A close up of luxury towels

With Bath Towels Invest In Luxury to Save Money

When asked to describe the perfect bath towel most people would include the words soft, thick, and thirsty. Cotton Incorporated, a trade association of cotton wholesalers, agrees and goes on to say that the perfect towel is a luxurious towel that can also stand up to constant use and laundering for at least a decade. 

The secret to buying the perfect affordable bath towel is in understanding fibers, loops, and dyes because unlike bed sheets, towels don’t come with easy measures like thread counts.

100% cotton

A towel’s main duty is to blot up and absorb water. One hundred percent cotton does the best job because cotton naturally attracts water. Synthetic fibers like polyester repel water, making a cotton-polyester blend less absorbent and to be avoided. 


The quality of a towel is determined by where the cotton is grown and woven. The heavier the weight, the thicker the towel— which translates to higher quality and greater durability as measured in GSM.

GSM is short for grams per square meter. All fabrics have a weight, and the standard measurement for the weight and quality of fabrics (including towels) is grams per square meter. This number refers to the density of the towel. High-quality Turkish cotton towels are generally heavier and are more absorbent.

Towels can vary anywhere between 300 GSM and 900 GSM. The lower the number, the lighter and thinner the towel. For instance:

300-400 GSM. In this weight, as noted, the towels are lighter and thinner. But, depending on its use, you might want a lower GSM for the gym towel or a kitchen towel. A lightweight, quicker-drying beach towel might be around 350 GSM, for instance.

400-600 GSM. This is a medium weight. This weight is great for beach towels, bath towels, guest towels, and so forth. Each consecutive gram weight –400, 500, 600– gets a little heavier, and a little more absorbent.

600-900 GSM. This is a premium, luxury weight. The towel will be denser, heavier, more absorbent. It will probably take a little longer to dry.

Other factors that will influence the towel’s softness and absorbency are type of cotton, whether the manufacturer uses a polyester blend (please, no!), and whether the cotton is woven with a short or long loop (more on this in a bit).

Turkish cotton

The highest quality towels are made of cotton grown and woven in Turkey with 800-gram weight. 

Egyptian cotton

Next comes Egyptian cotton towels that weigh 300 to 600 GSM (grams per square meter).

Pima cotton

Pima cotton, grown in Arizona and California, is exceptionally soft and absorbent and is typically woven at 300 to 700 grams of weight (GSM). 

Supima cotton

Supima is a trade name for cotton that is a blend of Egyptian and Pima cotton plants. 


If you look closely at terry cloth you will see it is made up of a series of loops. The length of the loop determines the fabric’s ability to absorb water. The longer the loop, the better the absorbency.

If those loops are shaved off or “cropped,” the result is velour. While velour makes the towel feel velvety, losing the loops dramatically reduces a towel’s ability to soak up water. A velour towel is pretty but not so useful. Short dense loops result in a thinner towel (preferred by some). Long dense loops make the towel thicker, increasing its absorbency and durability. 


Dark-colored towels will fade over time, and that cannot be avoided. If you want colored towels, opt for light colors. The best option, however, is to always go for white. You’ll simplify the laundering process and never have to worry about colors fading. Besides, white goes with everything. All the hand towels and face clothes match all the bath towels, which means you’ll save time when you opt for all white. White bath linens never go out of style. 


The price of a medium-weight cotton towel is $10 to $12, but can go as high as $60 or more for a high-end Turkish cotton towel. 


Let’s say you pay $20 for a high-quality Egyptian cotton bath towel and use it once a week in rotation with other towels, for 10 years, or 520 uses. That works out to about 4 cents per use.

Now let’s say you pay $10 for a lightweight, poor-quality towel in the same way. You’ll be lucky if it lasts for two years, and will cost 9 cents per use—more than twice the cost of a high-quality Egyptian cotton towel.


Face it. Bath linens are exposed to soil, oil, skin cells, and germs. For good health, towels should be laundered in hot water, at least 120 F, with detergent and occasionally a small amount of chlorine bleach. You cannot do that safely with colored towels, but high-quality, white towels can take the most vigorous laundering and keep looking good year after year. 

Avoid fabric softeners of any kind when laundering towels. They contain silicones that will make towels virtually water repellent. Instead, add a cup of white vinegar to the last rinse to remove all traces of detergent—the culprit that makes towels stiff and scratchy.

Wash white towels separately. If drying by hanging on a clothesline, shake towels once while still wet, and again after they are dry. This will fluff the terry loops. Do not iron towels, as this, like fabric softeners, will reduce their ability to absorb water. 


A close up of a towelThink of bath towels as a ten-year investment, then buy accordingly. Once you know how to determine the right towel for you, wait for those towels to go on sale.

Buy the most quality you can afford and you’ll save the most in the long run—and enjoy the luxury of quality bath towels in the process.  

