Towels are an essential household item that we use every day. Choosing the right fabric for your towels is important to make sure they are absorbent, quick-drying, durable and soft against your skin. The most common fabrics used for towels are cotton, microfiber and bamboo. Each fabric has its own advantages and considerations when selecting towels. This complete guide examines the best fabrics for towels to help you choose the right option for your needs.
Cotton is the most popular fabric choice for towels. Here are some key benefits of cotton towels:
Cotton is very absorbent and can hold large amounts of water compared to its weight. The natural fibers soak up moisture well and cotton towels will efficiently dry your skin and hair.
Cotton is a breathable fabric. It allows air to pass through the weave to evaporate water. This means cotton towels can dry faster after use.
High quality cotton towels are very durable. With proper care, cotton towels can maintain their softness and absorbency for years of regular use. Cotton’s natural strength resists fraying or tearing over time.
Properly woven cotton towels have a soft, fluffy feel. They are gentle against skin when drying. Long-staple cotton with loops or piles on the surface makes for extra softness.
Cotton is an abundant and inexpensive fabric. Cotton towels are very budget-friendly while still providing quality and comfort.
Downsides of Cotton Towels
- Cotton takes longer to fully dry than some synthetic fabrics. Wet cotton towels can mildew if left balled up.
- All-cotton towels are prone to shrinkage when washed in hot water and dried at high heat.
- Over time, cotton towels may become rough as the fibers break down.
Best Uses for Cotton Towels
Thanks to its superior absorbency and comfort, cotton is ideal for:
- Bath towels for drying off after a shower or bath
- Hand towels for drying hands and faces
- Beach and pool towels to dry off and lounge on
- Washcloths used for bathing or cleaning
100% cotton or cotton-blend towels are versatile for most household drying needs.
Microfiber is a popular synthetic fabric choice for highly absorbent and quick-drying towels:
Microfiber towels can hold up to 7 times their weight in water. The ultra-fine synthetic fibers act like microscopic sponges to soak up a large volume of moisture quickly.
Microfiber’s moisture-wicking properties pull water away from the skin and into the towel. The water evaporates rapidly from the towel surface enabling it to dry in no time.
Microfiber towels are finely woven into a lightweight fabric. A microfiber towel can absorb the same amount of moisture as a cotton towel at a fraction of the weight.
Microfiber is inherently strong and resistant to fraying or unraveling at the seams. With proper care, microfiber towels maintain their absorbency and durability for years.
Downsides of Microfiber Towels
- Microfiber lacks the fluffy feel of cotton and can feel slightly “plastic-y”.
- Over repeated use and washing, microfiber towels can lose their absorbency.
- staticky and may cling uncomfortably to wet skin.
Best Uses for Microfiber Towels
The ultra-absorbency and fast drying of microfiber make it ideal for:
- Sports towels for sweat drying and wiping equipment
- Gym and yoga towels for hot yoga and vigorous workouts
- Travel towels that pack light and dry fast
- Golf towels to dry hands, equipment and balls
- Cleaning rags that absorb liquid spills efficiently
Microfiber is also popular for bath towels. The lightweight fabric takes up little suitcase space while providing ample drying power. Those sensitive to textures may find microfiber uncomfortable for drying delicate facial or body skin.
Bamboo viscose is a renewable fabric that makes soft, sustainable towels. Here are the pros of bamboo towels:
Bamboo fabric is naturally smooth and soft to the touch. Bamboo towels have a luxurious, cashmere-like feel against the skin without chemical treatments.
Bamboo can absorb up to 30% more water by weight than traditional cotton. The porous fibers soak up substantial moisture and dry quickly.
Odor and Mildew Resistance
The bamboo plant contains an antimicrobial agent called “bamboo kun” that naturally prevents bacterial growth. Bamboo towels stay fresher for longer and are less prone to mildew.
