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Most people assess the quality of towel materials based on absorbency, softness, and drying time. Those with sensitive skin look for towel materials that are gentle and comfortable to the touch. So, which are the best towel materials with these attributes?
The best towel materials include all-natural or organic cotton, as well as those that combine cotton, microfiber or polyester, rayon, and other materials. Synthetic microfiber towels can be impressively absorbent, but they don’t feel as soft as natural fabrics.
When selecting the best towel, you must pay attention to the quality of the materials used by the manufacturer. Any natural fabrics, such as cotton, aren’t necessarily 100% organic. Keep reading to pick the best towel materials for your different needs.
Our 4 Favorite Towel Materials
The four favorite towel materials are bamboo, Egyptian cotton, Pima cotton, and Turkish cotton. Bamboo and combed Turkish cotton towels have higher absorbency than pure Egyptian or Pima varieties, and they are also the best combination of materials for sensitive skin.
Bamboo towels have become increasingly popular due to their high absorbency, incredible softness, and sustainability.
Three main types of natural bamboo fibers are used to make towels:
- Bamboo lyocell: The most eco-friendly variety is made from bamboo pulp. It’s lighter, more absorbent, and non-creasing than the other varieties. However, it’s slightly more expensive.
- Bamboo viscose: The most common and affordable material, usually blended with cotton. It’s popular for being soft, silky, antimicrobial, hypoallergenic, and absorbent.
Bamboo rayon: A more common variety made from bamboo cellulose. It shares the same characteristics as bamboo viscose.
All-natural or 100% Egyptian cotton is globally regarded as the gold standard for bath towels. This material is known for the following characteristics:
- High absorbency
- Luxurious look
- Soft and fluffy
Egyptian cotton towels get fluffier, softer, and more absorbent if you opt for a plusher variety with higher grams per square meter (GSM). For example, an 800 GSM Egyptian cotton towel will be incredibly soft and much more absorbent than a 400 GSM variety, but it is likely to be heavier and can take longer to dry.
Not every Egyptian cotton variety has extra-long or long fibers that make premium towels soft and super absorbent. Here are the classified premium Egyptian cotton varieties considered premium:
|Extra-Long Staple Cotton||Long Staple Cotton|
|Giza 45||Giza 86|
|Giza 87||Giza 90|
|Giza 88||Giza 94|
|Giza 92||Giza 95|
Pima cotton is grown in the United States. Also known as Supima cotton, it is the finest and softest local variety with high absorbency and phenomenal durability.
However, Supima cotton doesn’t have the extra-long fibers that some Egyptian varieties offer. Therefore, Pima cotton towels are not as plush and luxurious as 100% Egyptian cotton towels.
On the flip side, Pima cotton towels have slightly faster drying times compared to all-natural Egyptian cotton.
Modern Turkish cotton towels date back to the Ottoman period when the finest cotton was the favorite fabric of the royals. Turkish cotton has longer fibers than Pima but is not as large as the extra-long staple varieties from Egypt. This difference has a practical benefit.
- Turkish cotton towels feel plush and soft but are lighter than towels made of Egyptian cotton. All 100% cotton towels can get significantly heavier and thicker as you go up the GSM scale. As a result, Turkish cotton is a fine balance between Egyptian and Pima varieties.
- Turkish cotton has negligibly lower absorbance than Egyptian towels, allowing it to dry quickly after washing. You may not notice the difference in absorbance, but the drying time is considerably shorter.
- Turkish cotton towels are exceptionally durable. You can’t go wrong with a Turkish cotton towel with 100% organic materials.
If you’re in the market for an ultra-absorbent, fluffy, and soft Turkish cotton towel, I recommend the Delilah Home Organic Bath Towels Set . It comes with three bath towels in the following sizes:
- 13 x 13 inches (33 x 33 cm)
- 16 x 30 inches (41 x 76 cm)
- 30 x 54 inches (76 x 137 cm)
These organic Turkish cotton towels with over 700 GSM from Delilah Home are phenomenally durable. Plus, they are certified by the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS ONE-3389), as the towels are made of cotton produced without any bleaches and chemical dyes.
Different Materials for Different Uses
Different towel materials may be more appropriate in some scenarios than in others. One of the main companies making advances in towel manufacturing is Riley. I spoke to their customer care representative Jules, who says that a dense cotton terry material is ideal for spa towels because it is “very absorbent, but with a sturdier and more refined hand feel.”
Alternatively, for a beach towel, she recommends something with a weave face because “full terry towels often get sand and debris caught in the loop of the terry, and having a flat weave face can help minimize that.”
