Finding the best bath towels is a totally uncomplicated task, and that’s what makes it so complicated. Basically anything that can move water from your body to itself is, by definition, a towel. Even the oldest, most torn-up rag you nick from your parents closet is going to be capable of wiping you dry, provided you use enough elbow grease.
That, of course, does not mean that all towels are made equal. Just like bed sheets, the universe of bath towels includes options in a wide-range of fabrics, weaves, and textures, which offer vastly different properties. As we see it, these properties break down into three main categories. There are thin, textured towels that don’t absorb water that well, but dry quickly; plush towels that absorb lots of moisture, but take a long time to dry; and towels that sit somewhere in the middle—they aren’t too plush and probably have a little texture, but you won’t have to wait overnight for them to dry.
Between the three categories, the one that works best for you will come down to personal preference. And considering how low the stakes are, it might be worth trying out several to see what you like. You certainly do not need to own 50, but nobody ever complained about having a few extra cotton towels around the house.
Once you’ve thought about the kind of towel you want, you’ll quickly hit a new snag. Towel listings are inundated with marketing speak that makes every towel sound as superlative as the next. They’ll lull you into confusion with unhelpful information about a towel’s pile (the pile is the height of the cotton loops) or the type of cotton (it’s always Egyptian cotton, isn’t it?). But there’s really no way to know whether a towel can actually live up to its jargon until you’ve used and washed it. A lot. So that’s what we did.
Over the last few years we’ve tested dozens of towels from a bunch of different manufacturers. We noted how they felt out of the box and then tracked how much that changed over the course of weeks, then months. We’ve found that the best new towels are made from long-staple cotton (rather than synthetic materials or microfibers loaded with fabric softener that feel nice at first but fall apart quickly).
No matter the level of softness or absorbency or drying time you prefer, below you’ll find the right fit for you in our list of the best bath towels in 2022. Just please remember to wash and dry these top picks more often than your last set. We can still smell the mildew from here.
The Brooklinen super-plush bath towel is ridiculously cozy and drapes on you heavily like a dental x-ray vest. It’s made from long-staple Turkish cotton, and feels wonderfully soft after dozens of washes. (It shed a little lint the first few washes, but it’s not a factor after that). The downside to this ultra-absorbent heavyweight towel is that it takes a long time to dry—water tends to get trapped in the thick fabric. But as long as you’re not showering twice a day, or own more than one towel, that’s not a huge deal.
The Onsen towel is made with Supima long-staple cotton, which gives it its softness. It’s on the thinner side, but its unique waffle weave texture helps it overcome the main shortcoming of similar towels. The weave gives it a bit of bonus surface area that can grab water from your body, while remaining exposed to air. This makes the towel both more absorbent than some thicker towels and ensures it dries as quickly as other thin towels. Plus, waffle towels just have a real visual appeal to them—drape the Onsen over the back of a reclining chair by the side of a swimming pool sometime and get ready to field a lot of questions and compliments. It’s also the kind of towel that will serve you well in any size, from hand towel to full-blown bath sheet.
Picture any towel in your head, and you’re probably seeing this one from Boll & Branch. It’s medium thickness, but with a tall pile. It feels plush, but not the kind of plush where it feels like you’re not getting dry very quickly. It’s soft, and feels just as good after 10 washes. Added plus: Boll & Branch ensures their product is sustainably made with organic cotton, so you can brag to your hippie in-laws when they comment on your lovely bath towel set.
All of the towels we recommend come in a bunch of different sizes, but if you’re looking to embrace the humongous bath sheet life, consider the Coyuchi air weight bath sheet. This towel is a bit thicker than the Onsen, which helps give it a slightly softer handfeel, especially after the first wash. Each spot picks up water quickly, but because of its massive size, you’ll never want for a dry spot to wipe off a new part of your body. The problem with a thicker large bath sheet is that it can take an absurd amount of time to dry, and take up a lot of space while doing it. The Coyuchi bath sheet doesn't have this issue. Even if your roommate squishes it on the side of your towel rack after your morning shower, these large bath towels will still be invitingly dry when you pull it off the next day.
Yes, we said there are three categories of towel thickness, but, as with most things, the reality exists on a spectrum. The Riley towel falls somewhere between the Brooklinen’s plush and Boll & Branch’s more typical towel thickness. It’s extremely soft with a medium pile, which feels a bit like the towels you envy at nice hotels, but at a price where you could afford a full bath set. It dries you off easily and is ready to use again even if you shower once more later in the day. Added bonus: the little built-in hook makes hanging it anywhere a breeze.
If you're someone whose tastes skew more toward the MoMA maximalist end of the spectrum, you don't just want any towel—you want a Dusen Dusen. For a certain kind of design-conscious millennial, buying a set of printed Dusen Dusen towels is a rite of passage, a 30" x 56"-sized step towards adulthood. The brand’s sunny housewares are impossible to miss on the timeline, but chalking up their appeal to sheer aesthetics ignores how damn luxe they feel. Those endlessly-'grammable designs mask a dense layer of brushed terry cotton, as soft as it is absorbent. They look great strewn oh-so-casually in the corner of your selfies as bathroom decor, but also make drying off at home after another day of Zoom-hopping feel a little like setting your body to OOO.
