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What are the Different Types of Bath Towels?

Michael Pollick
Updated May 16, 2024
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One of the most important elements of turning a new house into a home is selecting sundries such as bath towels. Some may consider them to be an afterthought, but a full set in an appropriate color scheme gives the bathroom a coordinated and inviting appearance for visitors. While many of us might get away with using one or two mismatched towels and a wash cloth, there is actually a specific function for each type of towel available.

The smallest form of bath towels are called washcloths. These small squares of terrycloth (a textured cotton blend) are meant to assist bathers with lathering and gentle scrubbing. Because the use of washcloths can be so intimate, many hosts will keep a generous supply on hand to ensure individual usage. Washcloths are generally sold in bulk at a nominal cost.

The next largest towels are called hand towels and are used primarily near the bathroom sink. Hand towels feature many of the design elements of larger bath towels, so they should be coordinated. A small hanger or loop may be used to position the hand towels near the sink. Guests should use them primarily for drying their clean hands and faces, not as a larger substitute for a washcloth. Hosts often readjust hand towels on the hanger for a balanced look between uses.

Another common style of bath towels are used to absorb excess water following a bath or shower. These are called bath mats, and should only be used for that purpose. Bath mats are generally thicker than standard towels for better absorption and traction. Bath mats should be color-coordinated with the rest of the towels, but some standard sets may not offer them. Hosts may also choose a bath mat with a complementary color scheme or a style which matches the shower curtains.

The next size in bath towels is the standard towel most of us use on a daily basis. Standard towels are cut from a generous amount of terrycloth for maximum absorption. These larger towels are usually stored in a linen closet or hung on a wall-mounted rack until needed. Bathers should generally use standard-size towels to dry their clean skin after showering or bathing. Those with long hair may also use them as makeshift turbans for hair drying. A terrycloth bathrobe should be available for modesty, since towels are rarely large enough for complete coverage.

The largest towels available are called bath sheets. These over-sized towels can be 6 feet in length or more. Many bathers find a bath sheet to be preferable to the standard bath towels offered in hotels or guest rooms. Standard towels can become saturated with water quickly, but a bath sheet has much more surface area for absorption. Bath sheets can also be used as emergency wraps for modesty. Not all towel sets offer these over-sized bath sheets, but many find them to be worthwhile investments.

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Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

Discussion Comments

By dansmith — On Dec 01, 2013

27 x 54 bath towels are what we use in our house but we buy them wholesale. We buy bath towels at wholesale so its always good to have them as we all use bath towels every day.

By anon357090 — On Dec 01, 2013

I prefer using white towels, not very plush ones as they are nice but they are not as absorbent. 24 " x 48 inch bath towels in white are what are the best for my bath room and sometimes 27" x 54" inches, so I like to keep them both.

By RockFox — On Oct 13, 2011

This article mentions standard size but gives no dimensions. The standard bath towel size these days seems to be 27” x 50” or larger. I remember when the standard size was 24” x 48” and this size is very difficult to find now. I don’t know when this standard changed but I don’t like the new larger size. It seems logical to me that the only size towel that can be bi-folded on a standard 24” towel bar is 24” x 48”.

24” towels are available via wholesale but the only retail outlet I could find is Blair.

By PinkPolo — On Jul 14, 2010

@jabuka I completely agree. White is easy to match with any color one may have in the bathroom and are also easily washed because they can be bleached.

A simple way to add a splash of class and elegance as well as decoration to any plain set of bath towels is to add a monogram. Whether it be one letter or the traditional three initial monogram, these are an easy way to tie those bath towels into that bathroom. One can buy bath towels anywhere and then take them to a sewing or monogramming store and have them monogrammed for a very reasonable price!

By jabuka — On Dec 21, 2009

I like to use white towels in my bathroom. They are easy to match with any color, and easy to maintain.

Michael Pollick

Michael Pollick

As a frequent contributor to HomeQuestionsAnswered, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
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