The 4 Best Bath Towels of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

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The 4 Best Bath Towels of 2023 | Reviews by Wirecutter

After new testing, we’ve added Target’s Threshold Signature Spa Bath Towel as our new budget pick.

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.

We’ve researched hundreds of towels and tested dozens, and we’ve recommended the Frontgate Resort Cotton 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.

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

We wash and dry all towels for a first time, check for shrinkage or fraying, and then wash again 4 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. It feels like a plush towel from a luxury hotel and comes in a wider variety of colors than any other we’ve found.

The Frontgate Resort Cotton 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. With each wash it felt fuller and plusher, and after four years of use it’s held up better than any other towel we’ve tested. It comes in a wide range of rich colors—more choices than any pick. Also available in a bath-sheet size, the Frontgate coordinates with a range of matching accessories, including bath rugs and washcloths. If a plush, luxurious towel is what you want, this is a great one.

This soft, plush towel costs less than half the price of our top pick, comes in more than a dozen colors, and lasts for years. It picks up a lot of lint, though.

If you’re looking for a plush terry towel like the Frontgate towel but don’t want to spend that much, Target’s Threshold Signature Spa Bath Towel is an affordable alternative that’s soft, luxe, and durable. It offers better body coverage than other budget towels we’ve tried—they often run smaller than pricier towels—and it has been reliably available for years, unlike some big-box-store towels we’ve tested that are frequently discontinued. It’s also our only towel pick that carries Oeko-Tex’s Made in Green certification, and it comes covered with Target’s one-year return policy.

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.

The Riley Spa Bath Towel costs about a third more than the Frontgate, but if you like thinner terry towels with more texture, this one is our favorite. The Riley’s 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 gentle massage.) It dries faster than the Frontgate, 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. The Riley comes in eight colors, and like our other picks, it’s Oeko-Tex certified and available in a 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.

For a more minimal, upscale look, or if you want a truly quick-drying towel, we recommend The Onsen Bath Towel. This towel is made with a lattice weave (sometimes called a waffle or honeycomb weave), which feels more drapey and thinner than terry. Made of American-grown Supima cotton, the Onsen is relatively expensive, but it costs a fraction of the price of similar lattice towels imported from Japan. It’s also softer and smoother. Compared with the dozen or so hours it took our terry picks to dry in our 2018 tests, the Onsen was bone dry after about five hours. But keep in mind that if you prefer plush terry, you may not like the more textured feel of the Onsen.

This is the softest towel we’ve ever tested. It feels like a plush towel from a luxury hotel and comes in a wider variety of colors than any other we’ve found.

This soft, plush towel costs less than half the price of our top pick, comes in more than a dozen colors, and lasts for years. It picks up a lot of lint, though.

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.

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.

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 2017, 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 1888 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.)

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.

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.

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 100% 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 100% 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 1888 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 158 towels and tested 41 since 2017.

After 20 hours researching dozens of organizing solutions, we recommend these items to maximize storage and keep small bathrooms clutter-free.

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 2017, not including daily long-term testing of our existing picks.

This is the softest towel we’ve ever tested. It feels like a plush towel from a luxury hotel and comes in a wider variety of colors than any other we’ve found.

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 2017. (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 about two dozen 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 20 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 3,000 mostly positive user reviews—it’s now approaching 8,500 reviews, more than 7,000 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.

I’ve been long-term testing all of our Frontgate test towels from 2017, 2018, and 2020. 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.

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 2020 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.

This soft, plush towel costs less than half the price of our top pick, comes in more than a dozen colors, and lasts for years. It picks up a lot of lint, though.

Target’s Threshold Signature Spa Bath Towel is thick and luxe like a hotel towel, but it costs less than half the price of our top pick from Frontgate. I tested it in 2021 and again in 2023, and it consistently scored high marks for softness, absorbency, and durability. It’s one of the best affordable towels I’ve tried, and it comes in more than a dozen colors—of all our towel picks, only the Frontgate towel is available in more options. Of the six budget-friendly towels I tried in 2023, the Signature Spa Bath Towel was one of only two that comfortably wrapped around my size-16 body, with room to spare. (It’s also available in a bath-sheet size for people who prefer a larger towel.)

After several washes, the Signature Spa Bath Towel didn’t pill, pull, or pucker, but it did get fuzzier, and its terry loops became less defined. Several of the budget towels I tested this year felt thin and flimsy, like a washcloth, but the Signature Spa Bath Towel felt softer, almost blanket-like, which may not appeal to everyone. Because of that fuzzy softness, it also acquires lots of stray lint and debris—picking up everything but boys and money, as Dolly Parton says in Steel Magnolias. But it was one of the fastest towels to air-dry in our testing despite its plushness, and it was by far the coziest. I’ve continued using our 2021 test towel, and I’ve also bought several more for my family’s guest bathroom since. They’ve held up through a couple of years of regular washing, remaining absorbent, fluffy, and a pleasure to use.

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.

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—700 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 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 2021.) 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.

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.

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 2018, 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 100% 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.

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 2018 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.

When I first tested the Onsen in 2018, 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.

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 1888 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 600 or 700.

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.

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 pick from Frontgate. 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 2021 testing.

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.

JCPenney’s Fieldcrest Luxury Egyptian Cotton Loops Border Stripe Bath Towel felt almost as nice in testing as the Fieldcrest Casual Solid (our former budget pick), but not quite. Plus, it’s more expensive and has fewer color options (all white, with different-colored stripes on the border).

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.

The well-made Fieldcrest Luxury Egyptian Cotton Loops Sculpted Bath Towel from JCPenney held up beautifully in the wash, but it didn’t feel as good on the skin as our picks—more like a bath mat than a bath towel. It was also very heavy.

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 2021 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 100% cotton, which we prefer. (As of January 2022, this towel is no longer on Target’s website.)

We tested Target’s Room Essentials Grid Texture Bath Towel in 2021 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.

Parachute Classic Turkish Cotton Towel: This was a nice, average towel, but we think it’s pricey.

Caro Home Microcotton Luxury Bath Towel: This was a previous upgrade pick, but in 2017 it didn’t perform as well. It felt thin and wasn’t as absorbent as we’d like.

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 700 GSM Towel from Amazon felt promising out of the package, and it was absorbent in our 2021 shower tests. But it was too small to cover my size-16 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 2021 testing they left my skin more damp after a shower than other budget-friendly towels.

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.

We tested the Salt Quick Dry Bath Towel from Bed Bath & Beyond in 2021, 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 budget pick, JC Penney’s Fieldcrest Casual Solid Bath Towel, was discontinued in 2022.

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 802-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 1888 Mills Bath Towel, Amazon's Pinzon Heavyweight Luxury 820-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,, 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 and cheaper than the Onsen. 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 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, 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.

This article was edited by Daniela Gorny and Christine Ryan.

Bath Towel Buying Guide, Wayfair

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

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

Angela Massengill, fabric evaluation specialist, Cotton Incorporated, interview

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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Turkish Towels Amazon Wirecutter is the product recommendation service from The New York Times. Our journalists combine independent research with (occasionally) over-the-top testing so you can make quick and confident buying decisions. Whether it’s finding great products or discovering helpful advice, we’ll help you get it right (the first time).