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A Guide to Luxury Bath Towel Terminology

  • by Mary Babinski
  • 7 min read

Understanding the various terms used to describe luxury towels is essential to finding the best bath towel for you. This article discusses terms used by towel manufacturers to describe fabric, weave, weight, styling details, and towel size.

When it comes to luxury bath towels, you absolutely get what you pay for. And with superior craftsmanship and performance, luxury towels will cost more than towels sold in department or big box stores. But getting the best value in quality towels comes down to understanding the unique vocabulary and terminology towel manufacturers use to describe their products.

At Fine Linen and Bath, we talk about luxury linen all day long. We are experts in the unique language of bath linens. To clear up any confusion and help you choose your perfect towel, we’re sharing this guide to luxury bath towel terms and definitions.

Luxury Bath Towel Materials

The most popular material used in bath towels is -- no surprise -- cotton. Known for its strength and absorbency, cotton is truly the ideal fabric for luxury bath towels. The highest quality bath towels are made from Turkish cotton, Egyptian cotton, and American cotton. The finest Egyptian and American cottons are, respectively, Giza cotton and Pima cotton (sold under the brand name of Supima). These cottons have longer, stronger, fibers (or staples) of superior strength and softness; you will see them referred to as long-staple (LS) or extra-long-staple (ELS) cotton. Fine cotton may also be labeled zero-, low-, or high-twist; zero-twist and low-twist cotton is more absorbent, while higher twist towels are sturdier. (Note: The twist of the yarn is only one measure of absorbency; a heavier weight high-twist towel can offer similar absorbency to a mid-weight zero- or low-twist cotton towel).

Towels can also be made from cotton blends, or cotton mélange fabrics; examples of this are cotton/viscose (wood fiber) and cotton/polyester. You will also find towels made from fibers such as bamboo, wood pulp viscose, eucalyptus-based rayon Tencel, and modal, a semi-synthetic fabric made from beech fibers. You will also find towels made from synthetic microfiber, which is a light weight fine polyester/nylon blend; microfiber is much thinner than cotton fiber and of lower quality. Note: microfiber is not the same thing as micro cotton, which is a trademarked type of cotton fabric.

Graccioza's ultra-soft and absorbent Bee Waffle towels feature a distinctive texture design for the perfect addition to your bathroom

Combed Cotton

Cotton that has been combed to remove impurities prior to spinning for extra softness. Graccioza Bee Waffle towels are combed cotton.

Cotton

The finest cotton is grown in Turkey, Egypt, and America. Cotton is a soft, white plant grown specifically for use in fabrics. Cotton is the preferred material for luxury towels.

Cotton Mélange

Cotton Mélange is a blend or mix of cotton fibers.

Egyptian Giza Cotton

Giza cotton is the finest cotton grown in Egypt. Giza cotton is extra-long-strand and grown in the fertile valley of the Nile River where the rich soil and climate conditions are ideal. Learn more about Giza cotton here. Abyss Super Pile and Graccioza Egoist towels are made from 100% Giza cotton.

ELS Cotton

ELS stands for Extra-Long-Staple cotton, and has the longest, strongest, softest cotton fibers for beautiful and durable cotton yarn.

LS Cotton

LS stands for Long-Staple cotton, and is defined by its long, strong, and soft fibers.

Organic and Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX Cotton

Cotton can also be designated organic. If you want an organic cotton towel, look for an independent certification such as GOTS, which stands for Global Organic Textile Standard. GOTS verifies that the cotton was grown and processed according to specific standards of ecological and social criteria. Standard 100 by OEKO-TEX certification means that cotton has been independently tested and certified as safe from harmful substances.

Pima Cotton

Pima cotton is American grown cotton that is Extra-Long-Staple (ELS) cotton. Pima is the generic name for American grown cotton but you will also see Pima sold under the brand name Supima.

Plant-based Fabric

Towels can be made from other plant-based fabrics including Bamboo, Viscose (wood), Tencel (eucalyptus), Modal (beech). These may also be blended with cotton. Check out Peacock Alley Bamboo bath towels here and SDH Legna bath towels, which are a blend of cotton and Modal, here.

Ring-spun Cotton

Rign-spun cotton are when cotton fibers are twisted together and spun in the same direction to make them finer and stronger.

Staple

The cotton fiber, or strands, that make up cotton.

Synthetic Microfiber

Synthetic Microfiber is a lightweight blend of polyester and nylon. Synthetic Microfiber is not a natural fiber.

Zero-Twist and Low-Twist Cotton

Zero- and low-twist cotton are fluffy, lighter in weight, and highly absorbent for their weight. Matouk Milagro towels are made with zero-twist cotton, Matouk Lotus towels are made with low-twist cotton.

Measuring the Weight of Luxury Towels

The weight of towels is measured in GSM, or “grams per square meter.” Like thread count in luxury bedding, GSM is a number that correlates to a towel’s absorbency, feel, and performance. In cotton bath towels the typical range is between 300 and 900 GSM -- with the higher GSM towels being heavier, softer, and typically more absorbent.

