The 3 Best Bath Towels of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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The humble bath towel is easy to overlook. A good one will dry you off and be forgotten till tomorrow. A great one is luxurious, a cozy bright spot in an otherwise mundane routine. The Hotel Sheet

The 3 Best Bath Towels of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

We’ve researched hundreds of towels and tested dozens, and we’ve recommended the Frontgate Resort Collection Bath Towel since 2017 because it’s the softest, warmest, and most durable we’ve found. If plush terry isn’t for you, we also have other options.

This is the softest towel we’ve ever tested—like a plush towel from a luxury hotel—and it comes in a wider variety of colors than any other we’ve found. But it’s gone up in price over the years.

If you find hotel-style towels too bulky and prefer a more modern feel in the bathroom, this towel looks chic and feels fantastic on the skin. It’s one of the most expensive terry towels we’ve ever tested, though.

This textured towel is lighter, drapes better, and dries faster than any terry towel we tried. It looks luxurious but unfussy and costs a third of the price of similar lattice-weave towels. But the texture might not be for everyone.

Towels are anything but standard in size, which is why we actually measure every towel we test.

We wash and dry all towels once, check for shrinkage or fraying, and then wash them again four more times throughout testing.

We use each towel after showering, assess how well it dries, how soft or rough it feels, and how it covers different-sized bodies.

We time how long it takes for our wet test towels to fully air-dry in our bathrooms.

This is the softest towel we’ve ever tested—like a plush towel from a luxury hotel—and it comes in a wider variety of colors than any other we’ve found. But it’s gone up in price over the years.

The Frontgate Resort Collection Bath Towel is the softest, warmest, and most comfortable plush towel we’ve tried. Thicker than our other picks, it feels luxe and substantial, like a high-quality hotel towel.

After six years of use, our original test towel’s color is starting to fade (and it has a few bleached spots from run-ins with skin-care products), but it’s still cozy and absorbent.

The Frontgate bath towel comes in more than two dozen colors—more choices than any other pick. It’s available in a larger bath-sheet size, and it coordinates with a range of matching accessories, including bath mats and washcloths.

If a plush, luxurious towel is what you want, this is a great one. We’ve noticed the price of the Frontgate towel has gone up substantially over the years, so we’re keeping an eye on that trend (and looking for other towels that can compete on quality).

If you find hotel-style towels too bulky and prefer a more modern feel in the bathroom, this towel looks chic and feels fantastic on the skin. It’s one of the most expensive terry towels we’ve ever tested, though.

If you like thinner terry towels with more texture, the Riley Spa Bath Towel is our favorite.

Its terry loops are well defined and loosely woven, so you feel each individual loop move across your skin. (It’s not scratchy, though; it’s more like a silky exfoliation.)

It dries faster than the Frontgate towel, and its modern design—rounded edges, terry across the entire surface, and a loop to hang it on your bathroom hook—feels unfussy but chic.

Our test towel from 2021 looks almost new, with no pilling or pulled threads, and it’s still as luxe as it ever was. The Riley bath towel comes in eight colors and is also available in a larger bath-sheet size.

This textured towel is lighter, drapes better, and dries faster than any terry towel we tried. It looks luxurious but unfussy and costs a third of the price of similar lattice-weave towels. But the texture might not be for everyone.

If you want a more minimal, upscale look or if you want a truly quick-drying towel, we recommend the Onsen Waffle Bath Towel.

It’s made with a lattice weave (sometimes called a waffle or honeycomb weave), which is thinner than terry and feels more drapey.

Made of American-grown Supima cotton, the Onsen bath towel is relatively expensive, but it costs a fraction of the price of similar lattice towels imported from Japan. It’s also softer and smoother.

We know waffle towels are prone to snags, but our five-year-old test towel has seen some heavy use (it’s one of my kid’s favorites), and it shows minimal damage.

Keep in mind that if you prefer plush terry, you may not like the light and textured feel of the Onsen towel.

