inches | Weight: N/A 

It’s particularly hard to beat the cost of these towels, but their under-$20 price tag is certainly not the only reason I loved them. I was also incredibly impressed with their overall quality, especially relative to the more luxurious (read: expensive) options I tested. They’re not my top pick, it’s true, but they’re an excellent choice for those on a budget and anyone who’s simply interested in the best of the basics.

Let’s start by talking about the absorbency of these towels. Not only did they deftly suck up 78.87% of the water in my absorbency test, but they’re also impressively soft. Save for a few of the other winners, that’s not usually the case with more absorbent towels. That said, while their plushness relative to their absorbency impressed me, they’re definitely still thinner than the other terry towels I tested. In that sense, they offer the user a less luxurious experience than, say, the Frontgate or Matouk bath towels. But that shorter pile isn’t necessarily a strike against them: Fewer fibers mean the towels can dry more quickly (as evidenced by this towel’s 7/10 dryness rating).

Unfortunately, one of those initial pros turned to a con within just a few washes: After multiple trips through the washer and dryer, the softness I’d come to love so much became less apparent as the towel appeared to shake off some of the fabric softener likely used in manufacturing. In this towel’s defense, it was still surprisingly soft (in other words, it didn’t lose too much plushness). This is a problem frequently seen with towels of all types; the straight-from-the-package feel does tend to differ from the post-wash experience. For a towel at this price point, it’s practically to be expected.

Available in six different colors, this towel is also an ideal pick for any tough-to-coordinate bathroom decor. You’ll find the usuals like white and gray alongside some more interesting colors, like Seafoam Green and Lake Blue. For about $20 for a set of two, these towels are great for anyone in the market for a straightforward bath towel, whether for your own bathroom, a guest room or a kid’s dorm room.

Material: Turkish cotton | Construction: Z-twist | Size: 30 x 58 inches | Weight: 820 GSM

If you’re after “thick” and “really, really fluffy” more than anything else, grab these extra plush towels from Brooklinen and don’t look back. They’re surprisingly absorbent for an 820 gsm set (note that Brooklinen’s Classic Towels are 550 gsm, and our luxury pick from Matouk, too, clocks in at 550). While they’re certainly not for everyone (some prefer the thinner, more classic feel of the other towels on our list), they offer a knock-your-socks-off level of quality for those who do like a little extra fluff. The white color is particularly bright and fresh-looking, and there are nine other colors offered on Brooklinen’s site.

The towel feels luxurious and ultra-thick on first pass, though that initial feel does shrink a small amount after its first run through the washer (in other words, it went from “very plush” to “just plain plush”). I didn’t count that as a mark against the product; subsequent washes revealed that it maintained that same, post-first-wash feel. It still offers a far thicker feel than other towels on our list. All in all, it’s fairly easy to understand why Brooklinen touts these as their bestselling weave.

Material: Long-staple, zero-twist cotton | Construction: Terry | Size: 30 x 60 inches | Weight: 550 GSM 

This particular towel was the priciest of the winners I tested. While a higher price tag doesn’t always equate to a higher-quality product, after testing these towels, I believe the Matouk Milagro towels are worth every penny. I found myself looking forward to using them each time the opportunity came up in my testing rotation.

This towel was tied for first in terms of overall absorbency. Like my Frontgate pick, it sucked up 97.5% of the water I poured. It also dried surprisingly fast for its plushness level: I gave it a stellar 9/10 dryness rating. Its 22.1-ounce weight hits the sweet spot between the thick Frontgate towel (27.1 ounces) and the thinner Onsen one (16.95 ounces). It stays supremely soft and fluffy—even after multiple washes. Compared to other luxury towels I tested (Coyuchi and Parachute, neither of which made the final cut), Matouk’s offerings are very much worth the price—and they live up to the time-tested reputation of the brand they represent.

The towel is available in 23 different colorways, with nine different blues. For an extra $25, you can add a monogram to these towels, making it a classy and thoughtful gift for weddings and housewarmings.

I stand by the Frontgate towel as my best overall pick; it was the most impressive towel of all those I tested, and it’s available for a more reasonable price than the Matouk. That said, these two brands performed equally well (nearly identically) in the tests I performed—and on a personal note, I preferred the midrange pile on the Matouk. If you think you might also enjoy that in-between plushness range, it’s worth checking out—but you’ll certainly need to budget for it.

