The Best Bath Towel

After repeatedly weighing, soaking, spritzing, drying, and washing the best towels I could find, I recommend Pottery Barn’s Hydrocotton Bath Towels. Of the dozen models I put to the test, these plush, quick-drying towels offered up a superior balance of softness, absorbency, durability, and affordability, and they should last you upwards of five years with regular use.

Last Updated: May 29, 2015
Updated with additional long-term test notes for our main pick after using the towels for more than a year.
Expand Most Recent Updates
November 11, 2014: After weighing, soaking, drying, and washing a dozen of the best bath towels, we recommend the $25 Pottery Barn's Hydrocotton. It offers a great balance of softness, absorbency, affordability, and durability, and is likely to last over five years with regular use. In our testing it absorbed five times its weight in water and dried almost completely in six hours - just as quickly as the thinnest, cheapest towels we tested.
November 4, 2014: We're still putting the finishing touches on our new towels guide, but we do know that we have a new pick: the Pottery Barn HydroCotton towel. Check back soon for the refreshed guide with all of our new research and testing from the past few months.
August 5, 2014: We’re setting this to wait status while we investigate issues related to 1888 Mills's quality and whether anything has changed in their process recently.
May 22, 2014: Added a link to a cheaper peshtemal towel on Amazon.
May 12, 2014: For this update, we revisited our initial research and decided to consider a wider variety of towel types. We polled Sweethome readers to find out what they were looking for in a towel. Armed with that criteria, we then tested seven additional towels to see if our initial pick really is the best choice. And according to our tests, it is.
February 12, 2014: It's getting hard to find our pick in stock in colors other than white, so we are looking around at other models and will update this guide in the coming weeks.
January 13, 2014: Removed wait status because Amazon has our pick back in stock. We also removed the Costco buy link because they don't appear to be carrying the 1888 Mills anymore.
January 6, 2014: The 1888 Made in Africa towels aren't currently available anywhere at a reasonable price so we are putting this piece on Wait Status and plan on revisiting it soon. In the meantime, if you can't wait, we recommend Amazon's Pinzon. I would't regret ordering the Pinzon towel if I needed a towel right now (they're really quite good and well-made), but they are a bit on the heavier, fluffier side and can take a while to dry, so be aware of that.
July 24, 2013: The 1888 Mills, our top pick, is currently only in stock at Costco, but not in white, which we recognize is a problem for a lot of people. (A representative from 1888 Mills told us that they underestimated the popularity of their towel, and that their domestic mill is hard at work to get the towels back on the market as soon as possible, hopefully within a month). In the meantime, if you must have white towels, or would rather not have to spend $60 on 4 towels when you only need 1, we recommend Amazon's Pinzon. But before you pull the trigger, it's worth noting that the 1888 Mills is a better long term investment due to its fast selvedge hems and for other reasons mentioned below. I would't regret ordering the Pinzon towel if I needed a towel right now, but for my money, I would wait a few weeks for the 1888 Mills if I was planning on buying a whole set and didn't just love big fluffy towels.
June 4, 2013: Added a short clarification regarding a discrepancy in length between the Amazon and Costco version of these towels. (Both are identical.)
Pottery Barn Hydrocotton Bath Towels
These thick towels made of Turkish cotton strike the best balance between softness, absorbency, durability, and affordability—better than our previous pick. They should last you up to five years.

At $25 apiece, they’re not cheap, but they are incredibly soft and fluffy and can hold many times their weight in water saturation while still drying fairly quickly. In fact, the longer I use mine, the more inclined I am to deliberately give my husband a different towel in the morning so I can use the Hydrocotton myself.

Also Great
Fieldcrest Towels
If you're looking for a less expensive towel that still feels luxurious, Target's Fieldcrest towels are where it's at. They underperform our main pick by a small margin, but at half the cost they're a great deal.

This update started with an investigation into reader complaints that our previous pick, the Cotton Made in Africa towel from 1888 Mills, wasn’t holding up in the wash. After a battery of tests comparing our original samples from 2013 with some newly purchased towels in April 2014, we found that the 1888 Mills towels have gone downhill—they are now lighter and sloppily finished. We can no longer recommend them. (Read more about why below.)

Also Great
WestPoint Lasting Color Towels
These towels are both cheap and reliable. They’re not nearly as thick or as soft as our main pick, though, and probably won’t last as long (most likely a couple of years).

For this update, we also tested our excellent new runner-up at the suggestion of another reader: the new $13 Target Fieldcrest towel. The affordable Fieldcrest is substantially softer and more dense than our $6 budget towel, but not quite as fluffy or substantial as our main pick. We’ll keep an eye on how well they hold up over time.

Also Great

*At the time of publishing, the price was $40.

Peshtemal Towel
This Turkish-style woven towel is very compact, holds up well in the wash, and dried far faster than any other towel we tested. Good if you’re tight on space.

For those on a budget, we like the $6 Lasting Color by WestPoint Home, which is a great deal for what you get but is not as durable or as soft as our other choices.

If you’re looking for a towel that will save space in the linen closet, get the Turkish Towel Company peshtemal. The flat, woven sheet dries lightning fast, but is expensive and doesn’t provide the plush, traditional feel of terry cloth.

Table of contents

How we picked and tested

With thousands of towels available, we decided to narrow the field by applying a strict set of criteria: We wanted undecorated 100% cotton towels for less than $30, with a GSM (grams per square meter, a measure of how much cotton is used) of 500-850, and a dense, even pile. This ruled out all bamboo, microfiber, zero-twist, jacquard, piped, and embroidered towels, but still left hundreds of options.

Online user reviews and existing articles on towel performance show a few consistent leaders in the game. The Good Housekeeping Research Institute has tested a number of leading department store brands, and, years after publication, still has the most comprehensive presentation of towel testing I could find. User reviews and ratings on Amazon point toward popular picks by online shoppers and provide the kind of feedback on long-term use that simply can’t be re-created faithfully in a matter of weeks.

During the last update, we also polled Sweethome readers to find out what they consider the most important qualities of a good towel. Here’s what they said:

Price: Most of us aren’t willing to spend more than $20 on a towel.

Absorbency: We want a towel that gets us dry more than anything else.

Drying time: By a landslide, the biggest collective pet peeve that people have is musty towels.

Durability: We’d like a towel that lasts at least a year, although most of us would prefer to replace them only about every five years.

In the end, the towels I tested spanned all the most important points between value, density, softness, and construction:

Budget (under $10):

Mid-range price ($10-$25):

Luxury ($25-$40):

  • Macy’s Hotel Collection (12 colors, 30 by 56 inches, $30) Soft hand and GHRI “Best Towel” rating
  • Pottery Barn’s Hydrocotton (five colors, 28 by 55 inches, $25) Brand is popular and claims that this towel is 10 times more absorbent than other terry cloth towels (spoiler: not strictly true, but it’s a great towel)
  • L.L.Bean’s Premium Cotton (eight colors, 30 by 58 inches, $30) Great online reviews, brand has solid track record with textiles, backed by L.L.Bean’s excellent customer satisfaction guarantee
  • Turkish Towel Company’s peshtemal (four colors, 40 by 70 inches, $40 each or two for $50 at Costco) A flat-woven variety from the most reliable source we could find online.
In the end, what we tested for was not the cheapest, softest, or densest, but the best bath towel for 99% of us, 99% of the time.

In the end, what we tested for was not the cheapest, softest, or densest, but the best bath towel for 99% of us, 99% of the time.

