Towel shopping can be confusing. You can find two towels that look and feel the same, yet one is $12 and the other is $50. Is there really such a huge difference in their performance? Also, what’s all the hype about Egyptian cotton? Is it noticeably better than good ol’ American cotton? We decided to find out.
We rounded up some of the most popular and highly-rated towels available today, including products made from all types of cotton, and we put them to the test. At the end of the day, we found one of the best products you can buy is the affordable Fieldcrest Spa Bath Towel(available at Target for $12.99).
What makes a towel great? First and foremost, they have to be able to absorb water efficiently—that’s their main purpose after all. However, we also took into account the weight and feel of each towel, if they get musty, how easy it is to remove stains, and more. While some towels rose to the challenge, others gave a lackluster performance.
These are the best towels we tested ranked, in order:
Fieldcrest Spa Bath Towel
Parachute Classic Towel
Legends Regal Egyptian Cotton Towels
Frontgate Resort Cotton Towels
Hotel Collection Turkish Bath Towel
Boll & Branch Bath Towel
Utopia Towels Soft Cotton Machine Washable Extra Large Bath Towel
Matouk Milagro Bath Towels
Wamsutta Hygro Duet Bath Towel Collection
AmazonBasics Fade-Resistant 6-Piece Cotton Towel Set
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Do you know what’s even better than finding an amazingly plush, absorbent bath towel? Finding an amazingly plush, absorbent bath towel that’s only $12.99. I fell in love with the Fieldcrest Spa Bath Towel the first time I used it, and it exceeded expectations during testing to claim the title of Best Overall.
There’s so much to love about this towel, which is made from regular cotton and comes in more than a dozen colors. At 30-by-56-inches, it’s the perfect size, as well as a comfortable weight. In terms of texture, I found this towel to be plush and inviting, yet not so soft it felt weird on my wet skin.
Additionally, it blew away the competition when it came to soaking up spills. Many other towels peeled off the floor, leaving traces of water behind, but not this towel! It soaked up every last drop, leaving the floor spotless. Additionally, it didn’t smell musty after air drying, and a soda stain came out completely without any special treatment. Did I mention it’s only $12.99?
All in all, this towel would be a worthwhile investment even if it cost more. It’s simply an added bonus that it’s so affordable! It was one of my favorite products to use, and it proved that a towel doesn’t need to be made of fancy Egyptian cotton to perform well.
I’m Camryn Rabideau, a freelance contributor here at Reviewed. Over the past few months, I’ve worked on several articles that put essential household linens to the test—including bed sheets and comforters—and I was excited that my next task was to pit towels against each other.
I studied textile science in college, so I‘m well-versed the nuances of different fibers and construction methods. (I honestly never thought I would use this knowledge, but look at me now!) However, I was really interested to see if I could discern a difference in how certain manufacturing methods impacted performance.
For instance, Egyptian cotton is supposed to be the gold standard in terms of absorption and softness, but can your average consumer spot a noticeable difference? It’s a bit nerdy of me, but I was excited to find out!
How do you determine which towel is the best? Glad you asked. Naturally, we wanted to see how each towel performed when used after a shower, as well as how well it soaked up a puddle of water—after all, those are the two main uses for towels in everyday life.
To do this, I used each towel after my nightly shower for two days, seeing how well it dried me off, as well as evaluating its size, texture, and weight. I also tried each one out as a hair towel to see if it was comfortable or if it weighed down my head.
Next, I evaluated how effectively each towel soaked up a cup of water. I poured the water onto a hard surface, then placed the towel in the liquid, letting it sit for 10 seconds to soak up as much as possible. When I picked the towel up, I evaluated how much water, if any, was left behind.
We also ran more technical tests, weighing the towels when dry and then while completely saturated to determine just how much water they could absorb. After these tests, the towels were left to air dry, then I checked for any musty smell. (This happens if mold and mildew grow while the towel is drying—yuck.) I ran a stain test, too, spilling some soda on the towels and seeing if the spot came out in the wash. I didn’t use any type of stain remover here, just regular laundry detergent.
Finally, I logged my own thoughts about the overall experience of each towel. I weighed in on things like how comfortable each was, how easy they were to store, and if I’d want to use them again.
What You Should Know About Bath Towels
Most bath towels have a few things in common. For one, the majority of towels you see are made of cotton, as it’s one of the softest and most absorbent fibers. There are some specialty products made from bamboo and polyester, but they’re not widely sold.