I’ve been writing about bath towels for Wirecutter since 2017. As a senior staff writer, I’ve written most of our home-textile guides, from cotton sheets to blankets to duvet covers. I’ve built on the research of Melissa Tan and Stephen Treffinger in past versions of this guide, interviewed experts in the towel industry, conducted years of testing with dozens of towels, and I’ve used all of the picks in this guide for several years now. The towels we recommend are the towels I would spend (and have spent) my own money on.

A good bath mat can keep you from slipping and add some pizzazz to your bathroom. These three durable and comfortable options will work for a variety of styles.

I’ve considered almost 200 towels and tested about 50 different kinds since 2017. After years of talking to experts, researching, and testing towels, I’ve learned a lot about what makes a great one. These are the criteria I look for when deciding what to test and what becomes a pick:

For every round of testing I’ve done, I begin by measuring each towel to see if the listed measurements are accurate, and I evaluate the feel and construction. 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 lesser 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 women’s size 16). Then I time how long it takes the wet 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 added by the manufacturers 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, and I shower with them again to gauge absorbency. I also review reader feedback on our picks, and check customer reviews periodically to note any complaints or issues to monitor.

This is the softest towel we’ve ever tested—like a plush towel from a luxury hotel—and it comes in a wider variety of colors than any other we’ve found. But it’s gone up in price over the years.

The Frontgate Resort Collection Bath Towel has been our top pick since 2017, and it’s the best terry towel I’ve tested.

It’s absorbent (and stays that way through countless washes). After six years of testing and countless showers, our original Frontgate test towels have maintained their absorbency and cozy warmth. I’ve tested several newer Frontgate towels since, and they all perform just as well after a shower. I trust their consistent quality and performance.

Frontgate towels are the densest, softest I’ve ever tried. I’ve spent far too much time in testing just squishing our pick from Frontgate with my fingers because it’s the densest, softest towel I’ve ever tried. It feels plush and extravagant to use, and it’s made from smooth, long-staple Turkish cotton. Only the Onsen Waffle Bath Towel is made with a higher-quality cotton (extra-long-staple Supima cotton). Like all of our picks, the Frontgate towel is also Oeko-Tex certified.

Terry towels often feel like they drag uncomfortably while you’re drying off, but the Frontgate towel’s pile feels smooth and moves easily over wet skin.

They last for years. After my initial test washes in 2017, the Frontgate test towel looked almost new and actually felt better than it did straight out of the package. I’ve now tested three additional, brand-new Frontgate towels in subsequent rounds of testing over the years, and they’ve all been consistently fantastic through many washes.

At this point, all of our Frontgate test towels have been through scores of washes and years of continuous everyday testing. Their color has faded a little, but the construction on these towels is impeccable, and they have almost no pulls or snags.

This towel comes in more colors than any other towel we recommend. The Frontgate towel is available in about two dozen rich, saturated colors, which means it should work for almost any bathroom’s decor.

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.

It’s a staff favorite. It’s developed a slight cult following among our staff members and has had consistently high customer 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.

I’ve been long-term testing all of our Frontgate test towels since 2017. The oldest one has some bleach stains—probably due to the skin-care products I use, rather than a problem with the towel itself. The terry has gotten fuzzier over time, and it’s lost some of its initial softness, but the Frontgate towel is still the best towel in my linen closet.

It isn’t cheap. The price has also steadily increased since we first recommended the towel (it was around $30 when we first tested it in 2017). But Frontgate always has several sales each year, so it’s not unusual to find it for about $10 cheaper. If you’re turned off by the price, we recommend waiting for a sale.

It’s a thick, bulky towel. If you know you prefer thinner, lightweight towels, it might feel overwhelming and cloying to use. It might also be too soft for people who like towels that are pleasantly scratchy. Its heft also means you can’t 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 towel is so hefty, air-drying times vary depending on the climate where you live. To prevent bacteria from moving in and making themselves at home, you may need to wash your Frontgate towel more often if you live in a humid or wet climate.