Material: Long-staple Supima cotton | Construction: Waffle weave | Size: 31 x 57 inches | Weight: 470 GSM 

I’d easily recommend this option to anyone who enjoys using a waffle-weave towel, but skip if you prefer a thicker, fluffier linen. It’s got plenty of its own benefits: It’s exceedingly lightweight, it takes up much less space in a linen closet, it soaks up moisture very quickly and it dries quickly as well. It also got softer (and more absorbent) with each wash.

I’d be remiss not to mention that these towels are the beauty queens of the bunch. The texture of the waffle weave adds an undeniable je ne sais quoi to any bathroom, and this option comes in nine nuanced colorways, including the perfect neutral oatmeal, a deep chocolaty brown and a vibrant, mustardy ochre.

Material: Turkish cotton | Construction: Terry | Size: 27 x 54 inches | Weight: 750 GSM

At $67, this set of four plush Turkish cotton towels from Lark Manor is a solid value, with over 1,500 five-star reviews to attest to its quality. Each towel’s substantial 750 GSM makes drying off speedy, soft and luxurious. One reviewer writes, “This brand is the most lush and absorbent [towel] I’ve ever had.” Plus, the set comes in a neutral white color to coordinate effortlessly with your bathroom’s existing aesthetic. 

I tested three other bath towels that didn’t make the final cut—but that doesn’t mean they’re not worth looking into. Each of the following options offers something helpful to the user, and they’re bound to make certain types of shoppers very happy. Those other options are:

Parachute Classic Turkish Towels: Given its of-the-moment popularity, I felt that Parachute should be in the running. Ultimately, I didn’t think the classic Turkish towel was worth the price tag. It was soft, to be sure, but it landed in the middle of the pack when it came to absorbency and drying abilities and generally didn’t excite me the way the Frontgate and Matouk towels did. That said, it has thousands of doting reviews. If you’ve got the extra dollars to spare and are already a fan of the brand, this might be worth trying out.

Riley Spa Bath Towel: While this is still a good option for those who prefer a thinner towel, it isn’t as soft as I expected for the price. It does offer some thoughtful details, though, like curved edges and a loop for hanging. Still, it felt more like a beach towel than the sort of towel you might like to wrap yourself up in and linger for a while.

Coyuchi Cloud Loom Organic Towel: This was by far the most expensive towel I tested (depending on the size you pick, you could be looking at as much as $268 for a four-towel set; single bath towels start at $78). For that price, I expected nothing but top-tier quality. Unfortunately, that’s not what I got. It’s certainly an attractive towel, featuring delicately contrasted piping and thick terry loops, but it came in last place in my absorbency tests, and it wasn’t nearly as soft as the Frontgate or Matouk towels (and those are less expensive).

With so many bath towel options out there, it can be tough to know what to look for as you begin ... [+] your shopping expedition. Ahead, learn what to keep top of mind.

As I mentioned, I wanted to make sure my testing methodology was streamlined, straightforward and as objective as possible. I kept the following “ideal towel” criteria in mind at all times: Great towels should be plush but absorbent, not too thin but not too thick, able to dry relatively quickly and capable of withstanding a frequent laundering regimen.

I began my testing process by noting basic specs like material, construction, size and weight—but there was much more to consider than just what was printed on each label. For starters, while towels are generally made of cotton or a blend of cotton and another fiber, such as linen or polyester, it’s also important to determine where the cotton was grown and produced (Egyptian cotton, for instance, is known for its softness and durability). And questions of material naturally feed into questions of construction, as different types of fabric can be spun and woven in different ways, resulting in an array of possible textures. Size, meanwhile, was certainly straightforward enough; I simply measured each towel’s length and width.

I began my process by making note of more basic specs like material, construction, size and ... [+] weight—then moved onto more "challenging" tests, including one that measured each towel's drying capabilities.