We set up a methodology for testing maximum water absorption and drying time, which I monitored over a six-hour period. Each towel was also subjected to five wash cycles to obtain a more accurate idea of its hand (the feel of the fabric) and durability.

Before any testing could begin, the samples had to be washed. This is actually where a lot of bad reviews of good towels originate. The soft hand we feel on a towel in the store is intentionally created with the help of chemical finishers that actually reduce absorbency. To get rid of them, I added some white vinegar to the softener compartment of the machine for the first wash. I washed and dried the samples five times with no synthetic softeners on the lowest heat settings. This is the best way to care for your towels in general. Once completely dried and cooled, I weighed each sample to confirm its GSM.

Every single towel succeeded in drying my arm completely in one pass, as any good 100% cotton towel should.

 After washing and drying each towel, I saturated them in water to determine their holding capacity as a percentage of dry weight. I placed each towel in the same container and saturated it with water to see how much each towel could hold without dripping when the container was tilted at a 45-degree angle for 15 seconds. A good terry towel (everything we tested except for the peshtemal) will hold at least four times its weight in water (though the amount of water your towel absorbs when you dry off after a shower is less than a tenth of that). After saturation, the towels were all washed and dried again.

I also tested for water pickup off of the body by submerging my forearm in the bathtub and drying it by both patting and passing the towel over my arm. Synthetic fibers or towels treated with chemical finishers often fail to absorb water from skin, instead rubbing it around in a big linty mess. However, all of the towels I tested passed with flying colors. Every single towel succeeded in drying my arm completely in one pass, as any good 100% cotton towel should.

With water pickup accounted for through the first two tests, I tested water release by dampening each towel and timing the drying process. On a digital scale in a plastic container, I sprayed water onto each towel until it had absorbed 40 percent of its dry weight. The towels were hung evenly in dry bathrooms and weighed every two hours over a six-hour period. Only one towel dried completely in six hours (the peshtemal); in general, thinner towels dry more quickly, while densely woven towels stay damp longer.

Our pick

Pottery Barn Hydrocotton Bath Towels
These thick towels made of Turkish cotton strike the best balance between softness, absorbency, durability, and affordability—better than our previous pick. They should last you up to five years.

The luxurious, hotel-quality Pottery Barn Hydrocotton towel sopped up the competition with its fluffy, kitten-soft hand and a unique weave that traps and releases moisture especially well. In our tests, the Hydrocotton absorbed five times its weight in water while becoming 87% dry after six hours—as quickly as the thinnest, cheapest towels we tested. Though it has a mid-range GSM of 564, the lightweight towel manages to still feel plush. Its surprising durability sets it apart from the pack—after more than six months of regular use and countless washes, this towel still looks as good as the day I got it.

Left: Hydrocotton’s zero-twist loops. Right: 1888 Mills’s tight twists.

Left: Hydrocotton’s zero-twist loops. Right: 1888 Mills’s tight twists.

The namesake “hydrocotton” isn’t a variety of cotton but rather a name for zero-twist cotton threads (as opposed to tightly twisted yarns). This method of towel construction is what gives these towels their lightweight loft, supersoft texture (otherwise known as the fabric’s “hand”) and impressive drying abilities.

The Hydrocotton towels are also made from 100% Oeko-Tex certified cotton, which means they’ve been independently tested and certified by the International Association for Research and Testing in the Field of Textile Ecology to be ethically manufactured and free of harmful chemicals. Oeko-Tex certification is a great way to know that your home linens are ecologically sound, and is also a helpful tool for people with skin allergies who may react to fibers treated with caustic chemicals.

At 560 grams and with a GSM of 564, the Hydrocotton towel feels remarkably light compared with most luxury towels, which tend to prioritize density over functionality. This towel will dry you off and dry itself off before your next shower without a problem, and it’s plenty fluffy so that you won’t miss that extra weight, even if you prefer heavier towels.

This towel may not be 10 times more absorbent than traditional terry cloth, as Pottery Barn claims, but it did hold five times its weight in water at full saturation (compared with our budget pick, which can hold three and a half times its weight in water) and dried surprisingly well—as quickly as our $6 budget pick.

While Pottery Barn doesn’t always hit a home run (their offerings in the bed linens department are subpar, in my opinion), this towel is excellent and, as a classic Pottery Barn offering, should reliably stay in stock. And with its simple design and optional monogramming, this towel is not only supremely functional, it’s also fancy enough to impress even high-rolling house guests.

Flaws, but not dealbreakers

According to our reader poll, about half of respondents were looking to spend $20 or less per towel. Unfortunately, we just haven’t found anything top quality for under $20. These Pottery Barn Hydrocotton towels will run you $25 each, which is a little on the expensive side.

We think the extra $5 per towel is worth the superior absorbency, moisture release, softness, and durability that this towel brings.

This is a 20% stretch over our ideal price point, but we think the extra $5 per towel is worth the superior absorbency, moisture release, softness, and durability that this towel brings. Think of your towels as an investment that will ultimately save you both time and money. A set of four of Hydrocotton towels that will last you at least a few years is definitely worth the $100 investment. That being said, if you have a strict budget, there’s always our runner-up pick from Target.

Another downside is that the Hydrocotton comes in only five colors. They’re neutral colors, and they’re available in matching sets, but they probably won’t work for people insistent on finding the perfect shade to match their bathroom tiles. That said, Pottery Barn frequently releases their staple home linens in seasonal hues, so there’s always a chance you’ll score something a little more colorful during the holidays. Plus, seasonal colors are more likely to go on sale.

The top towel, in white

The top towel, in white

(Not sure what color to get? When in doubt, just go with white—white can be cleaned easily with oxidizing stain remover and won’t suffer discoloration from contact with beauty products containing benzoyl peroxide, as many colored fabrics will.)

The reason this towel absorbs and releases water so well is that—despite being fluffy—it’s not all that dense. This towel feels plush and boasts long thread loops, but it’s actually only 9% denser than our WestPoint Home budget pick. 

The downside to such a soft towel is that it’s not quite as sturdy as our previous pick, the towels from 1888 Mills. No matter how diligently you care for these towels, expect them to fray over time.

You can cut stray threads and treat them ever so nicely, but they’ll probably still need to be replaced before five years are up. After using mine for more than six months, I expect I’ll get two to three more years out of it before it starts to look a little worse for the wear. The towel itself will certainly hold up for five or more years, but it may not look so hot by the end.


Also Great
Fieldcrest Towels
If you're looking for a less expensive towel that still feels luxurious, Target's Fieldcrest towels are where it's at. They underperform our main pick by a small margin, but at half the cost they're a great deal.

If $25 for our main pick is too steep for your towel budget, but you want something more substantial than our bare-bones budget pick, Target’s new $13 Fieldcrest towels are a perfect compromise.

These Target towels are nothing like their $7 counterparts from the Threshold line. They’re 20% more dense than the Thresholds, with a GSM of 596, which is substantial, but light enough to dry out between uses. While they are lighter than most luxury towels, they’re really the perfect weight for everyday use and a great value compared with other towels at this price point. The Fieldcrest towels dry just a little bit more slowly than our main pick, hitting 15% saturation after six hours, compared with the Hydrocotton’s 13%. However, at half the cost with 14 color options, they’re a steal.

Like the Pottery Barn towels, the Fieldcrest also seems to have zero-twist loops, which is probably why they were both absorbent and quick to dry.

Like the Pottery Barn towel, the Fieldcrest also seems to have zero-twist loops, which is probably why it is also both absorbent and quick to dry.

While I haven’t had this towel long enough to collect any long-term household use data, it’s held up nicely throughout testing without shedding too much lint, shrinking too much, or suffering any pulls, runs, or loose threads. We’ll update this after a few more months of usage.

