These Towels From Target Are The Best Towels In The World And I Will Not Hear Otherwise
Honestly, these towels are the only ones I ever want in my bathroom from here on out. First off, let's talk about the size of these bad boys. The bath sheet (aka the biggest one of the four sizes available) is 65x33 inches — at nearly feet long, this is no puny towel, my friends. Really, is there anything more comforting than enveloping yourself in a giant-ass towel after a nice, hot shower?
Secondly, they are ridiculously soft, thick, and luxurious feeling — I look forward to wrapping myself in one after I shower as much as I look forward to the shower itself — and they're also a great value (the bath sheet is $) considering their quality. I've had these towels for over two years now, and they've held up with no issue after regular use and continue to be as plush and absorbent as ever.
(Plus, the fabric and dyes are free of harmful levels of tons of harsh chemicals. The description says they're "Standard by OEKO-TEX certified," and I have no idea what that means but it sounds legit!)
This question has been well-covered by home websites like The Spruce and message boards for disgruntled AirBnB hosts: your towels are orange because someone in your house is using a face product containing benzoyl peroxide.
Your first question might lead you to new question: How do I get benzoyl peroxide stains out of my towels? You can’t. But you can just buy white towels.
If you really want to outfit your bathroom in jewel tones, you move on to another question: What skincare products work as well as benzoyl peroxide but won’t stain my towels? My own years of experience suggest the answer is “none.”
But that’s okay, because you’ve got one more question: Does someone make benzoyl peroxide-resistant towels? Yes!
Asking these four questions probably took you a half hour. You asked the internet for an answer to your towel problem, clicked on the first ten hits in the hope you could blame your washing machine or towel retailer instead of your own human error, then accepted your culpability for the towel mess, turned your old towels into rags, and ordered some benzoyl peroxide-resistant replacements. Now you just have to wait a few days for new towels to arrive.
Since you have a little more time to wait, why not ask another question?
Writers who remember the stained towels, t-shirts, and bedding of their teen years are heralding benzoyl peroxide-resistant fabric as a life-changing textile innovation. “Without a degree in textiles,” Refinery 29 contributor Rachel Krause warns, “it’s hard to say how they work,” but benzoyl peroxide-resistant sheets will save teens everywhere from a life confined to white bedding.
I remember a lot from my teenage years. I remember all of the acne medications I used, many of which contained benzoyl peroxide. I remember rushing to apply those medications in a bathroom shared with three teenage siblings who were also using benzoyl peroxide. And while I remember plenty of conversations about all the wet towels heaped on the floor of the bathroom closet, I don’t remember a single orange streak.
Neither did my mom, who noted that her towels only started turning orange after we kids grew up, moved out, and came back to use the guest bathroom she’d stocked with decidedly nicer towels than the ones we used as teens.
And neither did Rita, who wrote to syndicated advice columnist Heloise in to ask why her year old towels still retain their color while her new ones get streaks. “What’s the deal?” Rita wrote. “This doesn’t seem like progress to me!”
At least three people remember a time when acne medications did not destroy towels, which led me to a new question: Why weren’t my towels orange?
What was different about the pristine towels I used as a teenager and the towels my family is ruining today? OEKO-TEX. The rhyming Swiss association offers certifications to companies that meet its standards for human and environmental health, including reduced levels of formaldehyde and heavy metals.
OEKO-TEX is not the product of any one government, so its standards are not legal requirements, but if you go out and buy a towel today, it’s most likely an OEKO-TEX certified towel. Wal-mart, Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, Crate & Barrel, WestElm, podcast-ad darling Parachute: anywhere you can think to buy a towel probably sells at least one OEKO-TEX certified one.
I’m issuing no opinion on the OEKO-TEX standards here. It’s certainly laudable to try to preserve the health of factory workers and their communities by restricting the use of chemicals that could be dangerous in large amounts, but I lack the chemistry background to judge the standards. I will, however, slow-clap the general marketing strategy of the OEKO-TEX certification, which makes its towels seem safe alternatives to all the other towels that might destroy the planet or kill you.
The OEKO-TEX Standard was created in , which means that, over the past twenty-five years or so, more and more companies have been reducing the levels of formaldehyde and other chemicals in textile supply chains. I lack both the scientific authority and the requisite willingness to destroy towels necessary to conduct my own experiments, but I hypothesize that if you tested pre-OEKO-TEX towels against post-OEKO-TEX towels, you’d find that the older towels could stand up to benzoyl peroxide. It may not be great for humans or the environment, but that formaldehyde may have acted as a pretty nice towel preservative.
…which brings me back to benzoyl peroxide-resistant towels. If you look at the tag on a benzoyl peroxide-resistant towel, you might notice something missing: an OEKO-TEX certification. Although some companies, like Kohl’s, sell benzoyl peroxide-resistant towels that also meet OEKO-TEX guidelines, other companies, among them L.L. Bean and Bed Bath and Beyond, offer benzoyl peroxide-resistant linens with no OEKO-TEX certification. If these companies are just using a pre-OEKO-TEX towel process, then benzoyl peroxide resistance isn’t a life-changing innovation: it’s a vintage throwback.
