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There are times when buying products in bulk makes more economic sense than purchasing each piece separately. Such is the case with towel sets, those popular housewarming and wedding gifts that never go out of style.
A typical towel set includes a variety of sizes for different uses. As no “industry standard” exists, it pays to investigate the pros and cons before you buy a particular set. Whether for your home or as a gift, you should be able to recognize the quality of the product you are purchasing.
For this guide, we researched into what makes a towel good or bad, what are the kinds of materials that towels are made of, the different types of sets available, and also the various sizes that towels come in.
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If you’re planning to buy a towel set, either as a gift or for personal use, here are some important elements we believe you should consider first.
You can find bath towel sets in practically any retail outlet that sells linens, from discount stores to high-end boutiques. The main difference between a discount $15 set and a boutique $250 set is the quality of the material.
Both discount and boutique sets usually include two bath towels, two hand towels, and two washcloths. But high-end sets typically incorporate Egyptian or Turkish cotton with a GSM (grams per square inch) of 700 or 800, whereas a cheap towel sets typically boast a GSM rating of 500 or lower.
Some bath towel sets include additional pieces, such as a large bath sheet, a mat for the floor, and fingertip towels for guest use. Sets with five bath towels and ten matching washcloths are also somewhat common.
Quite literally, these are the towels that hotels provide their guests. Often, you’ll see the hotel’s logo embroidered on each piece.
A typical hotel towel set includes at least two standard bath towels, two hand towels, four washcloths, a large bath sheet, a bath mat, and possibly a bathrobe. Additional towels for pool and gym use may also be included.
But the term “hotel towel set” is not reserved for hotel towels alone. Manufacturers sometimes use that description to imply that their home goods collection matches the hotel industry’s standards of quality. In your quest to find a new towel set, you may encounter products with a “hotel” label that are actually meant for home use.
Bathroom towels aren’t the only type of linen you need in your home. Kitchen towels are a definite need, and they can be purchased in sets.
Kitchen towel sets differ from bathroom towel sets in that they typically contain an assortment of decorative hand towels. They’re designed to be absorbent and quick-drying, but they’re not necessarily plush and luxurious like their bathroom counterparts.
The ideal kitchen towel set strikes a balance between form and function. A decorative kitchen towel may provide some visual pop in the kitchen, but most people also want towels that are helpful during food preparation. Look for a fabric that feels like a high-quality hand towel or washcloth.
Retail stores often offer deep discounts on towel sets sets during seasonal sales. There’s a hidden reason for this: store managers expect consumers to also spend money on products that aren’t on sale. Discount towel sets are sometimes called “loss leaders” for this reason.
Although “alternative” fibers like bamboo are gaining popularity, most quality bath towels are made of some form of cotton. But it’s not enough for shoppers to search for “100% Cotton” on the label. Manufacturers can legally blend small amounts of genuine Egyptian or Turkish cotton with cheaper synthetic fibers and still use descriptions such as “Made with Egyptian Cotton” or “Contains Turkish Cotton.” The key phrase to look for is “100% Cotton.”
Here are some common fibers, cotton and otherwise, used in the manufacture of quality towel sets.
Companies are free to package their towel sets any way they please; there is no “industry standard.” Before investing in a towel set, check the product description to make sure the contents match your needs.
Often found in bed sheets and other linens, Egyptian cotton has very long fibers that help create a high GSM rating of 700 to 900. This material is highly absorbent but also tends to cost a lot. Authentic Egyptian cotton is actually grown in the country of Egypt, where the climate is ideal for such a crop.
Pima cotton is often sold under the brand name Supima, but it is the same material. Grown in the southern states, Pima shares many characteristics with pricey Egyptian cotton. Its extra-long fibers provide good absorbency and a silky texture. If you love Egyptian cotton but your budget limits what you can spend, consider a set of Pima cotton towels.
Unlike the synthetic material known as microfiber, MicroCotton is an organic fiber developed in India. With a GSM rating of 500 to 800, absorbency is its claim to fame. Some consumers compare the feel of MicroCotton to soft suede.
When buying a towel, check its GSM (grams per square meter) — 300-400 GSM is light, for use in the kitchen, gym, or car; 400-600 GSM is medium weight, for use as hand towels or at the beach; 600-900 GSM are heavy and ultra absorbent, for use in the spa or bath.
Turkish cotton isn’t the household name that Egyptian cotton is, but a number of consumers prefer the Turkish variety for its luxurious feel. Turkish cotton has the same extra-long fibers as Egyptian cotton, but it develops a noticeable sheen over time.
Soft and velvety, bamboo is perhaps the most environmentally friendly material choice for towels. It’s not quite as absorbent as similar cotton fibers, but it offers a natural resistance to mildew formation — a common problem with damp, cotton-based towels.
For many consumers, purchasing a set of towels makes more economic sense that buying individual pieces as they get a variety of towels of different sizes and materials in one set.
From oversized bath sheets to small personal washcloths, towels are designed to meet a user’s different needs. As mentioned above, you can expect towel sizes and quantities to vary from set to set. Here are some typical towel dimensions found in traditional towel sets.
A bath sheet is generally the largest towel in any given set. Typical dimensions of an oversized bath sheet range from 36”x 60” to 40’x70”. Many people prefer the luxurious feel of a wraparound bath sheet to the smaller, functional bath towel.
Hotel sets are more likely to include a bath sheet than traditional sets. Of course, you could always order a bath sheet separately and add it to your collection.
Different types of towels are available for different jobs — like drying, washing, scrubbing, wiping, dusting, etc. — and are manufactured to perform those to the best.
The bath towel is perhaps the most versatile member of a towel set. It’s large enough to dry off after a shower yet small enough to fit in a gym bag. Typical dimensions are 27”x52” but can run as high as 30”x58”. This may not be long enough for a full-body wrap, but it works well as a hair cover or quick waist wrap.
Washcloths are extremely useful in and out of the bath. They can be used to apply soap or lotion, scrub away dirt, remove makeup, or dry the hands or face. Most washcloths are perfect 13-inch squares, but some are slightly larger rectangles. The GSM rating for washcloths may be lower than that of luxurious bath towels and sheets, but this slight abrasiveness serves a definite purpose.
A bath mat can sometimes be confused with a bath towel, but a mat fulfills an entirely different purpose. A bath mat is typically thicker and heavier than a standard bath towel, but its dimensions are similar at 27”x52”.
A bath mat’s main function is to absorb excess water that spills out of the tub. It also provides traction for the user as he or she enters and exits the tub.
You’re more likely to find a bath mat in a hotel towel set than a retail set.
Q: What types of towels are typically included in a towel set?
A: Surprisingly, there is no such thing as a “standard” towel set. Manufacturers are free to bundle any quantity and style of towels and call it a set.
However, most towel sets sold in retail stores should contain at least two wash cloths, two hand towels, and two bath towels. A set may also include additional wash cloths, fingertip (guest) towels, a bath mat, and a large bath sheet.
Q: Is purchasing a towel set more economical than buying individual pieces?
A: Generally speaking, most towel sets cost less than the sum you would pay to buy each piece separately. However, some manufacturers package low-grade towels as a set in order to offer an enticing price. We encourage readers to examine our product matrix, above, for the best affordable towel sets on the market.
Q: Why should I buy a complete towel set when all I really need are bath towels or washcloths?
A: There is no such thing as a standard towel set. Theoretically, you could find a set that offers exactly what you want, although it may take a bit of searching if your needs are unique.
At BestReviews, we purchase every product we review with our own funds. We never accept anything from product manufacturers. Our goal is to be 100% objective in our analysis, and we do not want to run the risk of being swayed by products provided at no cost.