Best budget alternative

Also Great
WestPoint Lasting Color Towels
These towels are both cheap and reliable. They’re not nearly as thick or as soft as our main pick, though, and probably won’t last as long (most likely a couple of years).

I was very impressed with the dollar-to-performance ratio of the $6 WestPoint Home’s Lasting Color towel. For the cost of a sandwich, you get a 100% cotton towel that boasts colorfastness through up to 50 washings in non-chlorine bleach. How is that even possible? It’s no five-star hotel spa Egyptian cotton wonder, but it’s a decent performer and a great deal. It held nearly 350% of its weight in water, stacking up formidably against the fluffier luxury towels I tested, and was one of the fastest-drying towels I tested.

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute dubbed it the Best Value in their extensive testing, which I totally agree with. Though, I do think that taking a step up in cost and buying something softer and sturdier is worth the money in the long run. Frankly, I don’t really understand how WestPoint Home can even turn a profit on such an inexpensive product.

Based on value alone, the Lasting Color towel would be the clear winner, but it’s not quite the best.
 Based on value alone, the Lasting Color towel would be the clear winner, but it’s not quite the best. The main downside is that this towel is a little thin and on the rougher side. This is to be expected of less expensive, shorter-staple cottons.

It is, however, a great choice for those on a supertight budget, families with kids who destroy everything in their path, or folks who just like a thinner, lighter towel. The WestPoint Home’s Lasting Color towel would be an excellent option for your gym bag.

A quick-drying towel alternative

Also Great

*At the time of publishing, the price was $40.

Peshtemal Towel
This Turkish-style woven towel is very compact, holds up well in the wash, and dried far faster than any other towel we tested. Good if you’re tight on space.

If you’re a space-saving minimalist with functionality in mind, a good peshtemal, a flat-woven, Turkish-style towel, may be just the thing for you. Because they’re thin and dry out so quickly, you shouldn’t need to wash them as often as traditional towels or own as many of them.

As indicated in the graphs in our test results section, this peshtemal outperforms the competition by a wide margin when it comes to drying time. It was 99% dry within four hours; no other towel I tested was able to dry to even 90% over six hours.

For a second test, we went even further, soaking it with the same amount we wet the thicker towels with, which turned out to be 94% of the peshtemal’s weight in water. Even then, the towel dried out completely before the six hours was up. With a GSM of about a third of our main pick, the peshtemal doesn’t hold as much water as a standard towel, but it absorbs more than enough for drying off after a shower or a dip in the ocean.

Peshtemals are available all over the web, from ritzy home stores to Etsy. The one we chose is produced by the Turkish Towel Company, which has years of experience in the market.  Made of extra-long staple Turkish cotton with hand-knotted fringe, this towel is surprisingly soft. They’re also available at Costco, so we think they will be reliably available for the foreseeable future.

Folded flat, one takes up about as much space as a dress shirt, and it’s way more versatile.

While most of us probably aren’t willing to toss our traditional towels in favor of these lightweight wraps, they’re perfect for packing. Folded flat, one takes up about as much space as a dress shirt, and it’s way more versatile. It’s great for swanky travelers who want a towel that doubles as an attractive wrap or swimsuit cover-up. (Backpackers staying at hostels or campers on the move might be happier with a tiny towel made specifically for travel.)

The peshtemal and Pottery Barn.

The peshtemal and Pottery Barn.

There is no such thing as a budget peshtemal, and this one is admittedly a little pricy at $36, but a good peshtemal should last a long time. It isn’t prone to snags since there are no loops in the fabric. Over the past six months of testing, a handful of my peshtemal’s twisted fringe ends have come untwisted, but not unraveled, and it hasn’t impacted performance at all—I still pack this peshtemal every time I go camping, boating, or weekending, or somewhere with a pool, and it’s holding up wonderfully. Unlike regular towels, which you can expect to replace after five years or so, a high-quality woven like this should last upwards of a decade based on the same logic that applies to buying a good percale sheet.

If you’re looking for a set, they’re available at Costco in pairs for 30% off of MSRP. Or, if you want to try just one, there’s a colorful selection on Amazon for $23.

A close-up of the difference in thickness between the Pottery Barn and peshtemal. It also shows the difference between terry towels and the woven towel.

A close-up of the difference in thickness between the Pottery Barn and peshtemal. It also shows the difference between terry towels and the woven towel.

Test results

Our tests showed that most of the towels performed comparably, with a few notable exceptions.

*New for 2014. Both new 1888 Mills samples performed about the same as the original sample for absorption. The Target Fieldcrest absorbed very well.

The bar graph above illustrates how much water each towel was able to hold as a percentage of its dry weight. Fully soaked, all of the terry cloth towels we tested held at least 350% of their weight, which sets a benchmark for any good towel.

The superplush L.L.Bean Premium Cotton towel absorbed an astonishing six times its dry weight, though you probably won’t need it to do that very often.

Also, while it may look like the peshtemal failed where absorption is concerned, it did hold nearly twice its weight in water, which is more than enough to get you dry.

*New for 2014. The Target Fieldcrest admirably quickly, while the new 1888 Mills towel from Amazon dried more slowly than our original sample.

While absorption matters, it’s also important to consider how long a more absorbent towel will take to dry. The above line graph shows the rate at which each towel dried, starting at a saturation of 40% of the towel’s weight in water. This puts the first graph’s findings into context—absorbency is important, but our most absorbent towel also retained 10% more of its weight in water than the quickest-drying terry towel.

Behind the rapid-drying peshtemal, our budget picks dried most quickly, presumably because they are less dense (more on that in the third and final graph), and then came our main pick, the Pottery Barn Hydrocotton towel, followed by our mid-priced towels, and finally our luxury towels. It doesn’t really matter how much you spend: Denser cotton towels will always dry more slowly.

*New for 2014. As you can see, the actual GSM on the 1888 Mills towel we bought from Amazon is 8% lower than the GSM from our initial sample.

This last graph shows two things: the GSM (grams per square meter) of each towel and, if applicable, what the manufacturer claimed the GSM would be (when available). With the exception of the L.L.Bean Premium, all the towels were less dense than claimed. This is because manufacturers list the GSM of their towels brand new, but that information isn’t nearly as pertinent as the GSM of the towels in use after at least a few washings.

What we’re concerned with is the density of the towels in use, not at the store. Here you can see that our budget picks are considerably lighter than our luxury picks, which correlates directly to how quickly they dried.

This says nothing about the hand, durability, or quality of the cotton in each towel, though. While our main pick isn’t the densest or most luxurious, it does boast great absorption and an even better drying time, which will reduce the need to wash it after every couple of uses and ultimately prolong the life of your towel.

Long-term test notes

I’ve added our top picks to my regular household towel rotation. After nine months, the Pottery Barn Hydrocotton is the reigning champ. Despite its lightweight and fluffy pile, it doesn’t shed lint in the dryer, it hasn’t shrunk since the first wash cycle, and it has yet to develop any loose yarns.

Several of our staffers have also been using the Pottery Barn towels for over a year (one for more than two years), and they also say their towels remain very absorbent and fluffy.


And as a woman who wears makeup at least a few days a week, I do take care to use a makeup remover before drying my face on my towels. But mascara happens, and this towel has come through every wash unstained without any pretreating or bleach, which is pretty fantastic. Plus, this towel feels wonderful on my face. It’s so wonderful that I’m planning on buying a set of Hydrocotton washcloths for each of my bathrooms.

