There’s nothing quite like the feeling of wrapping up in a warm, luxuriously soft towel after a hot bath or shower, and a comfortable selection of towels in the bathroom is essential for any discerning home to delight both you and any guests. As any top interior designer will tell you, it’s all about the detail.
There are many different toweling types available, but essentially, towels should be soft, durable, absorbent, and feel luxurious. The trick to finding a towel that meets all these important criteria is identifying what’s in it and how it’s made.
While there are many other varieties and blends out there, cotton is still the best fibre for toweling as it is exceptional at absorbing water. In fact, it can hold up to 27 times its own weight in liquid and high quality raw materials are the key to luxury toweling. There are three different species of cotton used to make the products we know and love.
The most common type is Upland cotton, comprising nearly 90% of all cotton produced around the world. These are used for the majority of towels in circulation today. The remaining 10% is made up of two higher-quality cottons – Egyptian cotton and pima cotton. Often the choice for luxury home interiors or top hotels, whichever of these two you choose, they’re in a class of their own.
Essentially, both Pima and Egyptian cotton share the same qualities; in fact they even have the same scientific name gossypium barbadense. The difference between them is the fact that one is grown on the banks of the Nile River Valley, while Pima is primarily grown in the United States.
Both are classified as “extra-long staple cottons”, a term that refers to the longer length of the individual cotton fibres. These produce a luxuriously soft fabric that is also incredibly strong. It’s resistant to fraying, tearing, pilling, wrinkling, and fading.
There are lots of copies on the market, but an authentic Egyptian toweling product should have a certification CEA (Cotton Egypt Association). For Pima cotton, other than having the product scientifically tested, the best way to tell if it’s says what it claims to be, is to see if it passes the touch test. If the fabric is extraordinarily smooth, it’s likely to be the real thing.
Once the quality of the fabric has been established, the next consideration is the weight. A quality towel should be at least 700gsm (grams per square metre) or above. The higher the gsm, the thicker and fluffier the towel often is, so a high count is ideal for thicker items such as bathmats or robes. The only downside of these quality products is the fact that they take longer to dry.
The best way to make your towels last longer is to take proper care of them. Before using your towels, wash them once to help set their colour, improve absorbency and reduce any lint. Or better still, choose a pre-washed towel – these will do all of the above and will also help avoid shrinkage.
Towels should always be washed separately from garments with zips or buttons to avoid access snagging. Also, avoid using fabric softeners since they can leave residue and create stiff texture that reduces their absorbency and increases their tendency to snag.
Mild liquid biodegradable detergents without brightening agents or added bleach are also better for the product as is a cooler wash and faster drying cycle.
By putting a little time and energy into the selection process, towels can add both style and comfort to your luxurious bathroom. This is a pleasure for both owners and guests, if the latter don’t appreciate the thought, a quote from Groucho Marx might spring to mind: “Go, and never darken my towels again.”