If you find hotel-style towels too bulky and prefer a more modern feel in the bathroom, this towel looks chic and feels fantastic on the skin. It’s one of the most expensive terry towels we’ve ever tested, though.

If you prefer terry but don’t like thick, super-soft towels—or if you want a terry towel with a little more style—we recommend the Riley Spa Bath Towel.

It’s thin for terry, with great texture when you run it across your skin. That doesn’t mean it’s a rough towel, though. The Riley and the Frontgate towels are the same weight—700 grams per square meter—but when you look across the surface of the plush Frontgate towel, you see densely packed, fluffy terry. When you look across the surface of the Riley towel, you can see individual terry loops, each with room to move on its own. You can feel each one when you run your fingers over the towel or swipe it across your back. It 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 towel).

It folds relatively compactly. The Riley Spa Bath Towel folds up smaller than the Frontgate towel, so it takes up 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.

It’s quick to absorb water, yet it dries faster than the Frontgate towel. The Riley towel is about as absorbent as our pick from Frontgate and feels efficient and satisfying to dry off with. Because it’s much thinner than the Frontgate towel, it also air-dries faster. When we tested the two against each other during a wet winter in the Pacific Northwest, the Riley towel air-dried in about 20 hours. The Frontgate towel took more than 24 hours.

It has a modern design. The Riley towel is one of the best-looking styles I’ve tested. Most terry towels have a dobby—a strip of flat-woven fabric—at either end. The Riley towel is terry across the entire surface, giving it a far less traditional look than most terry towels. 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. It’s made with long-staple Egyptian cotton, and like our other picks, it’s Oeko-Tex certified.

Our Riley test towel is in excellent shape after two years of continuous use and multiple washes. Our test towel, which is white, is showing signs of yellowing in a few places, even though I don’t use bleach in the laundry. It has lost a good deal of its initial, out-of-the-package softness, but it still feels plush and comfortable after a shower.

In the past, we’ve tracked complaints from staff and readers alike about long shipping times and spotty customer service from Riley, but the problems seem to have peaked in 2021 (and mostly involved comforters). We haven’t had many issues with the company since, and the quality of this towel is high enough that we still recommend it. If you shop a sale, be prepared for potential shipping delays (that’s when we noticed the most complaints), and as always, let us know if you have any problems. We’ve also noticed that a lot of the towel colors are periodically out of stock.

This textured towel is lighter, drapes better, and dries faster than any terry towel we tried. It looks luxurious but unfussy and costs a third of the price of similar lattice-weave towels. But the texture might not be for everyone.

If plush terry towels feel too heavy or if you want a towel that dries quickly, you may like the thinner texture of a lattice weave (sometimes called a waffle or honeycomb weave); the Onsen Waffle Bath Towel is the best one we’ve tried.

It’s as absorbent as a terry towel, with a coarser texture. A Wirecutter pick since 2018, the Onsen towel absorbs water quickly, moves smoothly over the body, and has just a hint of roughness that feels pleasant, perfect for scratching an itch on your back that you just can’t reach. It’s also been my daughter’s favorite towel since we first tested it when she was six—as a kid with sensory-processing issues, she loves the tickle of its texture and its almost weightless feel.

It dries much faster than any other towel I’ve tested. Thick terry towels take anywhere from 15 to 24 hours to air dry, depending on the time of year and climate; after a morning shower during testing, the Onsen felt bone dry by lunchtime, roughly five hours later. It’s thin, and its weave allows for lots of airflow.

It’s less plush, but it takes up less space on the shelf. 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 towel folds up smaller and takes up less space in your linen closet, a plus if you’re cramped for storage.

It’s our only towel pick made of 100% Supima cotton. Supima is extra-long-staple cotton grown in the United States and known for its durability and softness. An Onsen rep told me that instead of the chemical-softening process terry towels go through, Onsen towels are washed at specific temperatures and for multiple cycles to soften them (part of a process called garment washing). Like all of our picks, the Onsen towel is Oeko-Tex certified.