Similarly, the vast majority of bath towels are made from a fabric called terry cloth, which is recognizable by all its little loops. Terrycloth is preferred for towels because the loops make it soft and create more surface area for the water to be absorbed into.
However, bath towels can be surprisingly complicated from a manufacturing standpoint. There are several kinds of cotton and yarn-construction techniques that can be used to make towels, and these nuances can result in a different look, feel, and performance.
For instance, there are several types of cotton, and while they’re all similar plants, the fibers they yield can be rather different. Egyptian and Turkish cotton plants, grown in Egypt and Turkey, respectively, are known for producing longer strands of the fiber—also called staples. As such, the fibers don’t need to be wound as tightly when they’re made into yarn, and this results in a softer, more plush fabric. By contrast, cotton grown in the U.S. is generally a shorter staple and must be wound tighter to stay in place. If you see a label that just says “100% cotton,” it’s probably made from this standard cotton, not any of the specialty varieties.
Additionally, “organic” cotton has been rising in popularity in recent years. This type of fiber is grown from non-genetically modified plants without the use of any pesticides or fertilizers. The appeal here is that the process is more eco-friendly. (The textile industry historically creates a whole lot of pollution, but that’s a story for a different day.)
As if the many faces of cotton aren’t confusing enough, there are also differences in how the yarn for towels is spun. Cotton can be combed or ringspun—essentially, these processes remove any short, rough fibers, creating long strands of yarn that are as soft and durable as can be. However, that’s not to say regular cotton yarn is rough or weak—ringspun yarn is just slightly more luxurious.
As you can see, there are many different combinations of fibers and construction methods that can go into making a bath towel. Certain decisions, such as using high-end Egyptian cotton or ringspun cotton yarn, result in significantly higher manufacturing costs, which explains the wide range of towel prices.
Other Bath Towels We Tested
Parachute Classic Bath Towel
The Parachute Classic Towel performed similarly to our top pick, but the main difference is it’s more than double the price at close to $30 a piece. However, this luxury towel checked all the boxes for texture, performance, and overall experience. Plus, it’s a solid investment if you want to turn your bathroom into the lap of luxury.
This towel is made from long-staple Turkish cotton, which is supposed to be softer and more absorbent than regular cotton. While this towel does feel wonderful and soak up water like a champ, I have to say I didn’t find its performance to be noticeably superior.
This product is not quite as plush as the Fieldcrest towel, but it’s still very comfortable to wrap around yourself after washing off. In my notes, I wrote that this towel was a good middle-of-the-line option in terms of weight and softness—you could say it’s “just right!” The Goldilocks of towels, if you will.
It did really well in other tests, too. It didn’t develop a musty smell over the course of testing, and it shed its soda stain without the assistance of any stain remover. Overall, this towel does its job and does it well!
If your budget it a little higher, it’s a comparable product to the Fieldcrest Spa Towel, just a little less soft. I have to say I love the serene, muted colors it comes it—so modern!—but that’s a personal preference, of course.
As our token Egyptian cotton towel in the lot, I had high hopes for the Legends Regal Egyptian Cotton Towel, and it didn’t disappoint. It has the soft, plush feel you expect from a luxury towel, especially one made from specialty cotton, with top-notch absorbancy to boot.
As mentioned, Egyptian cotton is supposed to be the most luxurious and absorbent variety of the fiber—the gold-standard of cotton. I was pleased with the weight and texture of this towel, and it was one of the best performers during the spill test, as well. Not a drop of water was left behind!
Additionally, stains come out of this towel fairly easily, even without stain remover. However, it didn’t necessarily perform any better than our top pick, so don’t believe all the hype about Egyptian cotton being king.
The reason this towel didn’t take the top spot is that it developed a slight musty smell over the course of testing. This is apt to happen with heavier towels, though, as they take longer to dry, allowing mold and mildew to set in.
Still, this luxurious towel will serve you well in the bathroom. It comes in more than 15 colors, many of which are rather unique, and there are matching hand towels and washcloths available, as well. However, because these towels are made from the heralded Egyptian cotton, they’re quite pricey at more than $40 a piece.
This long-staple Turkish cotton towel was another top performer. It’s thick and the right degree of soft, making it pleasant to wrap up in after a shower. At 30-by-58-inches, it also has a few extra inches of fabric that make it easy to turn into a makeshift robe.
