Picking towels that feel soft and fluffy is a good start, but following these expert-approved tips will make sure you’re picking only the best and hardest-working bath towels wherever you shop.

By Lauren Phillips
Updated February 20, 2019
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As with picking other household essentials, picking bath towels can be a drawn-out process when you take the time to do it right. Sure, anyone can pick up some cheap options at the nearest home goods store, but anyone seeking only the best bath towels for ultimate durability, fluffiness, and drying ability will need to put some time and effort into the search.

Figuring out what to look for and how to pick the best bath towels doesn’t have to complicate the process, though, thanks to a little help from some towel experts. The team at Micro Cotton, which has been making towels since 1932, clued us in to some great tips for figuring out if a towel is actually great or not—and whether a high-cost towel will be worth the investment. Believe it or not, the biggest, fluffiest towel isn’t always the best one, especially if it doesn’t hold up after a few uses. Instead of going by feel alone, follow these tips to pick the best bath towels for you and your budget.

Mark Viker/Getty Images

Mark Viker/Getty Images

Certain factors can make or break a great bath towel. Knowing what they are and whether the bath towel options you’re considering have them can mean a better towel purchase, especially if you put a little time and energy into doing your research. With any luck, you’ll be able to find a high-quality bath towel that is up to your standards and within your budget—and once you’re wrapped up in that fluffy, absorbent towel post-shower, the time and effort you put into finding the best bath towel will be 100 percent worth it.

Follow these fail-proof steps to pick a high-quality bath towel and prepare to be amazed by what a little knowledge can do. Your bathing ritual will never be the same again, in all the best ways.

Heavier, thicker towels tend to offer the softness and absorbency any sensible person would want from a bath towel, but judging whether a towel is heavy or thick enough can be tricky, even more so if you’re shopping online. This is where grams per square meter, or GSM, comes in. A towel’s GSM refers to its weight, and, typically, the higher a towel’s GSM, the better performance you can expect from it, the Micro Cotton team says. In most cases, a GSM of 500 or more should be enough, though anyone wanting a softer or more absorbent towel can search for bath towels with higher GSMs.

Some home or linen websites will state a bath towel’s GSM as such. Other retailers will state the weight as 700-gram weight (the number will vary); this also refers to GSM. If the GSM is not shared and you happen to know the weight in grams, you can use this handy GSM calculator to use the towel’s dimensions and weight to determine the GSM. (This is also a handy trick if you want to check the GSM of a trusty towel you already own.) Many retailers don’t share the GSM, especially on more affordable towel options. This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it may mean you want to feel the towel in-person to be sure it’s up to snuff.

The Micro Cotton team says the best bath towels are created with 100 percent cotton. Long-staple cotton means the towel’s fibers are longer, which means the bath towel will be softer, more durable, and more absorbent. Check the materials, which should be listed online or on the towel’s care tag, along with the laundry symbols.

Dense loops create greater absorbency, the Micro Cotton team says, so keep an eye out for bath towels with bulky, textured, or tightly woven loops. If you’re able to see a towel in-person before purchasing it, look at it carefully: You shouldn’t be able to see the innermost layer, or base, of a decently dense towel.

The standard bath towel measures 30” x 56” and is large enough for a quick dry-off, the Micro Cotton team says. For taller or larger people (or people who like to walk around in a towel post-shower), a bath sheet—sometimes called a body towel—may be the better alternative for more coverage and warmth. These bath towel­­ alternatives measure around 33” x 70” and offer a much cozier experience, though they will cost more than standard bath towels.

Some luxury bath towels can cost close to $100—but you don’t have to spend that much to get a decent bath towel. Decent options that fulfill all the requirements above can be purchased for $20 or $30. The key is knowing the difference between a low-cost, low-quality option and an affordable, high-quality one, which you should be able to do with these handy tips. And, of course, if you really want to buy a $100 bath towel, go for it; just don’t store it in the bathroom.