Having owned, tested, loved, and often loathed an untold number of brands and types of bath linens over the years, I am confident to continue recommending JCPenneys Liz Claiborne Luxury Egyptian Hygrocotton Loops Bath Towels as the best quality, luxury bath towels at the best price—especially when they’re on Sale!—my pick for Best Inexpensive value for quality, luxurious bath linens.



Hygrocotton uses a special weaving process by which the fabric’s yarns have either a low twist count or untwisted loops. This method increases the surface area of the individual fibers, resulting in much more absorbent items. Ideal for shower and bath towels, and face cloths.


First published: 4-24-17; Revised & Updated 6-3-22

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  1. Cathy down on the farm... says:

    Hi Mary, Sounds as though I will have to check these out. I purchased “Better Homes and Gardens” towels in a light yellow. Not sure what has happened but my hand towels and a bath towel I sometime use as a hand towel, turns orange in places when I wash my hands and use them. My bath towel to shower with is tan. Do you think this may have something to do with our hard water and the rust in the water? We do have a water softener but apparently it does not work well enough! I have used some oxyclean on them and it helps but a bit hesitant to bleach. Thanks for all you do, Mary.

  2. Christy Scott says:

    I’m one of those people who prefer a thinner towel, but quality. I used to find them many years ago, but not now. Do you have any idea where I can find some? Thank you for all the great articles!

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Christy, I think you’d be happy with a “hotel” style towel. Actually Costco sells white hotel bath, hand, face, and tub mats in quantity, at a good price under the Grandeur Hospitality brand—online and in some clubs. Of course only white, like a fine hotel.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Just checked at 4:38EST and lots still available … the 6-pc set appears to be sold out. But you can get the items separately. Try again and let the page reload fully.

  3. Lauren Childs says:

    A company called Red Land Cotton located in Alabama grows their own cotton, processes it, and has their towels and sheets made all right here in the United States providing jobs for many and quality products for all. Sheets are amazing and the towels are wonderful!

    • Jackie Forestieri says:

      I bought their percale sheets and love them. I plan to try the towels next. They are expensive but to me it’s worth it to support an American company. Everything is done in the USA from growing the cotton to weaving the fabric to sewing and finishing it.

  4. Sue Massey says:

    Mary… Thanks for the heads up for the towels. I placed my order for myself, and for two Christmas presents. Towels to arrive before Christmas. Great savings!
    Have a merry Christmas and a New Year full of blessings.

  5. AnneG says:

    Received our JC Penny towels today
    Just beautiful
    Thanks for all the great guidance you give us !
    We Love Ya !

    • Hi Mary says:

      I took your advice and ordered the LC towels from JCP before the sale was over and I LOVE them!! Thank you. PT

  6. Mary Hunt says:

    Lands End has been my pick for Best Inexpensive. However, I do my best to keep reviewing and things change! I still love my Lands End towels—and if you have them, they’re a great investment you will love for many years. However, the Liz Claiborne Egyptian towels are even better—and significantly cheaper. I try to keep an eye on our growing lineup of Best Inexpensives and in the case of towels, generally this is the case—LE is more expensive, so it’s been bumped out of the top billing in my pick for Best Inexpensive Towels.

    • Carol Herman says:

      I hope you are realizing that Lands End also has sales running almost continuously and your prices reflect these savings……..usually 40 – 55% off everything. I’m sure Penney’s are also good, but just to be sure we’re playing an even field for pricing.

  7. Mary Hunt says:

    No. The label says “Imported.” I think we’re going to learn just how few products are made in the USA, and that is going to change—my prediction! But it will take time for companies to make that transition. As for these towels, you’ll discover that most linens and textiles are imported from India, Pakistan and Portugal.

  8. Amy says:

    After working for Fieldcrest Cannon -Pillowtex for 13 years, I agree with your recommendation. While working in the research dye lab, I had access to dye formulas for towels and sheets. Gone are the days of vat dyes. These dyes are virtually fool proof for chlorine bleach. A slight shade change may be noticed, but for the most part, all bleachable. My mother bleached her towels and sheets and I still do. I always made sure to purchase towels dyed with vat dyes. That’s just not possible now. Cheaper, easier to apply reactive dyes took over. There are still a few possible colors to try. Beiges were made with a single vat dye. I’ve found kitchen towels that are perfect. Wish it were so we could buy “made in the USA” again.

  9. Nadine says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Mary! Your email arrived half an hour ago. It’s now 8:35 AM Pacific time, and Penneys is already sold out of both the white and the light grey versions of these towel sets. We got the lighter blue version, and are looking forward to them!

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Maybe I need to give JCP a heads up when we plan to blow out their SALE inventory! Ha. You might give your local JCP a call to see if they have available stock. I can tell you, though, that shade of blue is lovely

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