Another plus was that despite being big, it was surprisingly light when used as a head towel. Finally, the Frontgate towel didn’t develop any sort of musty smell during testing, so that’s definitely a good thing!
The area where the Frontgate Resort Cotton Towel lost points was the stain test, unfortunately. After washing, there was still a visible spot on the towel, so it might need some extra attention to get clean.
However, if you’re not prone to staining your bath towels, this product is definitely a great option. There’s a huge array of colors to choose from, ranging from standard white to dark earth tones, and standard bath towels are around $40 each.
The Hotel Collection Turkish Bath Towel was one of the thickest of the lot, and as such, it’s a little heavier, especially when used as a hair towel. However, this thickness made it very plush and quite warm—perfect for when you get out of a toasty shower into a cold room!
Again, because of its thickness, this towel takes up more space when folded (though not so much that it’s obtrusive) and takes longer to dry than other options. That said, it’s still a solid towel that’s absorbent and comfortable.
If you like your towels on the thicker, warmer side, you might enjoy this product, which comes in about a dozen colors and retails for $60 a piece (though, it’s sold at Macy’s, which is known for its frequent sales).
Right off the bat, I could tell there was something different about this towel. Its texture was a little rougher than many others, and I’m guessing it’s because the Boll & Branch Bath Towel is made from organic cotton. Because of this texture issue, it’s not the most welcoming product. It soaked up water well, but it just wasn’t as soft as I wanted it to be.
Further, this product didn’t do well in the stain test, leaving behind a visible splotch that would need further treatment. Considering these towels are more than $40 a piece and come in just three colors, I think there are better options out there, especially if comfort is a priority. However, it performed well enough in technical tests, so if you’re looking for an organic cotton towel and willing to sacrifice softness, maybe don’t rule this one out.
You may have noticed that I keep saying things like “the right amount of softness,” and that’s because, in my opinion, there’s such a thing as a towel being too soft.
When I tested the Matouk Milagro Bath Towel, I wrote, “This towel is very VERY soft and fluffy. Almost too fluffy—when I first wrapped it around me, I kind of felt like I was wrapped up in a fur coat, which is not what you want when you're wet.” Seriously, I didn’t want to use this towel a second time because it made me feel weird. Additionally, it’s very thick—almost puffy.
The texture issue put me off from this towel, and stains tend to linger on it, as well. Overall, I just don’t think it’s worth the money, as it’s one of the most expensive products we tested at almost $50 a piece. It does come in a lot of bright, fun colors, though.
As indicated in its name, this towel is, in fact, extra large. It measures 35-by-70-inches long, as compared to a standard towel, which are typically around 30-by-54-inches. It comes down to my knees and wraps around me almost twice.
Because of its size, the Utopia Towels Extra Large Bath Towel might be a good option for taller or larger individuals, as it covers more area. However, it was uncomfortable as a hair towel and took up extra space when folded for this same reason.
Beyond that, this towel isn’t anything special. Its texture is fairly rough, reminding me of cheap towels I’ve bought in the past, and it’s quite thin. It left behind some water during the spill test, and it did get a little bit musty, as well.
All in all, it’s not a towel I would reach for again, even if it is a budget option. If you’re looking for a bigger towel, consider buying a “bath sheet” from one of the brands above, as those are basically extra-large towels.
The Wamsutta Hygro Duet Bath Towel is just OK. It felt fine—not soft, but not rough, either—and its performance could be described as “fine,” too. It does its job as a towel, but it left a trace of water behind in the spill test and developed a faint musty smell over the course of testing.
Overall, this is just your basic, inexpensive towel. At $10 a piece, this will do the trick if you’re looking for a budget option to use in your guest bathroom or something along those lines, but I think you deserve better for daily use.
These towels are pretty much what you’d expect when buying a six-piece set for $20. It comes with two bath towels, two hand towels and two washcloths. All these pieces thin and rough, and their performance is mediocre. The only redeeming quality is that the bath tables make for a good hair towel because they’re so lightweight.
I’d say these would be a good buy for a college kid who you know isn’t going to wash them for a whole semester, but other than that, pass on these.
We use standardized and scientific testing methods to scrutinize every product and provide you with objectively accurate results. If you’ve found different results in your own research, email us and we’ll compare notes. If it looks substantial, we’ll gladly re-test a product to try and reproduce these results. After all, peer reviews are a critical part of any scientific process.