A bath towel's quality is measured by its gram weight, which is a number that represents how many grams the towel weighs per square meter. The higher the grams per square meter (GSM), the denser the fibres of the towel are, making it softer and more absorbent. A GSM between 300 and 400 makes for a thinner towel, whereas a GSM of 450 to 600 is plush. A GSM of 700 or higher is considered luxury hotel quality.
Check the GSM. Choose hand towels that have at a GSM of at least 400 to make sure they are sufficiently soft. For bath towels, choose ones that have a GSM of 500 or higher.
Check the fibre content. The towel should be made of either 100 per cent natural fibres or microfiber. Turkish and Egyptian cotton have longer fibres that make the fabric softer and stronger, and combed cotton will resist pilling. Bamboo and hemp are more absorbent than cotton, and have antimicrobial properties. Microfiber is a synthetic fibre that is ultra absorbent and softer than cotton.
Take the towel off of the shelf and feel how heavy it is. High-quality towels are more densely woven and will feel heavier than they look.
Examine the towel's pile. The pile is the looped or cut fibres that make up the towel's surface. Uncut fibres are more absorbent, because the loop absorbs the majority of the water. Generally, longer loops are more absorbent and make the towels feel fluffier. Cut or sheared fibres may feel soft, but they won't soak up as much moisture.
Look for a tightly packed pile. The denser the loops are, the more absorbent the towel will be. On a high-quality towel, you should not be able to see the base of the towel through the pile.
Inspect the towel's edges. The edges should be double turned and double stitched to provide proper reinforcement. This will prevent the towel from fraying and ensure it has a longer life.
- A towel with a GSM of 600 made from high-quality cotton or microfiber might feel softer that a towel with a higher GSM made from a cheaper fibre.
- Because microfiber is inherently lightweight, gram weight is a less reliable measurement of quality.
- The term "Turkish towel" does not guarantee the towel is made from Turkish cotton. Turkish towel is sometimes used synonymously with terry cloth.
- You can't always judge how soft a towel will be after multiple washings by how it feels in the store, because manufactures pretreat their towels with softeners.
- Wash new towels before you use them to remove excess dye, lint or coatings that might have got on the towel during manufacturing.
- Don't wash your towels with fabric softener or use dryer sheets. Many contain wax or silicones that are water repellent and will affect the towel's absorbency.