Our budget pick, the Lasting Color towel by WestPoint Home, isn’t nearly as soft or substantial, but it has also held up well through regular use. It shows no stains, snags, or unraveling as of yet, and reviewers claim to have used these towels for years on end. I have even used this durable towel as a bathmat in a pinch, and it’s no worse for the wear. It’s really quite impressive for a mere $6.

What about the old pick?

After hearing numerous complaints from readers, we decided to reinvestigate our previous pick, the 1888 Mills towel. Our original testers from summer 2013 had held up beautifully, and many readers overwhelmingly enjoyed the 1888 Mills.

However, other readers reported that the towel was thin and scratchy, with threads that easily came loose. One of our editors bought these towels in April 2014 and experienced the same thing. In order to figure out what was going on, I re-tested three 1888 Mills Cotton Made in Africa towels, and the results speak volumes about why people aren’t loving these towels like they used to and why they are no longer our main pick.

For the purposes of re-testing, I acquired two new 1888 Mills towels—one from the supplier (which they sent in a different color, moss green) and a white one ordered off of Amazon, which is presumably the towel everyone else was receiving. I compared these two new towels with the ivory sample I first ordered from Amazon when we started this guide over a year ago.

As with every towel test, the two new towels were first washed and dried five times on low heat with a quarter cup of vinegar as a rinsing agent to break down any factory finishes on the fibers. The old towel, which has also been in my regular household towel rotation since the first edition of this guide, was washed and dried with the two new ones on the final round.

From the very beginning of this re-test I could tell that something had changed over at 1888 Mills. The new towel we bought from Amazon felt lighter and less soft than our original sample after washing. Of course, softness is often a result of variables like factory finishes, detergents, and wash temperature.

Most notable about this new towel is its weight. The replacement towel that 1888 Mills sent to me directly (the moss green one) weighed 17 grams less than its well-worn ivory counterpart at 738 grams—less than a 2% weight difference. The 17-gram difference between the ivory and moss towels isn’t really anything to write home about, since small variations like that are likely to occur in any commercial textile mill.

The new towel is nearly 8% lighter—that’s a lot less cotton. It also shrunk nearly half an inch more in length.

The white replacement we ordered through Amazon, however, weighed 680 grams—a much more significant 58 grams lighter than the first 1888 Mills towel I tested. The new towel is nearly 8% lighter—that’s a lot less cotton. It also shrunk nearly half an inch more in length.

After measuring the differences in weight, I performed two more drying tests to compare each 1888 Mills towel. I started off each towel at 40% saturation and monitored their drying rate over six hours. Thanks to San Francisco’s unpredictable weather, the first test was on a particularly cold, wet day where the air temperature in my apartment was 66°F, and the second test was during a recent heat wave where the temperature in my apartment was hovering at or above 71. For both tests I used the same bathroom as before with the same common sense setup as before: bathroom door slightly ajar and bathroom window open a couple of inches. That’s how I typically leave my bathroom throughout the day, so that’s how my towels typically dry.

The average of these two tests gave a final saturation after six hours of 18.5% for the old ivory model (which came in at 18% during our first round of testing), 16% for the moss green towel, and 19.5% for the new white towel. These two additional dry tests are certainly a small data sample, but I can say that the towels 1888 Mills is sending out now aren’t performing any better than their older models simply for being lighter. In fact, based on my experience, the new towels underperform by a small margin.

Finally, on top of weight changes and dry testing, the white towel that came from Amazon just wasn’t made as well. The selvedge hems that I adore for reasons of structural integrity are still there, but one look at the sewn ends on the short sides of the towel show messy work and crooked hems.

We reached out to 1888 Mills for comment on our findings, but have yet to receive a response.

These towels may bear the same name (and price) as the ones we tested last year at the start of this guide, but the newer towels being sold are clearly inferior. That’s why we no longer recommend them.

The closeup photo of two towel corners shows the old ivory sample on the left and the new white sample on the right. The ivory sample has one thread that has come loose over the last year, but the hem is squarely folded and evenly sewn. The white towel is brand new, has only gone through five wash cycles, and already has a few threads beginning to make their escape. Plus, the hem itself is stitched down at an angle, and ever so slightly thinner for some reason. This is guaranteed not to hold up as well in the long run.

This close-up of two towel corners shows the old ivory sample (left) and the new white sample. In the ivory sample, one thread has come loose over the past year, but the hem is squarely folded and evenly sewn. The white towel is brand new and has gone through only five wash cycles, and already a few threads are beginning to make their escape. Plus, the hem itself is stitched down at an angle and is ever so slightly thinner for some reason. This is guaranteed not to hold up as well in the long run.


Target’s Threshold towel ($7) dried a hair faster than our budget pick, but it also costs $1 more. In the end, given user reviews, our original budget pick is better.

Amazon’s Pinzon Luxury towel ($21) is just too dense and too heavy, and takes too long to dry out. This is a surefire recipe for a musty towel.

JCPenney’s Royal Velvet ($18) is a decent towel, but has lower GSM than our pick and just doesn’t compare when it comes to performance for the price.

Neither the L.L.Bean Premium towel ($30) nor the L.L.Bean Textured Cotton towel ($20) cut it when it came to drying speed.

The Macy’s Hotel Collection towel ($30) has supersoft and fluffy pile, but it began to pull and fray after only two washes.

Even within our towel criteria, there are tons of models to choose from. If you’re wondering why we didn’t test models from a certain brand or popular store, here’s a list of the those that didn’t make it to testing.

Bed Bath & Beyond: Other than our budget pick, we didn’t test any other towels from this home linens giant. Most of their top-rated towels feature abysmal seasonal embroidery (who is rating these!?) and their higher-quality offerings just can’t compete with the prices of our picks.

Crate & Barrel: This home store has a small selection of towels with mid-range GSM, but their luxury prices aren’t worth it for the small selection of average items they offer.

IKEA: IKEA’s pricing just can’t beat our budget pick. I’m a former owner of IKEA towels, and I can tell you that they’re awful next to our picks.

Nordstrom: The only real contender here is Nordstrom’s Hydrocotton towel, which lists very little information available online. We passed on this one in favor of Pottery Barn’s Hydrocotton towel, which is slightly less expensive and made of 550 GSM Oeko-Tex certified Turkish cotton. For some reason, only seems interested in selling their bath towels in sets. Three, four, six, you name it. Unfortunately, what works for a family of four may not work for a single person, and none of their towels stood out as must-test options.

Restoration Hardware: Their towels, while certainly beautiful and available in a crazy array of colors, tend toward the ultra-dense side. Coupled with their higher price point, the fact that many models have embellished hems makes them impractical for the majority of shoppers.

Walmart: Regardless of how you feel about this budget behemoth, there are plenty of reasons we didn’t test any of their towels. Their website is useless for sourcing information. Few of their towels discuss what kind of cotton they use, and none of them discuss weight in terms of GSM, which is the industry standard. One potential contender from the Made Here Towel Collection seemed promising, but it is available only in sets of two, and there is no information about towel weight or construction. If Walmart’s website is to be believed, this set of two towels weighs in at a quarter pound, which is almost certainly wrong. Plus, these towels are available only online, so there’s no way to feel them before you buy them.

What makes a great towel

A number of factors contribute to towel greatness, and they all fall into two testing categories: performance and experience. Performance is the science-y stuff, and experience has more to do with how the towel feels.

There are some things that money can buy cutting-edge performance from, but towels are definitely not one of them.