A cotton bath towel that weighs 400 GSM and above is considered to be good quality. A general guideline to GSM ranges in cotton towels is as follows:

  • 300 to 400 GSM: Lightweight towel, thinner, coarser, dries quickly (think of kitchen towels)
  • 400 to 600 GSM: Medium weight, soft, absorbent good for bath or beach towel
  • 700 to 900 GSM: Heavyweight towels; very soft and absorbent, a luxurious plush towel
GSM is short for Grams per square meter

GSM

GSM is short for Grams per square meter. GSM is a measurement of the weight of a towel. Increasing GSM in towels made with high-quality cotton signifies luxury, softness, and absorbency.

The Weave and Construction of Luxury Bath Towels

The most popular style of weaving for bath towels is terry which features long loops standing off the towel’s base. However, terry is only one of many available towel weaves.

French Terry

French terry is a knit with loops only on one side. This style terry is seen on sweatshirts and casual clothes and can be used on beach towels where one side is woven with the other having a very short loop terry for absorbency. The Matouk Amado beach towel is French terry.

Long Loop Terry

Terry fabric that has extra-long loops, which make it super luxurious and absorbent. Abyss Super Pile and Graccioza Egoist towels are both long loop terry.

Terry Cloth

A weave with uncut loops (“pile”) that stand up off the base, or ground, on both sides of the fabric to increase surface area, enhance absorbency, and maintain a soft feel. Most terry cloth is made from cotton, which can absorb as much as 20x its weight in water.

Terry Velour

While regular terry features loops on both sides of the fabric, terry velour has loops on just one side. The other side is cut short to make a velvety soft, smooth surface. This indulgent weave is often used in a textured pattern for luxury bath towels, but is also a popular style for beach towels and bathrobes. Abyss Montana towels and Bricini Maui beach towels are terry velour.

Waffle, Twill, and Textured Weaves

Waffle, twill and textured weave designs are invigorating and absorbent. Textured weave towels are typically lighter in weight than terry cloth and quicker to dry. Check out the Bee Waffle towel from Graccioza and the Twill bath towel Abyss.

Graccioza Bee Waffle towel

Design Details In Luxury Bath Towels

Style and functionality combine in the design details found in luxury bath towels.

Applique

Applique is ornamental needlework where fabric is sewn or added to a towel to create a design.

Dobby

A dobby is a decorative weave added to the short ends of the towel. It adds visual interest and also helps the towel hold its shape. SFERRA Bello bath towels have a wide honeycomb dobby.

A dobby is a decorative weave added to the short ends of the towel

Embroidery

A design sewn into a towel with contrast color thread. Matouk Gordian Knot bath towels are a beautiful example of embroidery.

Piping

The piping is the finished edge to a towel, can be in a contrast or matching color. See the Matouk Cairo for a bold example of piping.

The piping is the finished edge to a towel

Rounded Corners

Abyss towels feature signature rounded corners; one seam means these towels offer additional strength and durability.

Understanding the Many Size Options in Luxury Towels

The many size options in luxury bath towels can be a bit mystifying. Use the chart below to get an idea of the many luxury towel sizes available. While exact towel size will vary among brands, a good guideline is as follows:

  • Wash cloth 12" x 12"
  • Hand towels 17 x 30"
  • Bath towels 28" x 54"
  • Bath Sheets 40" x 72"
What Are the Most Common Towel Sizes?

Many brands offer additional sizes and types of towels that fall in between the standard sizing. Common examples of these are wash mitts, guest/fingertip towels, larger hand towels, bath mat size choices, decorative towels, face towels, Euro bath sheets, and beach towels.

Bath Towels and Bath Sheets

A bath towel is perfect for everyday use and offers the same softness and absorbency as a bath sheet in the same brand and collection. A bath sheet is oversized and made to feel much like a spa bath towel.

Guest and Fingertip Towels

There is no difference between a guest towel and a fingertip towel. Both tend to be sized in between washcloths and hand towels, around 12" x 20" inches.

Large and Extra-Large Hand Towels

In addition to preferring a larger-sized hand towel, some people will use a large or extra-large hand towel for their hair or as bath towels for children.

Wash Mitt

A wash mitt or a towel glove are great alternatives to typical washcloths. They tend to be most popular for children's bath time, but adults love and use them, too!

The Fine Linen and Bath Design Team is Here to Help

There is a lot of information in today’s blog. We highly recommend you bookmark this page and refer to it when you are shopping for luxury towels. Of course, our design experts are always here to help. We can answer questions, assist you in shopping, offer recommendations, and even send you complimentary swatch samples of any towel you are considering to review at home. In the meantime, we welcome you to browse our vast collection of luxury bath towels here.

Fine Linen and Bath: An In-Store Shopping Experience Delivered to You Online 

At Fine Linen and Bath, our mission is to deliver a concierge luxury linen shopping experience with online convenience. Browse our website to access an expansive collection of bedding, bath, table linens, and accessories from the world's premier brands.

When you need answers, consultation, or help to narrow your choices, our team of expert design consultants is here to assist you. We offer individualized recommendations, personal consultation, and even complimentary swatch samples for your review. We'll help you make the right buying decisions for your style, budget, and design goals.

Please connect with us online or -- even better -- give us a call at (866) 352-4522. We'd love to get to know you!

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