The best affordable beach towels of Amazon, Target and more
As the summer quickly approaches, Shopping readers seem to be preparing to spend more time outdoors — searching for the right spray sunscreen and lounge chairs for the patio. The heat also might mean it’s time to put away the heater and turn on a portable air conditioner or cooling fan. And if you’re planning on staying by the pool or going to the beach this summer, you could be looking for an affordable beach towel to take with you. To help, we gathered a few of the most top rated beach towels from retailers like Amazon, Target, Walmart and more.
Best affordable beach towels of
From microfiber to quick-drying, these are a few of the highly rated beach towels we’ve found ahead of the official start of summer.
Best oversized beach towels
Dock & Bay Quick Drying Beach Towel
A popular pick on Amazon, this beach towel has earned an average star rating over more than 1, reviews. You can choose between two sizes — Large, which measures 63 inches by 35 inches, or Extra Large, which measures 78 inches by 35 inches. This towel comes in stripes and you can choose between colors like Cancun Green, Ipanema Orange and Malibu Pink. Made mostly of polyester, the brand claims this towel is designed to dry quickly and stop sand from sticking to it.
Laguna Beach Textile Co. Cabana Beach Towel
This large towel measures 70 inches by 35 inches. Made from cotton, the towel is meant to be both absorbent and plush. Another popular choice among Amazon shoppers, this towel has earned an average star rating over close to 1, reviews. You can choose between different shades for the stripe pattern, including Black and Gray and Midnight Blue and Seafoam.
Sun Squad Reversible Cabana Striped Beach Towel
For a day out in the sun, this beach towel is made from OEKO-TEX certified cotton, which means the material has been tested for harmful substances. The towel features contrasting colored stripes on each side and currently, you can choose between four colorways: Black/Gray, Mint/Pink, Pink/Orange and Green/Navy. This towel has an average star rating over more than 70 reviews on Target.
Better Homes & Gardens Oversized Beach Towel
This oversized option measures 38 inches by 72 inches. The brand says this cotton beach towel has been treated with an antimicrobial treatment that’s meant to help protect against mildew. Pick between patterns like Stripes in cooler hues and Neotropics, a neon leaf design. With Walmart shoppers, this towel has earned an average star rating over more than reviews.
Best round beach towels
Polly House Large Round Beach Towel
For those searching for a circular beach towel, this option has garnered an average star rating over close to reviews on Amazon. Made from microfiber, the towel is designed to be both quick drying after every use. You can choose between patterns like Pineapple, which also features navy stripes, and a colorful Double Fish design.
Ban.do All Around Giant Circle Towel
You have three options to choose from with this towel: the first says “one with the sun,” another is in the shape of an orange slice and one features a daisy design. This cute towel is made from terry cloth and features a cotton tassel trim. It has earned an average 5-star rating over more than reviews at Ban.do.
Best personalized beach towels
Bed Bath & Beyond Classic Stripe Personalized Beach Towel
With this kids’ beach towel, you can customize by choosing between eight colors and adding your name, which will repeat within one of the white stripes. The towel features a polyester front and a cotton velour back. At Bed Bath & Beyond, it has garnered an average star rating over close to reviews.
Ben Kaufman Personalized Joey Velour Cabana Stripe Beach Towel
You can choose between five colorways with this cotton beach towel — including Red and Turquoise stripes — which you can also customize with your name in embroidered letters. This towel has earned an average star rating over more close to reviews on Amazon.
Where to buy beach towels
If you’re looking for more options for beach towels, these trustworthy retailers offer a variety of styles and colors.
Catch up on the latest from NBC News Shopping guides and recommendations and download the NBC News app for full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak.
Ambar Pardilla is a former reporter for Select on NBC News.
We’re BIG fans of these affordable bath towels!
Want to add a pop of color to your powder room or provide balance to an already-colorful bathroom? These oh-so-soft and luxurious Opalhouse Perfectly Soft Bath Towels are sold exclusively at Target and are some of our favorite bath towels! They’re made from % cotton so they feel great against your skin and absorb a lot of water, too.
They’re also “Standard by OEKO-TEX certified“, which means that everything – from the dyes and fabrics to accessories like buttons and zippers – are tested and verified as free from harmful levels of more than substances. Pretty awesome, right?!
These towels are surprisingly affordable, too!
If you’re needing to refresh your bath sheets, hand towels, or washcloths, this collection is surprisingly affordable, even with their everyday prices!
And guess what? We recently tested various bath towels on their softness, plushness, quality, durability, and overall value. This Opalhouse Perfectly Soft Bath Collection got 5-stars all around and was rated the best value for the price! To see what other towels we tested, be sure to take a look at our in-depth post.
Check out more Product Reviews this way!