Bamboo fabric is durable, tear-resistant and maintains integrity with minimal pilling or fraying over time. Properly cared for bamboo towels retain their softness and absorbency for years.
Bamboo is an abundantly renewable resource that replenishes quickly without need for fertilizers or pesticides. Bamboo viscose fabric has a lower environmental impact than cotton.
Downsides of Bamboo Towels
- More expensive than basic cotton towels
- May lack the fluffiness of top-quality cotton
- Absorbency decreases over time with repeated washing
Best Uses for Bamboo Towels
The softness and odor resistance of bamboo towels make them ideal for:
- Luxury bath towels for gentle drying of facial and body skin
- Baby and kid towels for delicate drying of sensitive skin
- Gym towels for sweat-wicking without irritation or smells
- Beach and travel towels for lightweight packing and mildew resistance
Those looking for eco-friendly towels will appreciate bamboo’s green benefits. The smoothness can be less suitable for drying textured hair. For maximum water absorption, cotton or microfiber may be preferable.
How to Choose the Best Fabric for Your Towels
When deciding on the best fabric, consider how you will primarily use the towels and your preferences:
For Superior Absorbency
Cotton towels reign supreme for absorbency and water capacity. Microfiber also excels at moisture-wicking.
For Softness Against Skin
Bamboo and long-staple cotton offer luxurious softness for drying delicate facial and body skin.
For a Lightweight Feel
Microfiber and bamboo towels provide moisture absorption while feeling lightweight and thin.
For Fast Drying
Microfiber towels dry the quickest after use. Bamboo and cotton/microfiber blend towels also dry speedily.
For Durability and Longevity
Cotton holds up well over years of washings. Bamboo and microfiber also maintain integrity with proper care.
For Odor and Mildew Control
Bamboo’s antimicrobial properties keep towels fresher between washes.
Choose bamboo for an eco-friendly renewable fabric. Organic cotton is another good option.
Table Comparing Towel Fabrics
|Absorbency||Excellent||Very High||Very Good|
|Drying Time||Moderate||Very Fast||Fast|
|Durability||Excellent||Very Good||Very Good|
Ideal Fabric Blends for Towels
While 100% cotton, microfiber or bamboo towels have their advantages, certain fabric blends create towels that possess the best qualities of each material.
- Provides the fluffy feel of cotton with the quick drying of microfiber. These towels absorb moisture from skin rapidly.
- More durable than all-cotton and maintain absorbency with less mildew.
- Great multi-purpose towels for bath, gym, golf and more at an affordable price.
- Ultra-soft feel from bamboo combined with cotton’s natural absorbency.
- Odor and bacteria resistant. Dries faster than pure cotton.
- Ideal for luxury bath towels that are gentle on skin and resistant to smells between washes.
- More eco-friendly than pure cotton.
- Provides maximum moisture absorption and rapid drying time.
- Excellent for sport and travel towels. Compact yet highly absorbent.
- Lightweight feel with bamboo’s antimicrobial properties.
- Not as soft as pure bamboo towels but very functional.
Choosing a blended fabric towel gives you the chance to enjoy the prime benefits of multiple materials.
Towel Fabric Thread Counts and GSM
Two key specifications to look for when shopping for towels are:
- Thread count – The number of threads woven per square inch of fabric.
- GSM (grams per square meter) – The density or weight of the fabric.
Higher thread counts lead to softer and more durable towels. For each fabric:
- Cotton: Look for 300-600 thread count. Above 600 feels stiff.
- Microfiber: Ideal is 900-1500 thread count. Above 1500 is less absorbent.
- Bamboo: 400-600 thread count is preferred. Above 700 feels rough.
A higher GSM means a thicker, more absorbent and long-lasting towel. Optimal GSM for each fabric:
- Cotton: 500-900 GSM for bath towels, 300-500 GSM for hand towels.
- Microfiber: 300-400 GSM. Higher density becomes heavy.
