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Handy Guide: Towels

Pottery Barn Classic Bath Towels, (Pottery Barn/POTTERY BARN)

How do your towels stack up?

A towel isn’t just something to dry off with after a shower; it’s a major bathroom accessory. A new set of towels is one way to refresh the look of a bathroom.

Towel wardrobes haven’t changed much over the years, with bath and hand towels and face cloths being the staples in most linen closets. But there have been advances in technology.

“More and more towels today have some sort of special feature,” says Matt Moses, vice president at Revman International, a home textiles company. “Some are made to be safe to use so they won’t stain when taking off makeup or acne medicine. Some people prefer towels that dry faster not only when you dry your hair or body, but in the dryer itself.”


Colorfastness. Brands such as Wal-Mart’s Mainstays True Colors are designed not to bleed or fade.

More fibers. Modal, a natural fiber made of cellulose, can be mixed with cotton to produce soft towels. Bamboo is eco-friendly and has a velvety feel.

Stain resistance. Models including L.L. Bean’s Ultra-Absorbent Cotton Towels are made to resist bleached-out stains caused by substances such as benzoyl peroxide.


Wash before use. Launder new towels before using them to remove lint.

Skip additives. Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets. They reduce absorbancy.

Don’t overheat. Use the low or medium setting on the dryer. High heat tends to weaken fibers over time.

Add vinegar. Occasionally add a cup of distilled white vinegar to a load of towels to improve absorbency and remove musty smells.


We asked Julian Tomchin, who has been a senior vice president for home products at both Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, what his choices would be for anyone in the market for good-quality towels. Here are his picks.

Pottery Barn Classic towels

Plush, combed cotton towels are known for loft and absorbency. 12 colors. Bath towel dimensions: 28 by 55 inches. 820 grams per square meter. Made in Turkey. $24 at Pottery Barn.

Restoration Hardware Turkish towels

Known for strength, durability and absorbency. 29 colors. Bath towel dimensions: 30 by 56 inches. 802 grams per square meter. Made in Turkey. $28 at Restoration Hardware.

Natori solid towels

Long-staple cotton known for softness and absorbeancy. 12 colors. Bath towel dimensions: 30 by 58 inches. 775 grams per square meter. Made in China. $34.99 at


1. Some manufacturers provide the gram weight per square meter of their towels. Generally, greater weight is said to increase absorption capacity.

2. Measure how much room you have to hang towels beneath towel bars in your bathroom. Some manufacturers have added inches to the length of their towels to make them more luxurious. Bath sheets are more popular than ever, but they need a lot of storage room and also take a long time to dry.

3. Consider adding a monogram. David Gill, senior editor at HFN, a home furnishings trade publication, says monograms add a touch of personalization, “which appeals to some people who don’t just want a solid-color towel.” Monograms can be done in bold colors on white towels to add interest.

By the numbers

Total annual towel sales in the United States in billions.

Top-selling towel colors

1. White

2. Blue

3. Gray


Number of bath towels owned per person in an average American household.

Source: Home Textiles Today 2010 survey; Warren Shoulberg/Home Textiles Today; Revman International

The home and design coverage of Jura Koncius has taken her inside hundreds of homes, from tiny studios in Penn Quarter to country castles in Warrenton. Jura also hosts the Home Front live chat, Thursdays at 11 a.m. ET.
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