Towels target tex oeko
Add comfort and convenience to your bath space with bath towels. At Target, find a variety of towel types to suit your needs. Make your bathroom a luxurious retreat with different types of linen. Stock up on a bundle of hand towels or washcloths to keep on your bathroom counter or your kitchen. Pick a large bath towel like a bath sheet or bath body wrap to dry yourself after a nice hot shower. Cotton towels are plush and absorbent for a quick dry while being gentle on your skin. Terry towels are soft and lightweight, perfect for daily use. With a range of colors available, it’s easy to choose towels and linen that match your decor. There are other towels available like waffle-weave, ribbed towels and plush towels with fringe for a little movement. Super-plush bath towels give you a spa-like feel and are also highly absorbent. Choose from a collection of materials and OEKO-TEX certified fabrics like yarn-dyed cotton, zero-twist fabric and more. Create the bathroom of your dreams with easy functional and stylish updates, all available at Target.
Performance Bath Towel Set - Threshold™
Piece 1: Bath Towel: 54 Inches (L) x 30 Inches (W), Quantity 2
Textile Material: 87% Cotton, 13% Polyester
Protective Qualities: Fade-Resistant
Textile construction: Terry
Industry or Government Certifications: MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX
Fabric Weight Type: Heavyweight ( GSM)
OEKO-TEX Institution: TESTEX
OEKO-TEX Certification Number: SHHO
Care and Cleaning: Machine Wash & Tumble Dry
Item Number (DPCI):
Fill your bathing routine with a dash of luxury with the Performance Towel Set from Threshold™. Boasting a terry construction, these towels not only feel soft against your skin, but they're also highly absorbent for convenient and comfortable drying. Featuring a solid color fabric, they can be easily coordinated with a variety of decor styles and color palettes in your bathroom. Arrange them in a wicker basket or hang them from your towel rod or books to bring function and simple style to your bath space.
We made it better so you can feel better. To keep you safe from harmful substances, this product has been independently tested and certified against a list of over harmful chemicals according to strict STANDARD by OEKO-TEX® guidelines.
MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEXWe made it better. Independently certified and produced with socially responsible work practices to ensure it is safe for you and the people who made it.
Fade-ResistantFade-resistant treatment keeps fabric looking like new.
Low LintDesigned to produce less lint.
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How we tested
Why you should trust us
As a senior staff writer for Wirecutter, I’ve written most of our home-textile guides, from cotton sheets to blankets to duvet covers. I first took over our guide to bath towels in , building on the research of Melissa Tan and Stephen Treffinger, the latter of whom interviewed Martin Bide, PhD, a professor in the Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design at the University of Rhode Island; Sean Cormier, assistant chair in the Fashion Institute of Technology’s Textile Development and Marketing department; and Angela Massengill, a fabric evaluation technologist at Cotton Incorporated. Stephen also spoke with Ben Mead, a customer relations and technical specialist at Hohenstein Institute, the US testing lab for the Oeko-Tex standard, an environmental safety certification you’ll see on some towels. To learn more about towels, I interviewed Rick Basinger, director of manufacturing and innovation at Mills; I also spoke with Shane Monson, founder of Onsen, about lattice- and waffle-weave towels. (Monson’s interview in no way informed our decision to recommend Onsen towels.)
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Who should get this
A good towel should last five to 10 years—or longer, depending on how you wash and dry it. But even the best towels eventually wear out after daily use: The seams can come undone, the base fabric can begin to shred, and the loops can degrade, resulting in a less-fluffy feel. Towels can also lose absorbency. If that’s the case with your bath towels, it’s time to invest in some new ones. We also have some tips on how to pick the right towel for your preferences.
How we picked
After talking to several experts and conducting our research, we determined that a great towel should meet the following criteria:
Absorbent: When you reach for a towel, it should first and foremost be effective at drying you off. It should wick water away from your body and into itself, not just push the water around.
Good texture: A towel should also feel comfortable against your skin, whatever that means to you. Some people like super-plush, soft towels, while others prefer thinner, pleasantly scratchy ones. Determining the kind of texture you prefer is one of the easiest ways to find a towel you’ll love.
Feeling the darker version of the towel you’re considering should be more representative of its long-term softness. Deeply saturated colors use so much dye, they don’t absorb the temporary softeners manufacturers add.
Quick to dry: A good towel should dry quickly so that it’s ready for your next shower and less prone to developing a mildewy smell.
Durable: Over the long term, it shouldn’t fall apart, shred, or unravel. Pilling, shrinkage, and fading—although normal with repeated use—should not occur to an annoying degree.
Ample coverage: A too-small or too-big towel is unpleasant, leaving you either cold and uncovered or drowning in weighty material. The amount of coverage varies from person to person, but we asked Wirecutter staffers in a range of heights and sizes to wrap up in our picks and tell us what they thought.
Made of % cotton (preferably extra-long-staple): Although you’ll find some fans of alternative fibers such as modal and bamboo rayon, the consensus from experts we’ve spoken to, for this guide and others, is that % cotton delivers the combination of absorbency, softness, and durability most people want.
To find the towels we wanted to test, we sifted through hundreds of options online—the selection is dizzying and constantly changing—at Amazon, JCPenney, Macy’s, Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and Walmart, plus brands like The Company Store, Lands’ End, L.L.Bean, Brooklinen, Riley Home, and Onsen. We paid attention to owner ratings and comments, as well as reader comments.
