Check the label of a towel and verify that it is 100 percent cotton before making your purchase.

How to Measure the Quality of a Bath Towel

by Jann Seal

When you face stacks of colorful and soft towels, it is difficult to determine the towels that actually offer the better quality. Just because a towel carries a higher price tag, do not assume the price indicates its quality. Your own senses work best when measuring the quality of a bath towel. Feel it. Touch it. Then read the label. The label offers you a guidebook for selecting a soft, quick-drying towel that is made well and shrinks the least. Labels do not tell you all this information, but knowing towel terminology is instrumental in deciphering what those labels mean.


The fabric of choice for towels is 100 percent cotton, with added microfibers favored for specific uses that require quick-drying attributes. Manufacturers generally use fabric blends for less-expensive toweling. Soft and absorbent, Hydro-Cotton towels from Turkey rated an A- from Good Housekeeping. Hydro Cotton was classified as one of the most luxurious toweling fabrics they tested. Pima cotton, grown in both North and South America, is known for its strength and absorbency. Egyptian cotton produces a durable towel that is strong and has a high absorbency rate. Look for long fibers and loops for the fluffiest towels.


Turning cotton into yarn involves different processes. Towels that have combed cotton on the label means the manufacturer removed the shorter fibers in a strand, and the towel contains only the longest and strongest cotton fibers. This is the most basic towel construction. A step-up in towel fabrics is ring-spun cotton, where the fibers are twisted together to form a stronger and softer loop. Look for a dense construction in your towel, which makes it more absorbent and longer lasting. If you can easily see the base of the towel when separating the loops, it is definitely not a quality towel. Pay attention to the towel's edging. Better quality towels have turned and hemmed edges.


Labels rarely give you the weight of a towel, but manufacturers utilize different fabric weights when making towels. Measured by the amount of fiber the towel contains, kitchen towels present the lowest weight, bath towels proffer medium weight, while plush luxury towels offer the heaviest weight and take the longest to dry. Lift the towel and determine if it has heft. Lower-weight towels carry a reduced price tag, feel thinner to the touch and do not absorb water as well.


All cotton towels shrink, but you can control the amount of shrinkage by how you wash the towel. Wash new towels before use to set the color and absorbency. The majority of shrinkage occurs after the first and fifth washings. Dry the towels on a lower temperature to reduce shrinkage, or hang them outside to dry and just fluff them in the dryer. You will notice the lint trap fills up on initial washings, and continues until the towel fuzz is removed. Do not use fabric softeners in the dryer, as it inhibits the ability of the towel to absorb water when used. If you notice a musty odor on your dry towel, wash it again, add vinegar to the cycle and use hot water.

About the Author

Jann Seal is published in magazines throughout the country and is noted for her design and decor articles and celebrity *in-home* interviews. An English degree from the University of Maryland and extensive travels and relocations to other countries have added to her decorating insight.

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