What is GSM in towels? GSM is a measurement of towel weight. It stands for "grams per square meter." Bath towels typically range between 300 and 900 GSM. Luxury towels come in at the higher end of the range, indicating that they are thicker, softer, and more absorbent. This article explains how GSM works and why it is an important indicator of towel quality, whether you are shopping for a bath towel, beach towel, hand towel, guest towel, or bath mat.
What Is Towel GSM? An Important Term
Shopping for luxury towels means considering many variables, including price, size, fabric quality and weight. And the weight of towels is measured in GSM, or grams per square meter. But GSM may be an unfamiliar term to shoppers of luxury bath and beach towels. Here at Fine Linen and Bath, we're happy to provide the background you need to purchase the perfect towel for your needs and budget. Read on to learn more about GSM and understand how to evaluate it when shopping for luxury bath towels.
GSM: A Number That Indicates Weight In Towels
GSM, or "grams per square meter" is a measure of towel weight expressed as a number. GSM is used for both cotton and bamboo towels and is directly aligned with a towel’s quality, feel, and performance. In cotton bath towels the typical GSM range is between 300 and 900 GSM. Towels with a higher GSM will be heavier, softer, and more absorbent towels. A luxury bath towel found in a spa or hotel collection is often made from the highest GSM cotton fabric; this is a very plush towel, made to be thick, soft, and absorbent. However, high GSM towels are heavier and can be challenging to wash. A lighter or medium weight towel, with a lower GSM, will be easier to wash but may feel a bit less "plush" while still being a quality towel. Understanding the various qualities and benefits of GSM can help you choose the perfect bath towels that feel great; perform well; and are easy to care for.
What Does GSM Mean for Towels and Other Fabrics?
GSM is a universal standard for calculating and comparing the weight of all fabric, including cotton towels. It is derived by precisely measuring the weight of one square meter of any fabric in grams.The typical range for cotton bath towels is between 300 to 900 GSM, with the upper end of the range feeling softer and more absorbent.
To put these numbers in perspective, the GSM of a lightweight cotton shirt or summer dress would fall in the low- to mid-100s. Denim fabric has a GSM somewhere around 400. A heavyweight wool coat or blanket would measure about 700 GSM. Cotton fabric with higher GSM is a denser with a greater concentration of fibers; this is why GSM correlates with quality when it comes to bath towels. A high GSM denotes luxury. The towel will be fluffy, soft, absorbent, and heavy.
The Importance of High GSM in Towels
High GSM cotton towels are usually better quality. In general, a cotton bath towel that weighs 400 GSM and above is considered to be good quality. The fabric in these soft towels is woven more densely, and thus is softer and more absorbent than a lower GSM fabric (for example, that found in a standard kitchen towel).
A general guideline to GSM ranges in cotton towels is as follows:
- 300 to 400 GSM: Lightweight, thinner, coarser
- 400 to 600 GSM: Medium to higher weight, soft and absorbent, good for bath or beach towels
- 700 to 900 GSM: Highest, heavy weight, soft and absorbent, high-priced, a luxury towel
When shopping for a cotton towel, begin by looking in the 400 to 600 GSM range. These towels are luxurious without being overly heavy, which makes them ideal for bath and beach. They are soft and absorbent while still being easy to care for. Move on to higher GSM for towels that are thicker, plush, and even more absorbent.
The Benefits of Higher GSM Towels
The GSM number directly correlates to the quality of a cotton bathroom towel. Towels with a higher GSM are softer, more absorbent, and more luxurious. In most cases, they are also more expensive. A low GSM bath towel will be lightweight, coarse, and less absorbent; using this type of towel is an unpleasant experience and not effective for drying off.
Here at Fine Linen and Bath, we typically recommend choosing a cotton bath towel of 400 GSM and above. A towel in the 400 to 600 GSM range is hefty, not heavy, and still of high quality. These towels offer consistent, reliable performance and a wonderful feel; they are soft and absorbent without being too heavy. They can air dry relatively quickly, and can easily be washed and dried in a regular load. Many people find that a 600 GSM is the right towel weight for comfort and easier care.
A cotton terry towel of 700 GSM and above is considered heavy weight. These towels have a sumptuous, extravagant, soft towel feel, and are an investment. They are hefty, highly absorbent, and rich in depth and feel. High GSM towels are better at absorbing dyes during the manufacturing process, so are often available in a wider or more interesting choice of colors along with traditional white and ivory. Because of their weight, towels with high GSM take longer to hang dry, and usually must be washed in a smaller load by themselves. These are the best bath towels, and do require a little more care.
What Happens When You Use a Low GSM Bath Towel?