There is a stupid number of towels available out there, so in order to establish criteria to choose test subjects, some basic questions had to be answered. What do we want most out of our towels? Absorbency, but also a decent drying rate so they stay fresher. Softness, but also durability, and a reasonable price. What fibers and fabric constructions will give us the best chance of meeting those goals? Ultimately, the best towels are 100% cotton with a GSM (grams per square meter) weight of 500 to 800.

Great 100% cotton towels of this weight shouldn’t run you more than $30 each. You can definitely find similar pieces out there for more (or less), but $30 is a reasonable spending cap. A single person probably wants at least three towels at home in regular rotation, and $100 should be more than enough to accomplish this. Even superplush Egyptian and Turkish cotton luxury towels with a GSM of more than 600 are readily available online for $30 or less, so there’s no need to go breaking the bank. The only towels consistently more expensive are luxury brand names of the variety sold at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue. For the extra bucks, you do get a bit of bang—monogramming, jacquard designs, decorative embroidery, and brand-name pride, if that’s your thing—but know that you won’t get twice the quality for spending twice as much. If you have a considerably lower budget in mind, there are still good cheap towels on the market (see our runner-up and budget picks), but know that you will be sacrificing construction quality and softness. Consider the amortized cost of buying new cheap towels every year versus investing in more durable ones when worrying about cost.

GSM (grams per square meter) is to towels what thread count is to sheets. A higher GSM indicates a fluffier, more luxurious towel, but just as 1,000 thread count sheets are so dense they feel stiff, towels with a GSM above 800 are overkill in the fluff department. In testing, heavier towels did not absorb a considerably higher percentage of their weight in water, although they definitely took longer to reach the same level of dryness.

After talking to experts and doing research about cotton molecules, bamboo fabrics, and what to look for when towel shopping (here and here), we settled on the parameters of 100% cotton towels with a GSM between 500 and 800.

Even so, there is an overwhelming number of options—enough options that you shouldn’t be spending more than $30 per towel unless your credit card is really burning a hole in your pocket. There are some things that money can buy cutting-edge performance from, but towels are definitely not one of them. While there is a true and quantifiable difference between, say, Egyptian cotton and plain, old short staple cottons, they are functionally quite similar for the purpose of absorbing and releasing water from your wet, naked body.

Textile science 101 (why cotton over bamboo)

Here’s why you want cotton towels:

“Rayon is rayon, even if bamboo has been used somewhere along the line in the manufacturing process.” – FTC spokesperson, David C. Vladeck

The quality of a towel can be measured in many ways, but measurements fall into two basic categories: material and mechanical. Material qualities have to do with what the towel is made of: cotton, microfiber, rayon (often bamboo rayon), or a blend of fibers. Microfiber towels are a technological advancement of the late 20th century and great for thin, absorbent, lightweight towels like those sold at camping and sporting goods stores, but they don’t possess the qualities of a great bath towel, which is why they’re not up for consideration here. Towels touted as being made of bamboo are almost always made of bamboo rayon, a fiber that releases a dangerous amount of pollution during the manufacturing process. Bamboo rayon towels are far less ecofriendly than marketing would have us believe and worse for the environment than cotton. The process of turning bamboo fibers into rayon utilizes the same chemical pulping processes as all rayons, leading the FTC to prohibit many retailers from even labeling these products as bamboo. “Rayon is rayon, even if bamboo has been used somewhere along the line in the manufacturing process,” explained David C. Vladeck, director of the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection.

“Bamboo and other cellulosic type fibers are becoming popular,” Academy of Art University textiles professor Matthew Gerring told me, “but generally underperform in durability and absorbency.” When it comes to towels, 100% cotton is definitely still the way to go.

Pure cotton towels most often are hyped for their exotic fiber origins and luxury properties, but that’s just marketing. Cotton’s real selling point is its incredible absorption capabilities. It can hold up to 25 times its weight in water. This is because it’s structured to the task of toweling at a molecular level. The polymer molecules that make up cotton form a chained structure known as pure cellulose. Not only is cellulose structurally sound for drawing in water, it’s also dipolar, just like water molecules, which results in a natural attraction between the two negatively charged molecules. Water and cotton just can’t keep themselves apart. Cotton’s hydrophilic properties, long staple fibers, and all-around durability make it the sensible choice for terry cloth, the fabric used in towels.

If you’ve done any shopping before for towels or sheets, chances are you’ve gotten an earful about all the different types of luxury cottons on the market. In essence, though, Egyptian, Turkish, Pima, Supima, and Sea Island cottons are all the same thing. That is, they’re all grown from the same plant species, Gossypium barbadense. There are four commercially grown species of cotton and more classifications of cotton based on the locations where they are grown. Turkish cotton is known for its softness and long, durable staple fibers, while Egyptian cotton also possesses long staple fibers but is hand picked instead of machine picked. Pima cotton is its regulated trade name when grown in the United States and is often highlighted for its use in high-end clothing, although it also appears in towels. Basically, luxury cotton advertising is yet another facet of the marketing machine that rebranded the Patagonian Toothfish as Chilean Sea Bass, and at its root, any 100% cotton yarn is suitable for great towels.

Okay, we’ve got the material, but how about the mechanical?  There are many schools of thought here, and they can be just as confusing as fiber choice. A fluffier, more dense towel means more absorbency, right? Right! But it also means that your towel will stay wet longer and mildew more quickly, which means more washing, more drying, more shrinking, and more wear on your towels. The ideal towel is one with high absorbency and a decently high GSM—enough to be fluffy, but not so dense that it won’t dry out between uses. Finding this ideal requires us to look deeper into terry cloth construction.

Terry cloth is woven on special looms, called dobby looms, which are programmed  to weave uniform loops into both sides of the fabric. These loops can be longer or shorter, made of tightly or more loosely twisted yarns, all of which affect the fabric’s weight, hand, and durability. Higher pile (longer loops) result in a soft, shaggy towel, but are more prone to snagging and raveling. Low, even pile with a ring-spun two-ply yarn is what we’re looking for in optimal terry cloth construction because it will provide the best intersection of absorption and durability.

Great towels, like great sheets, can last for years with proper care. What makes a towel more durable is mostly a matter of construction.

Durability is key to separating a good value from a great one. It’s especially disappointing to spend extra for a luxury towel, only to have it fall apart months later. Great towels, like great sheets, can last for years with proper care. What makes a towel more durable is mostly a matter of construction. “Hotels often use towels with a blend of 86% cotton and 14% polyester for durability,” said Lexi Schladenhauffen, a 12-year veteran of the towel business. Since we’re concerning ourselves with 100% cotton towels for home use, construction details are especially important to creating a durable towel. Fast edge or very well-hemmed selvedges are key. A towel with poorly finished sides will self destruct within a matter of months of regular use and washing. No matter how nice the terry cloth is, it’s no good if it starts unraveling from the outside in. The other Achilles’ heel of towel construction is fraying loops. Because the loops of terry cloth are essentially a series of even snags, it is important that the fabric under the loops be especially strong. A great towel will have a dense, evenly woven fabric base, which should not be transparent when held up to the light. This base is the only thing holding the loops of the towel in place. Once a towel sustains a run, like a hole in a sweater, it will continue to unravel no matter how you might try to save it. For these reasons, we’re looking for a densely woven towel with a low, even pile and a securely stitched selvedge. No decorative borders or embroidery. Just solid terry cloth.

Care and maintenance

In order to keep your towels in the best shape for as long as possible, it’s important to wash them in cold or warm water and dry them on the lowest setting. Chlorine bleach is also incredibly hard on fibers, so opt for an oxygen bleach, which is actually a solid form of hydrogen peroxide called sodium percarbonate that works well on organic stains.