When it came to weight, though, which I’ll also refer to as “plushness” throughout this article, things got complicated once again, and I chose to stick to two main methods for my ratings. First, I used the standard gsm (grams per square meter) measurement, a criterion used in the textile industry to indicate how thick and weighty, or plush, a material is. Plusher towels are typically more absorbent and viewed as more luxurious, but they can also take longer to dry. Next, I took a second, more subjective route and noted how each of the towels stacked up in terms of softness and fluffiness. After all, while the gsm is definitely an important indicator of plushness, the feel of a towel is something you can really experience only through touch.

To test the absorbency of each of the towels, I first weighed each contender while dry. I then poured four ounces of water onto my countertop, laid each towel on top for one minute and weighed them directly afterward to see how much of the water they had absorbed. To calculate the percentage absorbed, I subtracted the dry ounces from the wet, multiplied this number by 100 and divided by the original four-ounce measurement.

After the absorbency test came the drying test. I hung each of the towels up in my bathroom on separate towel hooks and let them remain there for 15 hours, at which point I measured (by feel) how much moisture had evaporated from each, giving them a score of 1 through 10, with 10 being the driest and 1 the least dry.

Finally, in order to determine overall durability, I washed each towel three times, separately, on a hot, heavy-duty cycle. After each wash cycle, I ran the towel through the hottest dryer cycle before repeating my process. I noted which of the towel’s fibers had come loose, if any, whether any seemed stiffer or softer after washing and if any had lost dye or vibrancy along the way.

In keeping with my testing criteria, I’d recommend keeping the following qualifications in mind while shopping for a new set of towels. You want a towel that is both plush and absorbent, of a just-right thickness, quick to dry and able to hold up against a frequent laundering regimen. Here are some other specs to consider while exploring your options:

All of the towels I tested were made of 100% cotton. This seems simple enough, but it’s actually quite a complex category. Descriptors like “Supima” and “long-staple” abounded, and I found myself curious about the origins of each type of cotton, too. Sean Cormier, chair of the textile development and marketing department at New York’s Fashion Institute of Technology, helped to break down these terms, noting that different species of cotton relate to staple (or fiber) length in different ways. This, in turn, relates to the length of a single fiber within a “boll” of cotton, or the little puffballs that grow on cotton plants. Cotton is broken down into three staple lengths: short staple (the most common type), long staple and extra-long staple. Generally speaking, longer-staple cotton yields a final product that’s softer and stronger. Most of the cotton grown in the United States is Upland cotton, and it’s great when used to make items such as jeans or flannels. But when it comes to sheets and towels, long-staple cotton (such as Turkish cotton) or extra-long-staple cotton (such as Pima, Supima or Egyptian cotton) are preferable.

Construction in this case refers to the type of weave showcased by each towel. In my tests, I skipped the category of Turkish towels altogether and instead dealt with waffle-weave and terry options (not to be confused with terry towels made from Turkish cotton). Terry towels have tightly woven loops that give them a soft and fluffy feel, while waffle-weave towels have raised threads that form small squares or rectangles. In terms of size, bath towels are usually about 30 inches by 56 inches, some larger and some smaller. I was pleasantly surprised by all the bath towels I tested, which fit comfortably around me.

When it comes to sourcing towels for clients, Laura Pankonien of Austin-based interior design firm the The Pankonien Group says, coziness is of paramount importance: “We source high-quality Turkish and Egyptian cotton in a 500 to 600 gram weight for that ultra cozy hotel spa feel that our clients love.”

In the textiles industry, plushness is quantified by gsm (grams per square meter), which indicates how thick and weighty a material is. At 700 gsm, the Frontgate Resort Cotton Bath Towel offered the highest gsm of the various towels I tested. Alternatively, if you’d rather get dry and move along with your day, a less-plush waffle-weave towel might be the right choice for you. In any event, Cormier says to keep in mind that some manufacturers will wash towels with a silicone fabric softener that makes the fabric super soft on the shelf; on first use, it might even repel water. This is usually a sign that the towel is not made with quality fibers, since the towel might become scratchier with each wash, as opposed to softer.

Absorbency is incredibly important—it’s the bath towel’s main purpose, after all. Three of the towels I tested—the Frontgate, Brooklinen and Matouk options—absorbed 97.5% of the water in my absorbency tests, a very impressive figure that relates back to their higher gsm. Typically, the thicker the towel (and the higher the gsm), the more absorbent it’s likely to be—and this was certainly the case with my top pick, the Frontgate Towel.