Unlike other lattice towels, it’s very soft. I’ve tested it against some Japanese lattice towels, like the iconic linen-cotton Kontex (Rikumo) towel, and it’s a lot less scratchy on the skin (and much less expensive). It’s one of the few waffle towels I’ve seen that’s generously sized and comes in a bath-sheet size.

Waffle is stretchier than terry and can look a little misshapen after a while, plus it is prone to more snags and pulls. The Onsen towel has definitely stretched out of shape a little, but my 11-year-old daughter has been using our test towel since she was 6, and it still looks fantastic considering all the abuse it’s taken—it’s often left on the floor, it’s been used as a grooming mat for her pet bunnies, and it’s survived several hot, sanitizing wash-and-dry cycles thanks to bouts of stomach flu. It has minimal snags, no signs of color fading, and no significant changes in the feel. And it’s still her favorite towel.

$50 for a towel is a tall ask, but the Onsen towel is still less expensive than most waffle towels we’ve considered.

One of our staffers who has an Onsen towel told me, “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.”

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, what it’s made of, and how it may feel to use:

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,” Rick Basinger, director of innovation and quality assurance at 1888 Mills, told me. Generally, long-staple fibers range from 1.125 to 1.25 inches, while ELS fibers are 1.375 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, all of which originate from the same species (Gossypium barbadense) of extra-long-staple 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; thick terry towels 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, at least 600 GSM—these towels have more terry loops in them than cheaper towels, making them thicker, heavier, and more expensive.

Oeko-Tex: An Oeko-Tex certification ensures that the fabric is free from certain substances and processes that may be harmful to people and the environment. Most items we test have the Standard 100 certification that addresses substances in the fabric, but Oeko-Tex also has two more rigorous standards: Made in Green, for textiles manufactured in environmentally-friendly facilities with fair labor practices, and an organic cotton certification.

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 them. We found that these softeners usually wash out 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 does prevent white towels from getting dingy, it will fade colors more quickly, so wash your brightly colored towels in warm or cold. For more details, you can read our piece on how (and how often) to wash your towels.

If you want a classic terry towel that isn’t as plush as our pick from Frontgate: Garnet Hill’s Signature Egyptian Cotton Towels have ranked well in our tests (we’ve tested them twice), and they come in beautiful colors. They’re thinner than our terry picks, and slightly less absorbent, but they’re comfortable to use, and they hold up in the wash. If the Frontgate Resort Collection Bath Towel is sold out, or you want to spend a little less, it’s a good choice.

If you want a good budget towel: Our previous budget pick, Target’s Threshold Signature Spa Bath Towel, was discontinued in October 2023. You may still find some lingering stock available but if you can’t find it, Target’s Casaluna Organic Bath Towel and IKEA’s Fredriksjön Bath towel were our next-best budget contenders. The Casaluna towel is GOTS-certified organic cotton, and it comes in eight subdued colors. It was more absorbent than the Threshold Signature towel, but it pulled and snagged more after several washes. The Fredriksjön Bath towel has a nice heft, and it maintains its color and feel through several washes, but it was rougher and a little heavier than the Threshold towel. We’ll be looking for a new budget pick soon.

If you’d like a softer waffle towel: Parachute’s Waffle Bath Towel costs about the same as the Onsen Waffle Bath Towel, but it has a gentler feel on the skin. Our adult testers didn’t love the feel—it clung more to wet skin when drying off—but our kid tester loved it for its softness, larger size, and light weight. Five years later, it’s still in her regular bathroom rotation, and it’s still in great shape.

Our previous budget pick, Target’s Threshold Signature Spa Bath Towel, is soft and plush and about half the price of the Frontgate Resort Collection Bath Towel. Unfortunately, in October 2023, Target confirmed it would be discontinued. If you can still find it in stores, it’s worth getting. Our only qualm is that it’s a magnet for lint and other stray debris. Otherwise, it dries fast, is plenty absorbent, comes in generous sizes, and is very durable.