Contrary to pretty much every ad for fabric softener and dryer sheets ever, you should never use either on your towels.

Why is your soft, fluffy towel repelling water like wax paper? It could be your fabric softener. Contrary to pretty much every ad for fabric softener and dryer sheets ever, you should never use either on your towels. I mean, if you want them to work and all, instead of just smelling good on the shelf. If you want to reduce static cling, try dryer balls instead of traditional waxy-softener-laden dryer sheets.

I never use fabric softener on anything for this reason. Existing softeners in new towels need to be broken down and washed away, though, for which white vinegar works wonders. (White vinegar can also be used as an alternative fabric softener after the initial wash, as it is a safe, natural antibacterial that kills mildew in towels and washing machines. It also softens fibers without degradation and leaves behind no smell. Add a quarter to half a cup of plain white vinegar to the softener compartment of any washing machine, front-loading or top-loading. Replace vinegar with hydrogen peroxide occasionally for a more thorough disinfecting wash.)

So no matter how much it seems like extra detergent equals extra clean, resist the urge and use only as much as directed.

That musty smell that used towels can get is often caused by too much detergent. Most of us are guilty of adding too much to our laundry, and it’s another culprit behind poor towel performance and mildew. “Everyone does this,” cleaning columnist Jolie Kerr told Fresh Air. Not only can that residual detergent affect the hand of your towels, but it also actually contributes to mildew. “Mildew loves two things,” Kerr said. “It needs a drink, and that’s the water, the water that you’ve given it by drying yourself off with the towel, and it needs food. And the food that it loves the most is soap.” So no matter how much it seems like extra detergent equals extra clean, resist the urge and only use as much as directed. And if you find yourself with smelly towels anyway? Kerr seconds the vinegar trick. It’s a tried and true method that’s harmless to your towels and hard on bacteria.

Wrapping up

Pottery Barn Hydrocotton towels are not only the most luxurious towels available at the $25 price point, but also fantastically absorbent, quick drying, soft, and sturdy. They’re perfect for humid bathrooms and have held up to nine months of regular machine washing.

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  1. Terrific Bath Towels, Good Housekeeping, 2012
  2. Lasting Color Towels, Good Housekeeping
  3. Kim Norton, Why Is Cotton Absorbent? , Ehow
  4. Katie Allison Granju, A Basic Guide to Bath Towels, HGTV
  5. Towel Buying Guide, Good Housekeeping

Originally published: November 11, 2014

We actively moderate the comments section to make it relevant and helpful for our readers, and to stay up to date with our latest picks. You can read our moderation policy FAQ here.

  • MrHaroHaro

    Personally I’m a huge fan of those WestPoint Home towels. Have had a couple white ones for the past 2 1/2 years. Still soft and have kept their shape and color really, really well. They dry fast and I’ve never had one stink up before the weekly wash.

  • Lee Fyock

    Someone needs to scrub this article for “its” and “it’s”, since both are used incorrectly.

    We bought a towel warmer a few years ago, and it’s great. A timer starts it warming about an hour before we get up and shower, so the towels are nice and toasty when you get out of the shower. Then it stays on for another hour or so, which helps dry the towels out and keeps them fresh.

    • Joel Johnson

      Looks like that slipped past copy-edit. It’s fixed…its fixed…it are fixed now.

    • James

      Which one?

      • Lee Fyock

        The towel warmers are by Myson, in the Avonmore style, purchased from efaucets. I use Insteon switches throughout the house, from smarthome. My house server uses Indigo software to control the towel warmer switches.

  • sokkles

    Personally I’d recommend 100% linen towels to anyone who wants to actually get dry… when it comes to absorbency, I’ve found that most cotton towels just suck (pun intended). Try linen – it may not be soft and fluffy, but you’ll dry fast, and the towel will dry much faster than a cotton towel.

  • drycappucino

    There are a few of us who really do NOT want soft towels. I have looked everywhere for “scratchy” towels that will give my back a good rub and scratch while drying. The best towel I have found for this purpose is the World Market (Cost Plus) White Chevron cotton towel (14.99 for the bath towel). I (and my boys) love it.

    • Lauren

      I”m with you! I love “scratchy” towels. The cheap ones they hand out at the gym are my ideal towel. Thanks for the Cost Plus tip!

  • Melissa Tan

    We’ve noticed that Costco lists the towel as 30″X56″ rather than 30″X58″. I’ve double checked with 1888 Mills to ensure that the two towels are the same. They are the same towels — the difference is just a data entry error.

  • walls

    FYI, I looked for the Westpoint Home towels in my local Bed Bath & Beyond yesterday (not recommended: utter hellscape) and although they’re listed as in-stock on the website, the store manager said he’d never heard of the brand. So you may be better ordering online.

    • Melissa Tan

      I had the same issue when I went to my local Bed Bath and Beyond (you’re right, it is a hellscape), and just before giving up to go the online route I found an entire display of them right in front of me. I don’t think the employees know the brand names of all of their products, but if you asked for the $6 bath towel they might better know where to point you.

  • pbanta

    Your CostCo link is dead.

    • tony kaye

      Thanks for letting us know!

      • Aaron Kavlie

        Your Costco link is still dead.

        • tony kaye

          It’s not dead, the item is out of stock at the moment, but still, thanks!

          • Aaron Kavlie

            I thought that’s what pbanta meant. The page doesn’t make it look like it’s ever coming back… has anyone seen it in stock at Costco recently?

          • Paul Mulner

            Nope. And I check often.

          • Aaron Kavlie

            @paulmulner:disqus I know they were in stock at that Costco link a few weeks ago. Had a tab open meaning to buy some, but never got around to it.

          • tony kaye

            Amazon still has them in stock.

  • Jeremy Pepper

    I prefer bath sheets, as they’re longer and bigger. But they’re hard to find.

    • RonK13

      Espalma 700 Cotton Oversized Bath Sheet

      • Jeremy Pepper


        • RonK13

          I bought 2 for my mom 5 yrs ago, they are huge and heavy and hold up well (but may stay wet a little too long). You can use it as a blanket in a crunch :-)

  • John Walters

    I just bought some WestPoint Home towels and ran ’em through the washing machine. (Permanent Press cycle, cold water.) They came out with a lot of loose cotton fuzzy bits and even a pulled thread or two. If they continue to degrade after a second wash, I’m taking them back.

    I can’t explain the difference between my experience and yours; just telling you what happened to me.

    • Melissa Tan

      I hope your towels fared better after the second wash! Fuzziness is definitely an issue with the first couple of washes, especially if your dryer has a small lint trap. If the trap fills up, all remaining fuzz will stay in the dryer with your towels.

  • John Miller

    I bought a couple of these towels to try, after reading this review. They’re pretty good, especially for the price. We were using some much more expensive towels, though, and I miss the heft of those.

  • Will Taylor

    It’s been more than a month, and the towels are still out of stock. Any follow-up from TheSweetHome?

    • tony kaye

      It looks like they’re still available through Costco. Have to tried the other link? Will let the crew know though thanks!

      • Will Taylor

        Didn’t try it. We usually stick with Amazon, as we’ve got a Prime membership. Also, we’re only interested in white. Thanks though!

      • Alvaro Gandara Astray

        It’s gone from Costco as well… Any updates on availability?