All of the towels I tested were able to dry to near completion in 15 hours, and in particularly tough conditions to boot: hanging close together on hooks in a bathroom. This is a qualification that doesn’t necessarily parallel other important towel criteria, so it’s important to look out for it on its own. The Onsen towel I tested, for instance, picked up 86.25% of the water in the absorbency test—not as much as some of my top picks—but it was the clear winner when it came time to actually drying off after a shower, quickly soaking water off and drying completely in half the time of the others.

It’s always important to determine whether your purchase will last you years or if it’ll disappoint within a few months—and that’s true whether you’re buying towels, bedsheets or any daily-use home product. Towels should be washed and dried regularly, and these cycles can be tough on fabric, which makes looking for a durable option particularly important. (Luckily, none of my top picks showed any real signs of wear and tear, like frayed threads, shrinkage or color loss.)

I’m a writer and editor with more than five years of experience testing products (I’ve tried everything from dishwasher detergents to bedsheets). I focus on home content, writing about design, cleaning, organizing and the best home products on the market for publications and digital outlets such as The Strategist, Domino, Insider Reviews and Real Simple.

For this piece, I spent a month testing eight of the most popular and highly reviewed bath towels. Before the testing process began, I consulted several experts, each of whom lent excellent insight into the world of towels. We discussed everything from construction to proper laundering and even touched on display considerations. The following individuals gave their time to this story:

In an ideal world, each towel would have its own drying rack in a room without any humidity, but since they’re bath towels, this isn’t always possible. Miller emphasizes that maximizing airflow is the name of the game when it comes to storing in-use towels. If you’re able to, invest in a towel rack that has more airflow (as opposed to a hook), or hang hooks outside of the bathroom to cut down on dampness. Cormier adds that heated towel racks, which are common in Europe, are the ultimate towel-drying system, as they get the towels dry quickly and keep them warm for when you exit the shower. For longer term storage, Miller says you should always ensure your towels are totally dry before folding and putting them away, and if not in the linen closet, thick canvas bags or boxes are great for storing linens.

Generally, Miller suggests swapping out face towels every other day, and washing your bath towel two to three times per week. This, of course, is dependent on how damp your bathroom is, how you store them, and if anyone in your house is sick—all of which mean you’ll need to wash more frequently.

For most cottons and linens, Miller recommends warm to hot water and a high spin cycle, as these fabrics are designed to stand up to long-term wash and wear, and you’ll want your towels deeply cleansed, especially if you have skin sensitivities. However, if you’re worried about preserving the fabrics, you can do a cool cycle every few washes to give them a bit of a break. Miller points out that one of the most common mistakes is using fabric softener and too much detergent, and because towels are so absorbent, they hold onto these liquids and aren’t as effective at drying you off. Instead of fabric softener, Miller suggests between a half to a full cup of white vinegar per load, which will also rid your towels of lingering mildew or funky smell. Dry your towels on medium to high heat, again avoiding fabric softener sheets as they’ll reduce absorbency; instead, Miller recommends tossing a few wool dryer balls in to reduce static and dry the towels quicker.

Towels can last a very long time if taken care of (read: frequent laundering, storing with maximum airflow), but on average, they should last between two to five years. You’ll know it’s time for a fresh set when they start losing absorbency, fray at the edges, or feel scratchy as opposed to soft.

I have been writing for Forbes Asia since 2010. As a freelancer I also worked with organizations such as The Economist Group, Ford Foundation and Crain Communications. I find interest in how China's business and cultural dynamics fit into the world's puzzle.

I have been writing for Forbes Asia since 2010. As a freelancer I also worked with organizations such as The Economist Group, Ford Foundation and Crain Communications. I find interest in how China's business and cultural dynamics fit into the world's puzzle.

I am a Beijing-based writer covering China's technology sector. I contribute to Forbes, and previously I freelanced for SCMP and Nikkei. Prior to Beijing, I spent six months as an intern at TIME magazine's Hong Kong office. I am a graduate of the Medill School of Journalism, Northwestern University. Email: Twitter: @yueyueyuewang

Follow me on Twitter @yueyueyuewang

Best Bath Towels 2023 - Tested Bath Towels Review - Forbes Vetted

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