Riley’s Plush Bath Towel and Brooklinen’s Super-Plush Bath Towel are more plush and luxe than the Target Threshold Signature Spa Bath Towel when they’re new, but they lose more of their softness after a few washes.

Kohl’s The Big One Solid Bath Towel is the best towel I’ve tested under $10, but it is still scratchier and flimsier than our picks. Still, it could be a good option for stocking up a first apartment or college dorm.

JCPenney’s Fieldcrest Heritage Oversized Spa Bath Towel wasn’t as plush as previous Fieldcrest towels we’ve tested (they have often been budget picks in this guide), but it certainly wasn’t the worst towel in our 2023 tests.

Authenticity50’s Essential Cotton Bath Towels weren’t bad, and the towels are made in the United States. But they haven’t been reliably available since 2020.

We tested Target’s Room Essentials Everyday Bath Towel in 2021 as a possible budget pick, but it was thin and not very absorbent. It also took as long to dry as the thickest terry—about 24 hours on a wet winter day in Washington state.

We’ve tested the Snowe Classic Bath Towel twice and, although it’s soft, it clings to wet skin and isn’t as absorbent as our picks.

The Parachute Classic Turkish Cotton Towel was a nice, average towel in our 2017 testing, but Parachute’s waffle towel is better.

The Utopia Towels 600 GSM Luxury Bath Towel from Amazon was absorbent in our 2021 shower tests, but it was too small, and after five washes our test towel looked like it was falling apart.

JCPenney’s Home Expressions Bath Towel felt cheap, thin, scratchy, and too small in our 2023 tests.

The Hammam Linen Bath Towels were too small and rough, and during our 2021 testing they left my skin more damp after a shower than other budget-friendly towels.

In our 2023 tests, Target’s Room Essentials Bath Towel felt more like drying off with a rough washcloth.

We tried the Amadeus Turkish Bath Towel collection in 2021 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.

Caro Home’s Microcotton Luxury Bath Towel 600 GSM was an early upgrade pick in this guide years ago, but in 2017 it didn’t perform as well. It felt thin and wasn’t as absorbent as we’d like.

The Lands’ End Premium Supima Cotton Bath Towel, another early pick in this guide (a runner-up option), didn’t absorb well in our 2017 tests, and we thought it clung to the body too much.

The L.L.Bean Premium Cotton Bath Towel was the fastest-drying terry towel in our first timed test in 2017—it dried in about 10 hours. But it was rough and uncomfortable to use.

In past years we’ve also tested and dismissed the following: The Chakir Turkish Linens Premium Bath Towel, the Nordstrom Hydrocotton Bath Towel, the Pottery Barn Hydrocotton Organic Quick-Drying Towel, the Restoration Hardware 802-Gram Turkish Bath Towel, The Company Store Green Earth Quick-Dry Towel (which may have been redesigned since we first tested it), the Made Here by 1888 Mills Bath Towel, and the now-discontinued Amazon Pinzon Heavyweight Luxury Cotton Bath Towel, IKEA Fräjen Bath Towel, L.L.Bean Egyptian Cotton Towel, Royal Velvet Signature Soft Bath Towel, and the Target Fieldcrest Spa Solid Bath Towel.

The Rikumo Vintage Waffle Towel, a classic lattice towel, has been produced in Imabari, Japan, since the 1930s. 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 towel, 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, and it’s very expensive.

The Gilden Tree Modern Style Bath Towel 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.

We also tested the now-discontinued Brooklinen waffle towel, made of the same material as their waffle robe, a pick in our guide to the best robes.

This article was edited by Daniela Gorny and Christine Ryan.

Rick Basinger, director of manufacturing and innovation, 1888 Mills, interview, July 12, 2017

Jackie Reeve is a senior staff writer covering bedding, organization, and home goods at Wirecutter since 2015. Previously she was a school librarian, and she’s been a quilter for about 15 years. Her quilt patterns and her other written work have appeared in various publications. She moderates Wirecutter’s staff book club and makes her bed every morning.

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The 3 Best Bath Towels of 2024 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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