Cocooning yourself in a soft towel after a bath or shower is one of life’s little pleasures, but bath towels are an often overlooked home essential. They’re used every day, washed regularly and are often kept for years (they should be replaced every two years), yet we expect them to be soft and absorbent each time we use them.
First things first, check your current towels. If they aren’t drying you effectively or feel a little scratchy and rough, you’re probably due new ones. But which to choose? That depends on what you want from a bath towel.
If you’re looking for a squishy, super-absorbent towel, go for those with densely packed, long loops of yarn in 100 per cent cotton. If the weight of the towel is given, anything that’s 600gsm or above is considered heavy and very plush. It’s worth remembering that these towels will take longer to dry, so if you’re a two shower a day person, you may find it won’t be completely dry each time you use it.
For a quicker-drying, more lightweight option, look for a cotton and polyester mix or a cotton and linen mix, and shorter loops with a lower grams per square metre number. The trade-off is that they feel a little less luxurious and are slightly less absorbent than 100 per cent cotton, deep-pile towels.
No matter which type you choose, always wash new towels before first use. This will stop them from shedding and leaving fluff in every nook and cranny…
In this test, we looked at how soft each towel felt, how absorbent they were, how quick they were to dry and how well they washed.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Soak&Sleep ultimate supima cotton towel
At 750gsm, this is a weighty, extremely plush towel that feels absolutely blissful wrapped around you after a long soak in the bath. It’s extremely absorbent and dried our tester in seconds. We even gave it an extra workout by seeing how well it would towel-dry long hair and found it to be very adept at removing a lot of excess water. And come the following morning, the towel was nice and dry, ready to be used again. After washing, we let it air-dry then gave it a good shake before folding it away, and it was just as fluffy as when it was brand new. If it’s luxury you seek, this towel ticks every box.
Buy now £23.00, Soakandsleep.com
The White Company spa cloud waffle towel
If you’re anything like us, when you see a waffle weave pattern on a towel you’ll automatically think of a spa. This crisp white, 100 per cent cotton design is no different. It’s lightweight at 420gsm and dried really quickly after use – it could have been used again that same day (in the evening), so is a good choice for those who take a couple of showers a day.
It folds down to a nice compact size too, so is ideal if, like this tester, your airing cupboard is already pretty full. The softness is second to none considering this towel doesn’t have a deep pile like some of the others we tested, and that softness was retained after washing.
Buy now £25.00, Thewhitecompany.com
Monaco Supreme cotton towel
We love the elegant stripe pattern on this towel and at 500gsm, it feels fluffy and soft without being too weighty. If anything, the ribbed design makes it feel thicker than it is. The charcoal colour is lovely too and looked just as bold after a few 40 degree washes and a quick tumble dry on a low setting. Ultra-absorbent and quick to dry when placed on an unheated towel rail, this 100 per cent cotton towel is the perfect blend of weight and absorbency and belies its low price. A brilliant all-rounder.
Buy now £12.50, Dusk.com
Kirby organic cotton/linen large bath towel
This towel offers the best of both worlds: a cotton and linen mix on one side with a pleasingly rustic washed effect and a super-soft cotton second side that’s more like a traditional towel. Both sides are super absorbent and dry really quickly thanks to their short pile, but the star of the show is the beautiful tassel detailing along the bottom edge. It’s worth popping this towel on a low tumble-dry setting or giving it a really good shake after air drying to keep the tufted part of the tassels nice and fluffy. It’s not cheap at £60, but you are effectively getting two towels in one and it is bigger than most at 150cm x 100cm.
Buy now £60.00, Laredoute.co.uk
Next Egyptian cotton towel
For such a thick, squishy towel (600gsm), we were pleasantly surprised by the quality of Next’s offering considering its low price. Aside from the fantastic price, its big selling point is that it comes in a whopping 42 colours; we defy you not to find a shade that suits. It’s really absorbent and dried wet skin in seconds and was bone dry, ready for another shower the following morning. We had the lavender shade to test and gave it four washes – two at 30ºC and two at 40ºC – to see how colourfast the fabric remained; it was great, with no dulling at all.