  • Sam

    1888 Mills towels are absolutely incredible. This towel does its job (absorbing moisture) better than most towels but it also is far and away the most soft, welcoming, mind-blowing towel I’ve ever put to my skin. It dominates Ritz Carlton towels; it literally was a transcendent experience when I first used it – head and shoulders above any towel I had ever used. I simply cannot believe how inferior every other towel is by comparison. I also bought a Pinzon, and the Pinzon is a slight improvement over most department store varieties, but eats the 1888 Mills’ dust in comfort.

  • Christina

    I got the 1888 Mills 2 bath, 2 hand, 2 wash towel set off of Costco for $45 about a month ago and am bummed to see it’s gone (I’d like another set).

    Just checked Amazon today though and you can get a bath towel for $19.99!

    • tony kaye

      Thanks for the tip!

  • Bif Skipman

    These towels are a terrible disappointment. They are not plush at all. I bought them on Amazon, two towels and two hand towels, and I am very displeased with this purchase. How in the world you recommended these is beyond me. Now I’ll have to take all your recommendations with a grain of salt.

    • Jacqui Cheng

      We’re sorry you don’t agree on the plushness of the towels we recommend. For the record, I also own those towels (as well as many others), and I find them to be the most plush of the entire collection.

      We spell out all the criteria that we consider when choosing a winner. That’s for transparency purposes, but also so readers can check out everything we did and choose for themselves whether those same criteria apply to their own buying choices.

  • Bif Skipman

    I am very disappointed with these towels. They are not plush at all. I don’t know why this is your recommendation. Now I will have to take your other recommendations with a grain of salt.
    I ordered from Amazon.

  • Russell Zager

    back in stock at Costco

    • tony kaye

      Thanks for the heads up!

      • Bill

        Are you going to update with links to Costco again?

        • tony kaye

          I think as long as Amazon remains steady & at a better price, we’ll stick it out. Thank you though!

          • Bill

            Amazon is out of stock (2-4 weeks) of all but the white towels and their price is 33% higher than CostCo. ($19.99 each vs. $59.99 for a set of 4).

          • tony kaye

            We put the links back up. Thanks!

  • Jonathan Weiss

    The Costco site is selling these again. 60$ for 4 towels, or 45 for 2 Bath Towels, 2 Washcloths, and 2 Hand Towels.

    • tony kaye

      Yep we have the Costco link above. Thanks!

  • lobster_johnson

    I got the 1888 Mills towels based on the recommendation of this article. Like @Bif Skipman I am distinctly unimpressed.

    It’s true that they are absorbent and dry fast, but they are very dense and thin. They feel cheap. They are not the lush, luxuriously thick, plush, soft kind of towel that you want to nestle in, the kind that you sometimes find in high-end hotels and wonder where you can buy. (That’s the kind of towel I am dreaming of, anyway.) They are not particularly pleasant to use, since they are so thin, although their thinness belies their ability to absorb water.

    In short, these are basic, utilitarian towels for getting dry after a shower, and that’s about it. I suspect you put a little too much effort into the science. For reference, my other towel set is this set from Natori: They are a lot nicer.

  • Joshua Kwan

    Any experience with the 802-Gram Turkish Towel Collection from Restoration Hardware ( )? I have a few of these and am loving them so far. Just curious as to how they stack up vs. your recommendation.

    • tony kaye

      I don’t believe so. There is a chart of what was tested above. Thanks!

      Pinzon Luxury
      Macy’s Hotel Collection
      1888 Mills Luxury
      WestPoint Home Lasting Color

    • Melissa Tan

      802-Gram is just too heavy for most people (we did test the 800+ gram Pinzon one which was similar, but less expensive), which is why it’s not included here.

  • deepak vonga

    very good information to read and its really feels good to Buy Bathroom Linen Products Online because we will be having lots of options in one platform so we can choose best one right one easily

  • elizablair

    Costco seems to be out of stock of the 1888 Mills. :(

    • tony kaye

      Thanks for the heads up!

  • favalora

    FWIW, we dislike the 1888 Mills towels. We found them not absorbent – they’re just expensive, albeit soft.

  • GC Clark

    So who makes the best beach towel? It’d be nice to have one with hidden pockets.

  • Jimmy Pautz

    My favorite towel is the JCPenny quick dry towel.

  • Max

    What happened to the sweet charts?
    I was using these charts as an example of why this is the best review site on the internet. My sales pitch went something like “Look at the level of detail the gave on bath towels, they even have CHARTS! Think about how much they’ll dig into everything else.”

    Now that they’ve been taken down, what can I say?

    • tony kaye

      I see the charts just fine. Maybe restart your browser or clear cache?

  • firstinflight

    Would it be possible for The Sweethome to check these again? Recently there’s been several negative reviews on Amazon for the 1888 Mills bath towels. Falling apart, etc. It’d be nice to know if the quality has changed since the original posting of this review.

    • tony kaye

      Will look into this, but can you link me to where you found these complaints? Currently these are #1 sellers on Amazon

      • firstinflight
        • tony kaye

          Yep we’re doing some additional testing on these to see if they’re no longer as great as they once were. Will update accordingly & thanks for the input!

          • firstinflight

            Great, thanks!

            Another quick suggestion: I noticed that Target launched a new towel line (FieldCrest Luxury) which is slightly more expensive (still cheaper than the 1888 pick) and has vastly better ratings than their Threshold line. Not sure if those are in the running, but I thought it might be worth examining. I’m currently considering a towel purchase in the coming months, so I await the results eagerly!

          • tony kaye

            We’re not actually re-testing/updating this completely (yet), we’re just making sure our top pick is still reliable. If not, expect to see our alt-pick moved up top the top & a new process of testing – likely including the FieldCrest.

          • Melissa Tan

            Tony’s right, I was mainly investigating the 1888 Mills towels for quality change (update coming really soon on that), but we did end up testing the Feildcrest as well. Thanks for the recommendation. I’m crunching the results right now!

          • firstinflight

            Awesome. Looking forward to the new results!

  • Nancy

    I’ve just tried the 1888 Mills towels and I was disappointed. They look and feel lovely and soft but they are very non-absorbent. So I’m still searching for a great (even scratchy like the old days) absorbent towel. I also tried the peshtemel towel and they’re also very pretty, absorbent but not as absorbent as a great towel. Absorbency and longevity are my only real criteria…..I have 20 year old towels that haven’t frayed and 2 month old towels that are on their last legs. The search continues……

  • Cat

    Any updates on the Aug. 5th hold you put on 1888 towel recommendation? I am looking for towels to give as a wedding gift, but not if the quality is not good anymore. Please let us know. Thanks for the detailed review.

    Btw, I got Charisma towels as a wedding gift 17 yrs. ago, and they have held up amazingly well until the last year or so. The bath towels are just beginning to fray along the edges, but otherwise they are still great, absorbent, still going strong. And the hand towels have been used so much that the loops are worn (not snagged ever) and just the fabric is showing in some places. Incredible towels, but recent reviews I’ve read say the quality is not anywhere near the same. Such a shame.

    • tony kaye

      We’re doing some testing on new samples. Please sit tight! Shouldn’t be too long!

      • Cat

        Thanks for the reply. I have been reading reviews of 1888 Mills Magnificence towels as well. They seem to get good reviews. I don’t know if you tested any of the other 1888 Mills towel products other than the Luxury Cotton Made in Africa and the Made Here.

        I’ll wait for the update!

  • Sammy Young

    The Nordstrom towels are 600 GSM and slightly cheaper than Pottery Barn when you buy two with free shipping. (And they have bath sheets for those who use them:

    Costco now carries 650 GSM Hydrocotton towels ( Wonder how they compare to the PB’s.