I’ve also visited Kohl’s, Macy’s, JCPenney, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target to evaluate the color and quality of dozens of towels in person. Rick Basinger, director of manufacturing and innovation at Mills, suggested I use my nondominant hand to touch towels—it’s less rough and can better pick up the softness and feel. He warned that manufacturers often make new towels feel smoother by adding softeners, but that they wash out after a few cycles (something we confirmed in our own tests). He also noted that dark and bold colors are more representative of a towel’s long-term softness because their dye prevents them from absorbing those softeners. Once the softener washes out, the towels feel the same regardless of their color.
I’ve considered towels and tested 41 since
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How we tested
For every round of testing, I begin by measuring each towel and evaluating the feel straight out of the package. I wash and dry everything once, measure each towel again to check for shrinkage, and look for noticeable fraying, pilling, pulled threads, color fading, or roughness. After eliminating a few towels at this stage, I use each remaining finalist after a shower, assessing how absorbent and comfortable it is and how well it covers my body (I wear a size 16). Then I time how long it takes the wet test towels to air-dry. After dismissing a few more, I wash the remaining contenders another four times, for a total of five laundry cycles. (In my experience, five washes is enough to make sure that all softeners are gone and the towel’s true feel is coming through.) And finally, I check each towel again for fraying, pilling, pulled threads, color fading, and roughness to determine our picks.
In previous tests I’ve used multiple evaluators throughout the above process, but due to the pandemic I was the sole tester this time around. In total, we’ve showered for these tests about 85 times since , not including daily long-term testing of our existing picks.
Our pick: Frontgate Resort Cotton Bath Towel
If you want a luscious towel that’s warm and incredibly soft, even after multiple washes, we recommend the Frontgate Resort Cotton Bath Towel. It’s been our top pick since (We’ve retested new Frontgate towels with every subsequent update we’ve made to this guide—nothing has performed better.) I spent far too much time in testing just squishing the Frontgate with my fingers because it’s the densest, softest towel I’ve ever tried. It’s just as absorbent as many other terry towels we’ve tested, and it comes in one of the most extensive range of colors we’ve seen. It’s developed a slight cult following among our staff members and has had consistently high user reviews for years. Of all the picks I’ve made, in all the guides I’ve written for Wirecutter, the Frontgate towel is the one I hear people rave about the most.
The Frontgate feels plush and extravagant to use, it’s Oeko-Tex certified (and thus free of harmful substances), and it’s made from long-staple Turkish cotton, so it’s smooth and durable. Only the Onsen is made with a higher-quality cotton (extra-long-staple Supima cotton), but it costs about 40% more. The Frontgate’s tight pile was the thickest of the towels we’ve tested, making it very fluffy. Walking around my bedroom wrapped in the Frontgate, I feel like I’m on a spa day, and after our test washes, it looked almost new and actually felt better than it did straight out of the package. It’s been consistently fantastic through three rounds of testing over the last four years, as well as through years of long-term testing, including daily use and scores of washes.
The Frontgate was very absorbent in our shower tests, soaking up water instead of pushing it around. Terry towels often feel like they drag uncomfortably while you’re drying off, but the Frontgate’s pile feels smooth and moves easily over wet skin. It had less of that stick-to-the-body feeling than many other towels we’ve tried, including those from Brooklinen and Snowe. It also draped better than many others, though not as well as our upgrade pick, the Riley Spa Bath Towel. Unlike other thick terry towels that felt stiff, the Frontgate’s bulk had more movement and felt fluid to use. In our initial tests the Frontgate dried in the same amount of time as most other terry towels we’ve tested—about 15 hours on a summer day in New Jersey—but it didn’t come close to the five-hour dry time of our also-great pick from Onsen, a lattice towel.
The Frontgate offers 22 rich, saturated colors to choose from, more than any of our other picks, which means it should work for any bathroom’s decor. Only the Garnet Hill Signature Towel comes close to this color selection, with 18 options available. We didn’t notice any major color fading after testing the Frontgate. When we first discovered the Frontgate four years ago, it had about 3, mostly positive user reviews—it’s now approaching 9, reviews, more than 7, of which are five stars. I frequently hear from readers and staffers (and even from a dad in my daughter’s gymnastics class) how much they love this towel. Frontgate also makes bath sheets and coordinating accessories, including hand towels, washcloths, and bath mats (also a pick in our guide to the best bathroom rugs and bath mats), if you want to kit out your entire bathroom.
Long-term test notes
I’ve been long-term testing all of our Frontgate test towels from , , and There are some slightly bleached areas on the oldest one—probably due to the skin-care products I use, rather than a problem with the towel itself (the danger of using non-white towels). The terry gets fuzzier over time, and it inevitably loses some of its initial softness, but the Frontgate is still softer than newer test towels from other companies. And it’s still the best towel in my linen closet.
Flaws but not dealbreakers
The Frontgate is a thick, bulky towel, which some people don’t like. If you know you prefer thinner towels, it might feel overwhelming and cloying to use. It will probably feel too soft for people who like towels that are pleasantly rough and invigorating. Its heft also means the Frontgate is bulkier to store and wash—you won’t be able to fit as many towels in a load of laundry as you would with our other picks (especially the much thinner Onsen towel).
