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Best Inexpensive Bath Towels—Invest in Luxury, 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. 

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


A towel’s main duty is to blot up 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 average price of a medium-weight cotton towel is $7 to $12, but can go as high as $40 if not more for a high-end Turkish cotton towel. 


Let’s say you pay $10 for a high-quality Egyptian cotton bath towel and use it once a week in rotation with other towels, for 10 years (520 usages: That works out to 2 cents per use.

A $40 Turkish towel, if used weekly in the same manner over a decade increases the per use cost to about 8 cents.

If you pay $3.99 for a lightweight, poor-quality towel in the same manner as above, you’ll be lucky if it lasts for two years. And it will cost 4 cents per use—or twice the cost of the higher 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. 


Think 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 towels in the process.  

Best Inexpensive

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Having owned, tested, loved, and often loathed an untold number of brands and types of bath linens over the years, I am confident to recommend JCPenneys Liz Claiborne Luxury Egyptian Hygrocotton Loops 625 GPM 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, face cloths.

These Liz Claiborne Luxury Egyptian Hygrocotton towels are available in a variety of colors, as a 6-piece towel set (2 bath towels, 2 hand towels, 2 washcloths); or individually as  30 x 58 bath towel, 16 x 28 hand towel, 13 x 13 washcloth and 34 x 64 bath sheet.

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Pro Tip

As I write, Liz Claiborne Luxury Egyptian Hygrocotton Loops Towels are on SALE! thru Sunday, 4-26. Hint: Apply this code JCPSHOP3 at checkout, and you can get the 6-pc set for $43.99. Sale and code also apply to the individual items—both in-store and online.

BONUS: Make sure you activate your FREE Rakuten account and you’ll get 2.5% Cash Back at checkout!

Pro Tip

Open a FREE Rakuten account and you’ll get $30 bonus cash dropped into your account, but only until 5-1-20.

Up Next:

A Simple Solution for Gross, Smelly Towels

The Best Microfiber Cloths and Why They Work Like Magic

Solved: Laundry Problems, Mistakes, and Mysteries

There are affiliate links in this post. If you click through and make a purchase, we may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thanks! Read more here.


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  1. 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

  2. Karen S. Karp says:

    Hi Mary
    What is the GSM of the two brands you recommended in this post?
    You describe the JC Penney as having a 625 GPM. What does GPM mean and can GPM be used in an apples to apples comparison with GSM?

  3. Karol says:

    Hi Mary
    What is the GSM of the two brands you recommended in this post?
    You describe the JC Penney as having a 625 GPM. What does GPM mean and can GPM be used in an apples to apples comparison with GSM?

  4. Zyzzy says:

    For the best IMHO USA-made towels, buy 1888 Mills. Their website (www.1888mills.com) says:
    Available in store at a variety of retailers and online at the following sites: Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Dillards.com, Belk.com, Bonton.com. Also, they are currently on sale at madeinusaforever.com.

  5. Denise says:

    Good Review…except after reading that a huge percentage of cotton grown is one of the most sprayed crops – heavy laden with toxic pesticides (a.k.a. chemicals)…I can’t stand to think of using any other than organic cotton towels now! Too many chemicals and pesticides. I can’t afford to buy all organic, but try to replace the worst offenders! Especially something I’m vigorously rubbing all over my body.

    • 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.

  6. 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.

    • Mary Hunt says:

      I’m optimistic that “Made in the USA” will be coming back… slowly at first. And I plan to celebrate every time I see it!

      • SueMN says:

        I agree, Mary.
        I believe we will see more Made In The USA labels as more manufacturing moves back to the USA!

    • Mary Hunt says:

      Lands End has been my pick for Best Inexpensive. However, I do my best to keep reviewing and things change!With towels, as you point out (I will update that post right away!). 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 better—and significantly cheaper. Today, comparing the two choices: LC is $43.99 on sale with discount code for the 6-pc set. LE is $61.56 for their 6-pc. set (Supima cotton as opposed to LC’s Egyptian) on Sale with discount code. 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.

    • Elaine Robertson says:

      I agree Anne…just a couple of months ago (…if that), I purchased LE towels based on Mary’s recommendation. I’m beginning to think that there are paid endorsements. Mary, it’s about character and integrity

  7. 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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