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Towels, including bath sheets, bath towels, hand towels and face cloths - a UK buyer's guide

Choosing Towels

Towels are available in a vast range of fabrics, weights, styles and finishes, and it can be difficult to know which to buy.


egyptian cottonThe towel weight is given in gsm (standing for grams per square metre) and is a measure of the density of the material. A towel that weighs less than 400 gsm is likely to be a bit thin, but it depends what you are going to be using it for - if it's to go into your child's swimming bag then a lightweight towel may be an advantage. If you are shopping on the High Street, you can examine a towel by holding it up to the light and see how much light it lets through - heavier towels will let through less light. Online, though, you will have to rely upon the quoted gsm.


Towels are available in a range of sizes, but these are not standardised, so a bath sheet from one store may be a different size to another found in a different store.. As a guide, a bath sheet generally measures around 90cm x 150cm, a bath towel 68cm x 130cm, a hand towel 50cm x 100cm and a face cloth 33cm x 33cm. If in doubt, go for a bigger towel. In my view, a bath towel is not of sufficient size to dry a person comfortably and a bath sheet is to be preferred.

Other Factors

Other factors to consider when choosing, apart from weight, include:

  • Absorbency - the absorbency is dependent upon the material from which it is made, and the number and length of the loops across its surface. Towels with longer loops will most likely be heavier (and have a higher gsm).
  • Softness
  • Longevity
  • Material - towels are available in a number of materials now, in addition to the traditional 100% cotton. These other materials include modal, linen and microfibre. My preference would be to stick with the traditional 100% cotton fabric. However, cotton itself is available in different varieties itself including Supima, Egyptian and Standard. "Supima" is the registered trademark of an organisation that makes textiles from American Pima cotton. Generic Pima cotton is grown in the US, Peru, Australia and Egypt, and is prized because of the strength and uniformity of its fibres. It is an ELS cotton, standing for extra-long staple. Egyptian cotton is cotton that is grown in Egypt (no surprises there!). It may be ELS, but the majority of cotton grown in Egypt is "Long Staple Cotton", consisting of long and strong fibres. Most of the cotton in Egypt is grown in the valley of the River Nile. Both Supima and Egyptian cottons are considered to be superior to other cottons, and there is rivallry between supporters of each as to which is the "best".