Because the Frontgate is so hefty, air-drying times vary depending on the climate where you live. When I first timed how long it took, it was a hot summer day in New Jersey, and the towel took about 12 hours to dry while hanging in my bathroom. When I retested new ones for our update, they took more than 24 hours to air-dry, this time during winter in the Pacific Northwest. To prevent bacteria from moving in and making themselves at home, you may need to wash your Frontgate more often if you live in a humid or wet climate.
Budget pick: Fieldcrest Casual Solid Bath Towel
If you want a plush terry towel but don’t want to break the bank, we recommend JCPenney’s Fieldcrest Casual Solid Bath Towel. The Fieldcrest line, which was formerly carried by Target, moved to JCPenney exclusively in spring We’ve recommended several of the brand’s towels as budget picks in the past, and for this update we tested four of the newly relaunched Fieldcrest towels from JCPenney. All of them were excellent, but the Casual Solid stood out for its softness, color choices, simple design, and price. We don’t know whether Fieldcrest towels are being made by the same manufacturer, or if the Fieldcrest brand is just a licensing agreement (we’re looking into it), but as far as we can tell, the move to JCPenney has not diminished the quality.
Of the dozen budget-friendly towels I tested in , the Fieldcrest Casual Solid was the softest, even after five washes. It had no pills, snags, or tangled seams, unlike the Target Threshold Signature Spa Bath Towel, which was the next-best affordable towel for softness and color. The Fieldcrest is also slightly less expensive, thanks to JCPenney’s continuous discounts: Throughout months of testing, this bath towel was on sale every time I looked, and frequently for less than $10—making it by far the best value for the quality among our picks, and out of all the budget towels I tested.
The Fieldcrest is thick and warm, so it’s a good choice for people who like a cozy towel. It’s almost as generously sized as our other picks, but like our other picks it’s also available as a larger bath sheet. The Fieldcrest was absorbent after a shower but didn’t feel sopping wet, unlike the Target Threshold Spa towel, the Royal Turkish towels I tested, and the much more expensive Riley Plush Bath Towel I tried. It was slow to dry in our tests (it took more than 24 hours on a wet winter day in the Pacific Northwest), but so was the Frontgate. As long as you swap it out every few days and wash it to avoid germ buildup, it should be fine. All of the towels we recommend, including the Fieldcrest, are Oeko-Tex certified as being free of harmful chemicals; however, there’s no information provided on the materials used in the Casual Solid (whether it’s long-staple cotton, for example, or where the cotton’s from), unlike our other picks. It’s almost certainly made with lower-quality fibers than the Frontgate and Riley towels, which means it may not last as long.
We’ll continue to test the Fieldcrest to see how it wears over time. Also, it’s worth noting that our budget-pick towels are often discontinued after a year or two (no matter what store sells them), which makes it challenging to add to your stash or replace any that wear out. We’ll be keeping an eye on inventory issues, but if you really like the Fieldcrest, it could be worth stocking up.
Upgrade pick: Riley Spa Bath Towel
If you prefer terry but don’t like thick, supersoft towels—or if you want a terry with a little more style and don’t mind splurging—we recommend the Riley Spa Bath Towel. It’s thinner than the Frontgate, and it has more texture when you run it across your skin. That doesn’t mean it’s a “rough” towel, though. Both the Riley and the Frontgate are the same weight— grams per square meter (GSM)—but when you look across the surface of the plush Frontgate, you see densely packed, fluffy terry. When you look across the surface of the Riley, you can see individual terry loops, each with room to move on its own. The loops are less densely packed, which means you can feel each one when you run your fingers over the towel or swipe it across your back. It’s quick to absorb water and feels almost ticklish, but not quite. It’s wonderfully tactile, if you like a towel with a little more bite to it but don’t want something with a slight scratch (like the Onsen). The Riley is made of long-staple Egyptian cotton, which means the fibers are long and strong, and it should last for years (we’ll keep testing it to see how it holds up, too). It lost a good deal of its initial, out-of-the-package softness after five washes, but it still felt comfortable after a shower.
Most terry towels have a dobby, or a strip of flat-woven fabric, at either end. The Riley is terry across the entire surface, giving it a far less traditional look than most terry towels I’ve tested. It also has rounded edges, with a loop on one side for hanging on a bathroom hook. It has a great drape compared with our other picks, which adds to its modern, unfussy feel. The Riley folds up smaller than the Frontgate, so it takes up a bit less space on a shelf, but it’s still nice and big for wrapping around the body. Like all of our picks, it comes in a bath-sheet size for more coverage.
The Riley Spa Bath Towel is thinner than the Frontgate, and it has more texture when you run it across your skin. It’s quick to absorb water and feels almost ticklish, but not quite. Photo: Michael Murtaugh
The Riley towel comes with a loop on one side for hanging on a bathroom hook. Photo: Michael Murtaugh
The rounded edges give the Riley Spa Towel a more modern feel. Photo: Michael Murtaugh
The Riley towel costs about 30% more than the Frontgate, so it’s an investment. Riley Home does have frequent holiday sales, and normally I’d suggest waiting to buy these pricey towels until they’re discounted. But over the past few years, we’ve tracked several complaints from staff and readers alike about long shipping times and spotty customer service from Riley, which usually peak when the company gets a large influx of orders from a big sale. (The problems involved mostly comforters, though, and we have seen a noticeable drop in complaints in ) The quality of this towel is high enough that we still recommend it, so if you shop a sale, be prepared for potential shipping delays—and as always, let us know if you have any problems.