- Bamboo: 400-600 GSM is ideal. Above 700 is less soft.
Combining thread count and GSM information will help you select the best towel material and construction.
Cotton Towel Weaves
With cotton towels, the pattern of weaving the threads impacts the feel and performance.
- The most common cotton towel weave with characteristic loops that maximize surface area for water absorption.
- Provides a fluffy texture that is soft against skin when dried.
- Very absorbent and affordable, ideal for bath and hand towels.
- Tighter flat weave with no loops. Smooth to the touch.
- Dries faster than terry but less absorbent.better suited for lightweight table linens and bed sheets.
Honeycomb or Waffle
- Weave creates a 3D waffle texture with hollow pockets that absorb water well.
- Dries faster and more absorbent than terry. Great for bath towels.
- Textured feel may snag dry skin or hair. Best for drying smooth body parts.
- Special long-staple cotton cultivated in Turkey. Very fluffy and absorbent.
- Luxuriously soft feel. Used for premium quality bath towels and bathrobes.
- More expensive but ideal for spa-like pampering at home.
Consider the weave along with thread count when selecting pure cotton towels for the right balance of softness, absorbency and drying speed. Terry cloth is the top choice for all-around utility and comfort.
How to Care for Towels
To keep your towels performing and feeling their best for as long as possible:
- Wash with warm or cold water. Hot water can damage fabrics.
- Use mild detergent. Harsh chemicals speed up wear and tear over time.
- For cotton, tumble dry on low heat. Avoid over-drying which removes absorbency.
- For microfiber and bamboo, line dry or tumble dry on the lowest setting. Heat damages synthetic fibers.
- Replace heavily used bath towels every 2-3 years. Hand towels and washcloths may last 4+ years with proper care.
With the right fabric, construction and care, your towels can feel luxuriously plush and absorb plenty of water for years of daily use. Refer to the garment tag for any special washing instructions.
Frequently Asked Questions
What thread count is best for bath towels?
For cotton bath towels, a thread count between 300-600 provides the optimal balance of softness, durability and absorbency. Above 600 thread count, cotton can become too tightly woven and lose its fluffy texture. For microfiber and bamboo, stay on the lower end of their ideal thread count range.
Should I get cotton, microfiber or bamboo towels?
100% cotton towels are your best all-around option for softness, absorbency, and affordability. Microfiber excels at drying speed and travel. Bamboo offers luxury softness and eco-friendliness. Blended towels combine the prime benefits of each fabric. Choose the material that aligns with your priorities.
How do I make rough towels soft again?
If cotton towels become scratchy over time, try re-fluffing the fibers by washing with a cup of white vinegar which acts as a natural fabric softener. Tumble dry on low. Avoid over-drying. These techniques renew cotton’s soft texture. For microfiber or bamboo, apply a liquid fabric softener before washing.
What GSM is best for bath towels?
Look for a minimum of 500 GSM for regular bath towels and 300 GSM for hand towels. 600-900 GSM bath towels will be the most plush and absorbent for drying off after a bath or shower. Higher than 900 GSM becomes too thick and heavy.
Should you wash new towels before first use?
Yes, it’s advisable to wash new cotton, microfiber and bamboo towels prior to first use to maximize softness and absorbency. This pre-wash removes any residual manufacturing chemicals or fabric stiffness. After the initial wash, tumble dry on low and the towels are ready to enjoy.
Choosing the ideal fabric is vital to getting towels that dry efficiently, stand up to repeated use and feel heavenly against your skin. Cotton retains its dominance as the top all-around material thanks to its winning combination of softness, absorbency, affordability and durability. Microfiber excels for sports and travel towels that need to dry lightning fast. For luxury indulgence, bamboo’s antimicrobial, sustainable softness can’t be beat. Blended fabrics provide the greatest versatility to enjoy the prime benefits of multiple materials in your towels. Use this complete guide to select the best fabric composition and weave for towels perfectly suited to your needs.