Buy now £12.00, Next.co.uk
Pendleton Jacquard bath towel
Uninspiring, plain-dye towels not your thing? Then lift your bathroom decor with this tribal-inspired print. It’s made from 100 per cent cotton and is rated at 530gsm, so it’s not too heavy and dries quickly, but still feels lovely and soft. At 76cm x 146cm, it’s slightly bigger than a regular bath towel and because the pile is packed pretty closely together, the texture reminds us a little of a beach towel. It washed brilliantly and was still squishably soft after both air-drying and a stint in the tumble dryer, though we’d say it felt marginally softer after tumble-drying. A lovely alternative to a plain-dye towel.
Buy now £47.50, Pendletonwoolenmills.eu
Sand & Salt Belize hammam towel
A thick, deep-pile towel is great in the depths of winter, but what about when you want something less heavy for the warmer months? This lightweight, 100 per cent cotton towel is generously sized at 160cm x 90cm yet weighs only 390g and was the quickest drying by far of all the designs we tested.
As well as its beautiful blue colour (one of five in the range), we loved its subtle, herringbone-style weave and fun tassels. It washed really well at just 30ºC and folds down to a rally compact size – perfect if you don’t have space to store big, bulky towels. It can also be used as a beach towel or a picnic blanket and would be invaluable on a camping trip. Definitely one of our favourites.
Buy now £34.00, Sandandsalt.co.uk
Sheridan Living Textures bath towel
Another nice, weighty towel that uses Hydro technology, which allows for faster water absorption due to the way the cotton fibres are spun, and it works. This towel was noticeably quick at drying our tester off after a shower. We also really liked the subtle ribbed pattern on this 100 per cent cotton design; it’s smart and a little different from the more common plain finishes on offer.
Despite a weight of 670gsm and a thick, squishy feel, it was dry and ready to use the following morning for the next shower. Two washes – one that was left to air dry, the other tumble-dried – both produced a still-fluffy towel that felt as good as new. A choice of 12 colours is a nice bonus, too.
Buy now £15.00, Sheridanaustralia.co.uk
Dunelm dorma tencel Sumptuously Soft bath towel
The stand-out feature of this towel is how amazingly soft it felt. It’s made from a mix of 70 per cent cotton and 30 per cent Tencel (also known as lyocell), which are fibres made from spun wood pulp. And they make for an extremely soft towel.
Plus, the manufacturing process has a low environmental impact with no waste; everything can be recycled, used again or goes back into the environment, so it gets a big tick in the ‘eco’ box. The duck egg shade (one of seven) we tested was particularly lovely and came out of the washing and drying process just as vibrant and fluffy as when it went in. Definitely the softest towel we tested, and a great price, too.
Buy now £18.00, Dunelm.com
Clarissa Hulse Rainforest towel
Made from 100 per cent cotton velour, this towel is not as heavy as some we’ve tested but still feels really luxurious with a velvet-like texture. We love the eye-catching print featuring trendy fern and bamboo motifs and would pick out the darker green shades for hand towels and a bath mat.
This towel probably fared best of all those tested after going through a wash and dry cycle because the velour fibres are a little more malleable than regular cotton. The short pile helps it retain its good looks, too. It dried extremely quickly after use and could have been used again the same day.
Buy now £11.00, Clarissahulse.com
The verdict: Bath towels
For sheer plush, cocooning softness, Soak&Sleep’s ultimate supima cotton towel is hard to beat. Its absorbency is second to none and for a very reasonable price of £23, it’s difficult to find fault with it.
Coming in a close second is the Belize hammam towel from Sand & Salt. The beautiful colour, generous size and the fact it has multiple uses is a perfect combination and represents great value. A must-have for warm summer months when you want something a little less bulky.
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To add a touch more luxury to your bath times read our round up of the of our favourite products for an indulgent soak in the tub