Also great: The Onsen Bath Towel
If plush terry towels feel too heavy, or you want a towel that dries quickly, you may like the thinner texture of a waffle weave (sometimes called a waffle or honeycomb weave), and The Onsen Bath Towel is the best one we’ve tried. A Wirecutter pick since , the Onsen absorbs water quickly, moves smoothly over the body, and has just a hint of coarseness that feels pleasant, perfect for scratching an itch on your back that you just can’t reach. It’s one of the few waffle towels we’ve seen that’s also available as a bath sheet, but because waffle towels stretch more than terry, I found that the bath-towel size felt generous. The Onsen, which is made of % Supima cotton, costs almost 50% more than the Frontgate, but that’s similar to other waffles we’ve seen. It’s significantly less expensive than some high-end, Japanese lattice towels we’ve tried—like the iconic Kontex (Rikumo) towel, a linen-cotton blend. It’s also less scratchy on the skin.
Like all of our picks, the Onsen is Oeko-Tex certified. Instead of the chemical-softening process terry towels go through, an Onsen rep told us it garment washes its towels at specific temperatures and for multiple cycles to soften them. It comes in eight colors.
One of the only downsides to the Onsen—and any waffle/honeycomb/lattice towel in general—is that the loose weave can be more prone to snagging. But we didn’t experience any snagging with our test towel. Photo: Michael Murtaugh
When folded, the Onsen towel (bottom) is about half the size of the Frontgate towel (top). Photo: Michael Murtaugh
The Onsen is a genuine, fast-drying towel, unlike the terry towels I’ve tried that are advertised as “quick dry” (spoiler: those take almost as long to dry as the thickest, densest terry). In testing, terry took anywhere from 15 to 24 hours to dry, depending on the time of year and climate; after a morning shower in our tests, the Onsen felt bone dry by lunchtime, roughly five hours later. That’s because it’s thin, and its weave allows for lots of airflow. It’s not as warm as our terry picks—which matters if you like to feel cozy when wrapping up in a towel—but the Onsen folds up smaller and takes up less space in your linen closet, a plus if you’re cramped for storage.
Long-term test notes
When I first tested the Onsen in , I noted that I wasn’t sure whether it would last as long or look as good over time as our terry-cloth picks. Because waffle is stretchier than terry, it can look misshapen after a while, and lattice towels like the Onsen will eventually snag. One of our long-term testers told me, “I hate plush, spongy towels, so using the Onsen was a revelation. Its texture feels pleasantly coarse against my skin, but it’s not too scratchy. I get upset when it’s in the laundry and I have to resort to any other type of towel. Once in a while, I’ll catch a bracelet or ring in the loose weave—which is annoying—but I love the feel of it so much that it’s worth it to me to pay a little extra attention while drying off.”
My 9-year-old daughter, a kid with sensory-processing issues who loves a lightweight, textured towel, has been using our sample Onsen since she was 6. For all the abuse it’s taken—it’s constantly left on the floor, it’s been used as a grooming table for her pet bunny, and it’s survived several bouts of stomach flu thanks to hot, sanitizing wash-and-dry cycles—it’s in fantastic shape, with minimal snags, no signs of color fading, and no significant changes in the feel. And it’s still her favorite towel.
What to look forward to
Based on reader feedback and our own research, we’re planning to expand this guide in a future update with more picks in a few other towel categories, including organic cotton, hand towels and washcloths, and peshtemal (sometimes called a hammam, fouta, or Turkish towel). We’ll also update our research on sustainability to address why we haven’t tested alternative fibers in the past, and to see whether it’s worth revisiting that position.
Towel labels and descriptions are often full of industry terms that may be unfamiliar, but they can help you figure out how the towel was made and how it may feel to use. Each brand’s label may not include the same type of information, so comparison shopping can get tricky, but here are some terms you might see associated with towels.
Long-staple/extra-long-staple cotton: As with other home textiles, such as sheets, the best towels are made from long-staple or extra-long-staple (ELS) cotton, which produces smoother, stronger yarns. (A staple is a length of cotton fiber or thread.) “The longer the staple length, the smoother the yarn is going to be,” Basinger, of Mills, told us. Generally, long-staple fibers range from 1⅛ to 1¼ inches, while ELS fibers are 1⅜ inches or longer. Basinger said long-staple cotton is also the most flexible, which increases longevity.
Turkish/Egyptian/Pima/Supima cotton: Labels that say Turkish, Egyptian, Pima, or Supima (the brand name for American Pima) usually indicate long-staple or ELS cotton. Be aware, though, that some manufacturers use terms like “Egyptian cotton” and “Turkish cotton” to sell inferior, shorter-staple cotton. You can read more about cotton quality in this blog post.
