The best way to towel quality is by its material content and quality.
Cotton and cotton blends have traditionally been the most popular towel materials.
Cottons are judged by their staple length (the average length of their fibers); longer staple lengths are better for spinning into yarns for towels.
|Cotton ||What it is |
|Egyptian cotton ||Probably the most famous cotton for housewares, Egyptian cotton is absorbent, strong, and plush. |
Egyptian cotton comes from long staple cotton that is grown in the Nile River Valley.
|Pima Cotton ||Pima cotton is a high quality, long staple cotton. It actually comes from the same plant as Egyptian cotton (above), but is grown in the Southwest United States. It's named after the Pima Native American tribe. |
|Supima® Cotton ||An abbreviation for "superior pima". Supima cotton is the finest yield of long staple Pima cotton that is grown exclusively in the United States by certified farmers. |
|Turkish Cotton ||Long staple cotton that's grown exclusively in Turkey. It is often noted for its natural sheen and extra durability. |
|Brazilian Cotton ||Basic cotton grown exclusively in Brazil that has a standard staple length. |
|Microcotton ||Long staple cotton produced in India. Is high in absorbency. |
|Organic Cotton ||Organic cotton is increasingly popular option for eco-conscious shoppers. It's grown without the use of pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers. |
If an organic product is certified, it will have a United States Government approved 3rd party certification to ensure authenticity.
The quality of the cotton grown organically will be the same as that of the non-organic variety (like Pima, Supima, etc.).
However, in the past few years several new fabrics-including man-made fibers and materials from alternate plants have been introduced.
|Material ||What It Is |
|Viscose from Bamboo ||A synthetic fiber, created from bamboo plant, that is usually blended with cotton to produce a towel that is ultra-absorbent and possesses a natural silky sheen. |
|Modal ||This is a synthetic fiber (rayon) created with a natural material (usually from beech trees) and other materials. Modal is very soft, and stretches to fit various shapes. |
In addition to the type of cotton used in a towel, the way the cotton is made into yarn will also have an impact on how the towel feels or functions.
|Construction ||What It Is |
|Combed cotton ||This cotton is combed to remove short, uneven fibers, leaving behind only long and straight strands. This creates soft, strong yarns for towels. |
|Hygro Cotton ||This cotton yarn has a hollow core, which allows air at the center of the yarn. Hygro cotton absorbs more water, and towels made with it become extra fluffy with washing. |
|Low- or Zero-Twist Cotton ||To make the longest loops (see below), a yarn with very few twists is required. Twist refers to the number of twists per inch of yarn, therefore the lower the amount of twist in a yarn, the longer the loops. With long staple cotton yarn, low or zero twist fabric can be achieved. |
Pile and Towel Construction
If you look closely at a towel, you'll notice that most of the time, the fibers are attached to the body of the towel in loops (looped fibers are sometimes called terry cloth). The height, or length of these loops determines the towel's pile, and the pile has a huge impact on how the towel feels.
|Long Loops ||Longer loops create airiness that translates to fluffier, faster drying towels. These loops help the towel to wick moisture, rather than absorbing it. |
|Short Loops ||Shorter loops create the denser, thicker feeling towels. Short loop towels are very absorbent. |
|Velour ||Velour towels don't have loops at all-instead, the fibers in the towels stand up like blades of grass. This can make them less absorbent, but it creates a great surface for printing patterns. Velour towels are also very soft. |
|Two-ply ||Double the amount of yarn is used in the manufacturing process for increased absorbency and durability. The two ply towels tend to have a densely woven pile and a substantial, weighty feel. |
|Bath Towel ||The standard body towel for drying off after a shower or bath. |
|Bath Sheet ||Larger than a bath towel, it's a more luxurious size towel that you can really wrap yourself up in. |
|Hand Towel ||For drying hands after washing. |
|Washcloth ||Used in and out of the tub/shower for body, hands and face. |
|Fingertip Towel ||Smaller in size than the hand towel and often used in guest bathrooms or when entertaining. |
|Tubmat ||Dense and absorbent it is used for stepping out of the tub or shower. |