Using a bath towel with low GSM comes with compromises. First, it’s important to note that low GSM towels are quicker to dry; this is to be expected because the towels are lighter and thinner. Low GSM towels are also lower cost since they are made with less terry and often lower quality cotton. The negatives of using a low GSM towel far outweigh these two benefits. First, they are not nearly as absorbent as medium and high GSM towels. That means you would need to use more towels to dry yourself -- if you’ve ever stayed in a budget hotel with thin towels, you know what this is like. Low GSM towels are also not nearly as durable as their mid- and high-GSM counterparts, due to both their lighter weight and the fact that they are not usually made with high-quality material. Low GSM towels can wear out more quickly, can become thin and frayed over time, and do not hold up well to frequent washing and drying. As luxury linen experts, we recommend avoiding low GSM towels for any use in your bath. It is much better to invest in one or two higher-quality towels with mid- to high-GSM, as these towels are made with superior materials and will grow softer and more absorbent with repeated washings. (See below for tips on how you can refresh your luxury towels to their original look and feel).
Characteristics of Different Weights of Towels
|Under 300 GSM||400 to 600 GSM||700 + GSM|
|Mid-weight, plush||Heaviest weight, spa-like|
|Feel||Coarse and uncomfortable||Soft and fluffy||
Softest feel, plush and opulent
|Dry Time||Quick||Average, relatively easy to wash and dry||
Longer dry time, takes up room in washer and dryer
How to Care for Luxury Bath Towels
In all cases, quality cotton bath towels should be laundered with care to keep them looking and feeling great. At Fine Linen and Bath, we offer a specific set of guidelines that include using Heritage Park All-Purpose Laundry Detergent. This concentrated, pH-neutral detergent is made with a proprietary enzyme blend that effectively cleans while preserving the beauty and integrity luxury towels. We also recommend avoiding harsh chemicals like bleach and never using fabric softener or dyer sheets; instead, use wool dryer balls to soften towels and reduce drying time.
How to Restore the Look and Feel of Luxury Bath Towels
Over time, even the highest quality luxury towels can become scratchy, stiff, and dull. They may even lose their absorbency. This is due to towel build-up, which happens from detergent and, primarily, the minerals in hard water. You can restore your towels to a like-new feel with ingredients you likely have right in your pantry. Follow these two simple steps:
- Wash your towels in hot/warm water (not scalding) with one cup of white distilled vinegar. Do NOT use detergent or fabric softener. This will clean the individual fibers of your towel.
- Run a second time in hot/warm water with only half-cup of baking soda. This will help freshen and remove any smells. Again, NO detergent or fabric softener.
Dry towels as usual without dryer sheets. Your towels will feel soft and fluffy and smell fresh!
Where to Find High GSM Bath Towels
At Fine Linen and Bath, we sell only the finest bath towels with mid-to high-GSM counts. Our best-selling product lines include Abyss, SFERRA, Matouk, and Graciozza, each of which feature a range of towels in varying weights, patterns, styles and colors. Read this guide to buying luxury bath towels which explains these variables and offers product recommendations.
The Quality of Cotton in Your Towel Matters
Beyond just GSM, another essential variable to consider is the quality of the cotton from which a towel is woven. The finest towels in the world—and many of the lines we carry -- are Egyptian cotton towels made from Giza cotton (famous for it extra long staple cotton fibres) or U.S.-grown Supima cotton (also referred to as pima cotton). These long-staple -- or long-fiber -- cottons are stronger, softer and more resistant to pilling and wear than other types of cotton.
Giza is a high-quality Egyptian cotton grown along the Nile River Delta, where nutrient-rich waters of the of the river and cool sea air serve to temper the otherwise hot Egyptian summer temperatures. High levels of humidity in this area create a unique environment that is perfect for growing cotton. To ensure its quality and preserve the strength of its long fibers, all Giza cotton is picked by hand rather than being machine harvested. You can learn more about why Giza cotton is special here.
Supima cotton is a superior type of cotton grown only in the west and southwest states of California, Arizona, Texas and New Mexico. It is a superior type of cotton with an extra-long staple fiber that gives premium properties of strength, softness, and color retention.
Choose the Right Size Towel
Lastly, as you evaluate GSM, consider whether you prefer a towel or a bath sheet. Bath towels are ideal for everyday use and offer the same absorbency as a bath sheet (assuming they are from the same brand and product line). You will often see a bath towel set on display because the towel, face cloth, and wash cloth can easily be stacked and folded, which is ideal for smaller bathrooms and guest bathrooms. A bath sheet is much larger than a bath towel; it’s designed to wrap around your entire body comfortably. Because of their size, bath sheets don’t fit on standard towel racks and usually require hooks for hanging. Learn more about different bath towel size options here.