Combed and ring-spun cotton: High-quality towels are often made from cotton that’s been combed to remove impurities and linty fibers, or ring spun, a specific spinning process requiring long-staple cotton that creates finer, smoother strands of yarn.
Some manufacturers use terms like “Egyptian cotton” and “Turkish cotton” to sell inferior, shorter-staple cotton.
GSM: A towel’s weight is measured in grams per square meter (GSM); thick terry towels will generally have a higher GSM than airy waffle towels. It’s become a less common measurement over the past few years: Thinner, lower-quality terry towels rarely include it on labels or in product descriptions, and we don’t often see it used for waffle towels at all. Plush terry towels, frequently advertised as hotel-style towels, still tend to include GSM as a sign of luxury. It’s typically a high number—these towels have more terry loops in them than cheaper towels, making them thicker, heavier, and more expensive. Our top, budget, and upgrade picks all have a GSM of either or
Oeko-Tex:Oeko-Tex certification ensures that fabric is free from certain substances and processes that are potentially harmful to people and the environment. Read more about this certification and eco-friendly cotton in our guide to the best cotton sheets.
Care and maintenance
Manufacturers typically treat towels with a variety of finishes, such as fabric softener, to make them feel fluffy and soft in the store. These coatings can leave a waxy buildup that makes the towel less absorbent, so wash new towels before using. We found that all traces of these softeners usually wear off by the fifth wash. Using fabric softener at home every once in a while (if your towels feel scratchy) is fine, but try to avoid using softeners regularly. Similarly, using too much detergent can make your towels feel stiff and cause a buildup of residue. Wirecutter’s appliance team advises no more than 2 tablespoons of detergent per load for modern washing machines. While hot water will prevent white towels from getting dingy, it will fade colors more quickly, so wash your bright towels in warm or cold.
Garnet Hill Signature Towel: This was a very good towel (we’ve tested it twice), and it comes in some great colors, but it wasn’t quite as absorbent or plush as our picks from Frontgate and Fieldcrest. If both of those are unavailable, or you just prefer Garnet Hill’s color selection, it’s a good choice.
Riley’s Plush Bath Towel is another strong option in the “supersoft plush” towel category, but it lost much more softness in the wash than the Frontgate and felt less absorbent in our shower tests than our other picks. We prefer the company’s Spa towel, which performed more consistently in our testing.
After the Fieldcrest Casual Solid, the Target Threshold Signature Spa Bath Towel was the next-best affordable towel in our tests. If the Fieldcrest is unavailable, this is worth a look. I slightly preferred the Threshold’s color (both test towels were navy blue, but the Fieldcrest leaned a little more toward violet); however, after several washes the seams on the Threshold’s dobby looked tangled and loose, and it collected a lot of lint and debris—everything but boys and money, as Dolly Parton says in Steel Magnolias—while drying in my bathroom.
The Target Casaluna Organic Bath Towel was also a strong budget contender. It was more absorbent in shower tests than Target’s Threshold Signature Spa Bath Towel, but after five washes there were too many loose threads and snags, and it lost too much softness to recommend. We might reconsider it for the next update when we look at more organic cotton options, though.
I wasn’t sure what to make of JCPenney’s Fieldcrest Jacquard Textured Bath Towel. I tested one in navy blue, and it looked and felt more like a blanket than a bath towel. It also was soft and survived our wash tests with no damage, but in our shower tests it was the only towel that left me covered in lint and bits of blue fiber.
Authenticity 50’s Essential Cotton Towels weren’t bad. They were pleasantly scratchy out of the package, and they actually shrank less in the wash than our Frontgate and Fieldcrest picks in our testing. (Authenticity 50 is also one of the few companies we’ve considered that makes its towels in the United States.) However, the towels lost some of their softness in the wash, they’re currently only available in white, and A50 has had a lot of inventory problems due to the pandemic. These are worth a look if you like a more textured terry towel, and we might retest them when inventory stabilizes.
Target’s Made by Design Solid Bath Towel: In testing we liked this towel almost as much as the discontinued Bed Bath & Beyond Dri-Soft, a former pick, but it’s a cotton-polyester blend instead of % cotton, which we prefer.
We tested Target’s Room Essentials Grid Texture Bath Towel in as a possible quick-dry option, but it took just as long as the thickest terry—about 24 hours on a wet winter day in Washington. Also, the towels look and feel cheap, and they don’t get any better after a few washes.
Snowe Classic Bath Towel: We’ve tested this towel twice and, although it’s soft, it clings to wet skin and isn’t as absorbent as our picks.
Brooklinen Super-Plush Bath Towel: Similar to the Snowe and Parachute towels, the Brooklinen towel was fine, but it’s clingier and less absorbent than our picks, and pricey for the quality. The Brooklinen also isn’t sold by the towel; you have to purchase pairs or towel sets.
Lands’ End Supima Cotton Bath Towel: Previously a runner-up pick, but it didn’t absorb as well as other towels in follow-up tests, and we thought it clung to the body too much out of the shower.
L.L.Bean Premium Cotton Towel: This was the fastest-drying terry towel in our first timed test—it dried in about 10 hours. But it was rough and uncomfortable to use.