  • beachmama

    You’ve put in amazing effort and research into finding the best towel, thank you! I purchased Restoration Hardware 802-Gram Turkish Towel on sale for $22 early this year (the bath towel is $28 regularly). They are bar-none the best I’ve ever used.

  • eaadams

    I got something called a bath sheet off of woot. They are amazing and freaking huge. I’m 6’4″ so having a big towel makes a big difference.

  • Julie

    I bought one of the 1888 Mills towels for my husband, and sadly we are pretty disappointed in it. We bought it August 2014 through Amazon, and honestly this towel is just not very absorbent. Our cheap towels dry better than this does. You can just feel a sheen of water left on your skin after attempting to dry with it. It is very fluffy, but it doesn’t do what a towel needs to do.

    • tony kaye

      We’re currently looking into this to see if 1888 has changed their materials or if something is different (see wait status above).

  • stephan

    So I’m very curious about your comments about the Pinzon – in the “Competition” section you claim it takes too long to dry out, but in your graph for the “Dry Test” it was consistently below the 1888… Am I missing something?

    • tony kaye

      This guide is getting an overhaul! Check back soon!

  • Jason Williams

    Target is 10% off today for Veteran’s Day plus take another 5% if you’re a redcard holder.

    • tony kaye


  • nahlers1

    Great article, but as a tall man I prefer to use bath sheets instead of bath towels. I would have loved to see a recommended towel that came in this size, as it looks like your top choice doesn’t.

    • tony kaye

      You mean like beach size towels? I’m also tall and find regular size bath towels don’t cut it for me.

      • Sammy Young

        Not a beach towel, a bath sheet. The runner-up from Target comes in that size (though they’re only available for store pickup and there can be limited availability). Nordstrom also sells a Hydrocotton bath sheet ( though it runs 2 for $90.

        • tony kaye

          I’ve never heard of a bath sheet before. Interesting!

          • Victor

            I’m tall too, but I actually prefer a hand towel(!) They absorb plenty, and drying off is of course a breeze.

  • Katherine Miller

    I bought my beautiful Turkish towels from The Anatolian on Etsy ( and I am extremely happy with the style, quality and the service. The towels are chemical free and 100% handwoven. Especially their beach collection is incredible (I would actually call them candy towels as they are in beautiful summer colors). The prices are ranging between $24 and $32, $32 is being the organic ones. But they offer some free shipment or sales deals too. Certainly recommend Turkish towels and this shop!

  • maya

    What a perfect and superbly informative article!! It was exactly what I was looking for, THANK YOU!!!

    • tony kaye

      You’re welcome!

  • Victor

    The Pottery Barn winners are currently on sale, but some of them are out of stock until April :-(

    • tony kaye

      We made a note of the sale on our deals page. Guess that pushed the stock. Yeesh. Our runner-up models are wonderful though! HIGHLY suggest going with them since our main pick is MIA.

    • tony kaye

      Stock has now correctly updated to shipping on January 30, no longer April (for most colors). Crisis averted!

  • Guest

    The Pottery Barn towels are on sale for $19.50 + s&h

    • tony kaye

      Thank you!

  • L.A. Lady

    Doesn’t look like the top pick comes in a bath sheet size. Does anyone know if they’re simply out of them at the moment or if they don’t carry the bath sheet size at all?

  • nan

    I love Turkish Peshtemals, They are so easy to dry and it is easy to carry when you are going to the pool with the kids. I bought mine from i especially love the cotton and bamboo mix ones.

  • Justin S

    bought the Fieldcrest towels and they just came today. thank you for this great article. it really helped! :)

    • tony kaye

      Glad they’re to your liking!

  • MontyW

    I would love to see this kind of test on bath robes. Any chance?

    • tony kaye

      Maybe in the future! Can’t rule it out!

  • Pat Boumansour

    I went to purchase the Pottery Barn towels recommended here and wound up buying the Pottery Barn Classic Bath Towel – Turkish cotton. For only two dollars more per towel I got a much more absorbant and denser towel. Just providing a point of information for others shopping at Pottery Barn.

    • tony kaye

      When it comes to towels an extra $2 isn’t bad at all. Thanks for the feedback!

  • Pestemal Buy

    The hued, thin, light, napless, comfortable, and, most importantly organic pestemal bath and beach towels can be tried.

  • Simon Hemmes

    Avoiding that musty smell has nothing to do with level of detergent used. Its all about discipline. The towels should go into the drying step immediately after the wash process finalised. Keeping them wet increases bacteria counts rapidly and this should be avoided at any time.

  • Olalani Batty

    My Target Fieldcrest towels (dark gray color) started to discolor after 6 months. Almost looks like bleach spots, but I don’t use bleach. I’ve heard that the dyes in cheaper towels will fade. Anyone else experience this? Some say it’s face cream w/ benzoyl peroxide….but obviously you only dry your face and body AFTER you’ve washed it and your skin is clean. Thoughts?

    • Ganda Suthivarakom

      Are you using Oxi-Clean? What kind of detergent are you using?

      • Olalani Batty

        No, not using oxi clean. Been using the same Gain detergent.

    • Bart Brass

      Oxi clean is good for colors, and peroxide for whites. Bleach, which you don’t use, shouldn’t ever be used as it weakens the cotton and causes it to become brittle. Tooth paste contains bleaching agents also. And sometimes there is residue in washing machine that can cause towels to discolor. Great hint is to use cup of white vinegar in the wash cycle every few months by itself just to clean out any residue in the machine and it also removes any rust.

    • JD

      I had a similar experience with Restoration Hardware 820 gram towels. We invested so much money in them and they immediately began to get bleach-like spots all over, despite the fact that we neither used bleach nor benzoyl peroxide near them. They are so luxurious in feel, but they look like garbage now after 2 years.

    • Olalani Batty

      I’m thinking of switching to peshtemal towels (Turkish towels). Anyone have experience with these towels? There are so many beautiful colors and patterns. Etsy has a large selection.

  • Rebecca

    Try out Doga Towels at They are soft, antimicrobial, portable and beautiful. They have a 95% adoption rate where people throw out there old towels in favor of them!

  • Ian

    Hey the Fieldcrest towel link doesn’t work anymore and there seem to be several variants of the Fieldcrest on the Target website. Can you update the link or the name of the towel please?

  • Intropy

    I’ve heard that Imabari Towel Company does a good job. Might be a nice addition to the comparison.

    • tony kaye

      Maybe in the future!

  • Jenny

    We’ve had the Pottery Barn towels for about 3 months now and I really love them. At first they were very fluffy and shed a ton, I was concerned about the decision to purchase them. Now they’re fluffy and don’t shed much, very nice.

    • tony kaye

      So they shed at first and now are not shedding?

      • Jenny

        Yep. At first if have to stop the dryer early, empty the lint filter, then put them back in to dry. Lint filter was totally full, looked like a teddy bear had been massacred in there. Now they’re the same as any other towel.

        I washed them alone at first because it’s pretty common for new towels to leave fuzz on the others, especially noticeable if they’re very different colors.

  • Alex M

    I was pretty disappointed with my Pottery Barn towels. Fluffy, yes, but they shed non-stop, and, frankly, don’t do a great job of drying.

  • Alan Jackson

    First set of Pottery barn towels we bought were great – everything the review promised. A couple of months later, we bought a second set. Total crap. They shed lint so badly for the first dozen washings that we have to dry them alone, and then run the dryer empty to get the lint out. And after about a dozen washings, they are starting to fray and come apart. You should try a new set and compare.

    • Susan Miller Jackson

      Update: I called PB about my complaint and they are replacing them for free. Let’s see if the next batch is as good as the first!