Frette makes some of the nicest sheets in the world—think of the sheets on the nicest hotel bed you’ve ever been in, and it’s probably Frette—so it makes sense they make a deeply-luxurious, high-quality towel, too. The “diamond weave” is beautiful and functional, drying off quickly without weighing much at all (it’s just a bit heavier than the Onsen, but with a more even thickness). The jacquard fabric (practice pronunciation before flexing: jack-erd) is made of extra long-staple cotton in Portugal. Sure, it’s $80, but that’s really not a crazy amount to ask for a few years of sumptuous drying.
The Fouta stripe towels are probably the thinnest towels on this list—they’re hardly thicker than the washcloths you use to dry dishes. But if you prefer a super-thin, quick-dry towel—perhaps something that can easily corral your flowing quarantine locks—it’s ideal. Plus, its lovely striped design might add a welcome design element to your bare bones bathroom.
Snowe’s honeycomb towel is pretty functionally similar to the Onsen towel, but it has a slightly different texture. Instead of a uniform waffle weave, its ribbed higher pile spots are more randomly distributed through the towel. The effect is similarly lovely, but we think the Onsen is just a tad nicer and comes in a lot more colors and sizes. But if you know you want a bath towel and like muted grays and blues, the Snowe towel is a lot cheaper.
This best-selling organic cotton bath sheet from West Elm maybe isn't quite as luxurious as the Coyuchi above, but it's still a plushy and absorbent alternative. The size of a couch throw, West Elm's “fibrosoft” towel, made in Turkey, dries quickly and has a fluffy handfeel that's true to the name. It has a nice heft and weave to it, too, that genuinely makes you feel like you're wrapping up in a blanket post-shower, but dries quickly so it doesn't smell mildew-y after getting soaked.
Restoration Hardware’s Turkish bath towel is a plush, absorbent towel. The company says its Turkish long-staple ringspun cotton weave makes it dry a bit quicker than other towels of similar thickness. We didn’t really find this to be notably true, but it was still a cozy towel that we would absolutely snap up if we were really picky about our towel colors (it comes in 15 different shades).
The centerpiece of Brad Pitt's October 2019 cover look is actually a very good towel. Like a lot of the stuff from Lands' End, the towel is an absolute workhorse. It's not the softest towel we've used, but it's really absorbent and durable. And, you can get it monogrammed with a sweet sailboat. What's not to like?
Brooklinen's waffle weave towel looks pretty similar to the Onsen, but it has a much tighter weave. That means that, despite its fabric having a kind of slick coating, it feels a bit rougher on your skin. That being said, a lot of people prize the absorbency you get in exchange for a little scratchiness. We found this Brooklinen towel to be a little bit prone to stretching, which might not bode well for its long term health, but no other waffle weave comes in as many good colors.
This Turkish long-staple cotton bath towel is extremely soft, smooth, and durable. Its thick surface feels lovely against your skin because of a plush, tight pile. And even after several washes, it'll feel and look just as nice as it did new.
The cheapest towel on this list is the Sonoma Goods bath towel, which is made by Kohls and features a lightweight “hollow cotton” fabrication that's designed to be extra absorbent. Other towels are thicker and more plush, but if you're price-tag conscious, this option is soft and dries quickly. Texture-wise, one side feels smoother and fluffier, with the other only slightly coarser (like an oversized face cloth), and the Okeo-tex certified cotton ages well, too. Our tester has owned one for nearly a decade and noted that despite numerous spin cycles over the years, this one has accumulated only a few loose threads over time and experienced virtually no discoloration.
The first thing you'll notice about the Havly towel is the extra large corner loop designed for easy hanging on a hook. This loop, in addition to the towels' relatively thin weave, makes it dry a little bit faster than ones of a similar size. And if your bathroom is heavily trafficked but light on towel bars, those two features alone might make the Havly the best choice for you. The actual towel is a little bit bigger than a standard bath towel, but not quite as big as a bath sheet. It's a bit rougher in texture than the Coyuchi Air Weight towel, but still softer than a lot of other similarly thin towels we've tested.
The Onsen and Brooklinen waffle bath towels are both solid, but neither comes cheap. The only decent waffle weave towel we've tried on the more affordable end of the spectrum is this one from Nutrl. Both the Brooklinen and Onsen towels feel more luxe, but the Nutrl is constructed better than you'd expect for the price, and comes with all the super-absorbent, quick-drying benefits you want from a waffle weave.
Shinto's Yukine towels are incredibly plush, just like the ones from Brooklinen and Riley, but they have a unique, almost squeaky feel. The manufacturer says that's because of how its towels are refined, a process that takes place after the full towel construction as opposed to before the fibers are woven together. Some may prefer the more natural, fuzzy feeling of Brooklinen or Riley, but if you're game to try a towel that's somehow both plush and slick, you'll dig the Yukine.
In the “classic towels” category, we also liked the weight and texture of the ones from Aesthete, a newer brand that crafts its luxury bath towels in Portugal through an eco-friendly production process that uses 99% recycled water and a blend of cotton and tencel fabric. They have a soft handfeel and a lighter weight that helps them dry faster, plus a convenient loop for hanging them. We'd still recommend the Boll & Branch towels for their style and plushiness, but these ones are a nice alternative if you want something lighter.
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