Target Threshold Performance Bath Towel: This comes in some fun colors and costs less than our top pick, but it lost a lot of its softness and loft after the first wash, so much so that we didn’t shower with it.
The Utopia GSM Towel from Amazon felt promising out of the package, and it was absorbent in our shower tests. But it was too small to cover my size body adequately, and after five washes there were snags and loose threads everywhere. Our test towel looked like it was falling apart.
The Hammam Linen Bath Towels were too small and rough, and during our testing they left my skin more damp after a shower than other budget-friendly towels.
We tried the Amadeus Turkish Bath Towel collection in to see how towels from a real hotel supplier would perform in our tests. Not great, as it turns out. These are considered “premium” hotel-room towels, the highest-quality designation by this supplier’s definition, but they were noticeably rough and cheap. One towel arrived stuck to itself, and when I pulled to unfold it, several strands of terry snagged right away. It didn’t make it past the initial feel test out of the package.
We tested the Salt Quick Dry Bath Towel from Bed Bath & Beyond in , and were ready to make it a pick as a very thin, slightly textured option. But as we confirmed with the company, it was discontinued during our testing; what’s on the website is being sold on clearance.
Our former runner-up pick, Target’s Fieldcrest Reserve towel, was discontinued in
Our former budget pick, Bed Bath & Beyond’s Dri-Soft towel, was also discontinued in
In past years we’ve also tested and dismissed the following: Chakir Turkish Linens Luxury Hotel & Spa Bath Towel, Nordstrom at Home Hydrocotton Bath Towel, Pottery Barn Hydrocotton Quick-Drying Towel, Restoration Hardware Gram Turkish Bath Towel, L.L.Bean Egyptian Cotton Towel, The Company Store Green Earth Quick-Dry Towel (which may have been redesigned since we first tested it), Made Here by Mills Bath Towel, Amazon's Pinzon Heavyweight Luxury Gram Bath Towel, and the now-discontinued IKEA Fräjen Bath Towel, Royal Velvet Signature Soft Bath Towel, and Target Fieldcrest Spa Solid Bath Towel.
We’ve opted not to test terry towels from Crate and Barrel, Overstock.com, and Walmart because they were (respectively) pricey for the quality, sold only in sets, and had almost no information online about the cotton used.
Parachute Waffle Towel: The Parachute towel is very soft, cheaper than the Onsen, and comes in a couple of additional colors, too. Our adult testers didn’t like the feel as much, though—it clung more to wet skin when drying off. It’s also much stretchier, as well as less dense (while the Onsen is opaque, the Parachute lets light through), so we’re not sure whether it will be as durable over time. But our 6-year-old tester prefered this towel for its softness, bigger size, and light weight. So this could be a good pick for kids.
We recommend the robe version of the Brooklinen Waffle Bath Towel, but in testing the towel seemed to shrink significantly in the wash, and it just didn’t have the same quick-drying, pleasantly textured feel as the Onsen. While it is softer, it felt almost squeaky to rub between the fingers after wash tests—which is a shame, because it’s lovely out of the package, it drapes well, and its robe counterpart is exceptional. We may retest the Brooklinen towel in the future to see if its poor showing was a fluke, since I know this fabric performs well in robe form (I tested it).
Rikumo Vintage Waffle Towel: This classic lattice towel has been produced in Imabari, Japan, since the s. It’s imported to the United States through a company called Morihata, which sells it to several stores, as well as through its retail site Rikumo. (If you see any of these names credited to an imported Japanese lattice towel—Kontex, Morihata, Rikumo—it’s all the same towel.) It’s a linen-cotton blend, which made it feel scratchier on the skin than the Onsen, and it was more clingy while toweling off. We’ve also noticed that this towel is frequently out of stock, a common issue with imports. It costs four times as much as the Frontgate towel, and almost three times as much as the Onsen.
Gilden Tree Waffle Weave Bath Towel: This towel, which is Oeko-Tex certified, was as absorbent as the other lattice towels we tested but uncomfortable to use. It felt like drying off with a thick, rough dish towel, rather than with a luxury bath towel (but it has a luxury price). The weave was also very flat and didn’t look like other waffle weaves we tested, so we’re not sure if it was made with a different process.
Rejuvenation Japanese Linen Waffle Towel: A cotton-linen blend, this towel is very similar to the Rikumo towel and costs about the same. The Rejuvenation is lovely, but thin. It was flatter than other lattice-weave towels we tested and didn’t have as much depth in each waffle square, though it was still plenty absorbent. Softer than the Rikumo (but not as soft as our pick, the Onsen), the Rejuvenation has since been discontinued.
Bath Towel Buying Guide, Wayfair
Rick Basinger, director of manufacturing and innovation, Mills, interview, July 12,
Bath Towel, How Products Are Made
How to Wash Towels to Make Them Last Longer, Better Homes & Gardens
Martin Bide, PhD, professor, Department of Textiles, Fashion Merchandising and Design, The University of Rhode Island, interview
Sean Cormier, assistant professor, Textile Development and Marketing Department, Fashion Institute of Technology, interview
Ben Mead, customer relations and technical specialist at Hohenstein Institute, interview