The Most Absorbent Bath Towel Material
The most absorbent bath towel material is bamboo, whether rayon or viscose. Many bamboo towels are blended with cotton, making them much more absorbent than towels that are purely made of cotton.
I’ve previously written about bamboo towel benefits. Although bamboo towels are absorbent, they can take a bit longer to dry than other towel materials.
The Softest Bath Towel Material
The softest bath towel material is premium Turkish cotton. However, unlike absorbance, softness is a subjective matter. Some may find all-natural cotton towels a little coarse, especially if they have sensitive skin.
Dr. Adine Gericke, a lecturer & researcher in functional textiles at the University of Stellenbosch, conducted a study confirming the exceptional absorbency of bamboo towels. However, she and her team didn’t conclude that they were more comfortable or soft.
Therefore, softness boils down to your personal preference. If you have premium Turkish cotton towels like the Brooklinen Luxury Super-Plush Set (available on Amazon.com) with an astonishing 820 GSM, they are going to be unbelievably soft.
Bamboo: The Best Material for Sensitive Skin
The best towel material for sensitive skin is bamboo. Bamboo towels are highly absorbent, light yet plush, soft, and odor-resistant, making them perfect for those who have skin conditions or are prone to irritation.
I have sensitive skin, and I find the Cariloha Organic Bamboo-Viscose Towels (available on Amazon.com) to be comforting and satiating. The set of three white towels for the body and face is my absolute favorite due.
The Cariloha organic towels are a blend of 42% viscose from bamboo and 58% Turkish cotton (combed). While these organic bamboo towels are excellent for sensitive skin, you shouldn’t use the same one for your body and face.
Dr. Danny C. Del Campo, a board-certified dermatologist practicing at the Chicago Skin Clinic, recommends separate towels for your body and face if you have sensitive skin. Thus, you need a full set of bamboo and combed Turkish cotton towels, especially if you use skincare products.
Standard Towel Size Guide
Standard towel sizes range from 12 x 12 inches (30 x 30 cm) for washcloths and 28 x 54 inches (71 x 137 cm) for bath towels. All standard towel sizes have variations among brands or manufacturers. Also, some types of towels have a range that has become the prevalent standard over the years.
Here are the most common towel sizes for different types:
|Types of Towels||Standard Towel Sizes||Range / Variation|
|Washcloth||12 x 12 inches (30.4 x 30.4 cm)||13 x 13 inches (33.0 x 33.0 cm)|
|Fingertip Towels||11 x 18 inches (27.9 x 45.7 cm)||12 x 20 inches (30.4 x 50.8 cm)|
|Hand Towels||15 x 25 inches (38.1 x 63.5 cm)||17 x 30 inches (43.1 x 76.2 cm)|
|Bath Towels||28 x 54 inches (71.1 x 137.1 cm)||Broad range / several variations|
|Bath Sheets||40 x 70 inches (101.6 x 177.8 cm)||Broad range / several variations|
Standard Size for a Bath Towel
The standard size for a bath towel is 28 x 54 inches (71 x 137 cm). This size provides enough coverage to wrap around the body comfortably while also being compact enough to store in small spaces and cupboards.
Standard Size for a Bath Sheet
The standard size for a bath sheet is 40 x 60 inches (101 x 152 cm). It’s larger than a regular towel, making it perfect for wrapping yourself after a refreshing shower or a long soak in the tub.
Standard Size for a Hand Towel
The standard size for a hand towel is 15 x 25 inches (38 x 63.5 cm). The convenient size makes them ideal for everyday use, as you can hang them on door knobs or towel racks without taking up too much space.
Standard Size for a Wash Cloth
The standard size for a wash cloth is usually either 12 x 12 inches (30 x 30 cm) or 13 x 13 inches (33 x 33 cm). Most fingertip towels are also usually available in only 11 x 18 inches (28 x 45.7 cm) and 12 x 20 inches (30 x 51 cm).
The best towel materials you can go for are bamboo and premium cotton: Egyptian, Pima, and Turkish. Delilah’s 100% organic Turkish cotton towels are amazing. If you have sensitive skin, you may want to consider Cariloha’s bamboo viscose and combed Turkish cotton towels.
And if you want the softest, whitest towels anywhere, learn about the towel secrets of luxury hotels.
If you are planning a complete remodel of your bathroom, take a look at our guide on How to Measure EVERYTHING in Your Bathroom for ideas on how to match your towels with everything!Tags: bamboo towels, best towel materials, Egyptian Cotton Towels, Pima Cotton Towels, Standard Towel Size Guide, towel, Turkish Cotton Towels