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Types of Towels

Let me see if I can list all of the types of towels.

  • Open end Carded
  • Ring Spun Carded Single ply & Double Ply
  • Ring Spun Combed Single ply & Double Ply
  • Ring Spun Egyptian Single ply & Double Ply
  • Ring Spun Supima Single ply & Double Ply
  • Ring Spun Pima Single ply & Double Ply
  • Ring Spun Sea Island Single ply & Double Ply
  • Cotton / Model Single ply & Double Ply
  • Cotton / Tencel Single ply & Double Ply
  • Cotton / Bamboo Single ply & Double Ply
  • Cotton / Hemp Single ply & Double Ply
  • Zero Twist Single ply & Double Ply
  • Zero Twist / Bamboo
  • Zero Twist / Supima
  • Zero / Pima
  • Single Ply Velour
  • Double ply Velour
  • Ring Spun / Zero Twist
  • Piece Dyed Jacquard Terry & Velour
  • Yarn Dyed Jacquard Terry & Velour
  • Yarn Dyed Stripe Dobby Single ply & 2 ply Terry
  • Yarn Dyed Stripe Dobby Single ply & 2 ply Velour

That is 25 different types of towels which can be made into an unlimited assortment of weights and sizes.

Sizes

Bath

The most common sizes for the width of a bath towel are:

24" and 25" width which are used for most promotional price points. This is a very small bath towel which you might have experienced in a low priced hotel. This size is most common at the $1.99-$2.99 price point, and usually is of lesser quality cotton and processing. For many retailers this is called the OPP towel for Opening Price Point.

27" width is the most common size for the moderate to low price points and usually would be sold at the $2.99-$3.99 price points at retail. Several years ago this was the common size for towels priced under $10, but today as retailers have become more competitive you will commonly find this size in the lower price points. The exception to this would be if the towel was a Jacquard. In many cases the size of the common Jacquard loom is only able to manufacture in the 27" width so you will find a large selection of Yarn Dyed and Piece dyed Jacquards in the 27" width. This size is very well suited for the widths of the weaving looms. the greige towel fabric is woven to 30", then during the washing and dyeing process the towel will shrink about 10% which brings the towel down to the 27" width.

30" width is the most common size for towel above the $3.99 price point. Again, as new looms are brought into mills, they have tried to increase the width of the loom so as to gain efficiency and thus the wider width of towel is becoming the norm. I personally would not consider any towel that was not at least 30" wide.

32" wide towel is beginning to make it's way to the market. they are currently sold at a premium price but really only as a way to make their product different than the more common size of 30"

35"-36" widths are used most of the time for bath sheets. The bath sheet is the largest of the sold color towel products and as Americans have gained girth, we seem to demand a bigger towel instead of losing weight. I like Bath sheets as they tend to spread the moisture over a larger surface of the towel and therefore dry you off better and dry faster on the towel bar during the evening. For some people this is too large of a towel and for some they do not like the fact that it will take longer to dry in the automatic dryer than a smaller towel.

You should also make note of the pricing policies of the retailers. The bath towel is the lead price point which you will see in all advertising. In fact most of the advertising will only have the bath towel price listed. Make note of this. The lead price point for the retailer is to get you to buy the product, therefore then always make less money on the lead price point. So, the profit margin the retailer is making on the bath towel is the smallest of all of the other sizes. The largest profit margin for the retailer will be on the bath sheet and tub mat if they are offered. You can be assured that the profit margin on the hand, wash, bath sheet and tub mat will be much greater than on the bath towel.

40" width is a common width for the beach towel, this is because the size of the Jacquard looms will fit 3 x 40" Jacquard beach towel across the loom so for efficiency sake, the factories like this size. Most of these types of towels would be a yarn dyed Jacquard velour product and would have bright colors in a beach style design.


Length of the towels

We usually have a correlation between the width of the bath towel and the length. The most common sizes:

  • width x length
  • 24" x 48"
  • 25" x 48"-50"
  • 27" x 50" -54"
  • 30" x 54"-58"
  • 32" x 58"
  • 35"-36" x 60"
  • 40" x 70"-72"

Hand Towels

You can pretty much assume that the low price point hand towels will be 15" wide and either 25" to 26" long.

For the mid price points you should be getting a 16" wide hand towel with the length of 26"-28".

For the better price points you will always get a 16" width with at least a 30" length.

Throw all of this out the window if you are purchasing towel made of the European market. In the EU most hand towels are almost the size of the cheap promotional bath towels we sell in America. Almost all EU hand towels are 20" wide and most are 30" long. These are great towels and if you have a chance to find these, I recommend them highly. Once you have used these great hand towels in your bathroom, you will never want to go back to the smaller American sizes.

We recommend either the Christy Embrace (cotton/Modal/silk blend) towel with a 22" x 35" hand towel or the Christy Hotel (2ply Turkish cotton) towel with a 20" x 30" hand towel. Both are available at the Designer Linens Outlet.


Wash Cloth

The most common sizes are the 12" x 12" for the lower price points and the 13" x 13" for the mid and higher price points. There is a simple reason for this. Prior to 2001 in the United States we had a quota on towels that were made outside of the US. That quota controlled how many towels could be shipped into the US and it was based on the size of the towel. Any towel less than 14" x 14" was not counted in the quota and was quota free. Therefore, all factories everywhere, made the wash cloth in a size smaller than the quota requirement to be able to ship more of the bath and hand towels. Therefore, we seemed to have made this the common size for the wash. As an example, the finger tip towel usually 11" x 18" actually cost much more than a wash cloth just to pay for the quota that the factory had to purchase for the right to ship this size to the US. these quotas do not exist today, but the sizes still do.

The shape of the wash cloth is interesting as well. in the early days of towel manufacturing in the US each wash cloth had to be sewn by hand. You could find rooms of women and men sitting behind sewing machines sewing the lock stitch on the edge of the wash cloth.

As automation came to towel factories this became an automated job. But it also changed the shape of the wash cloth. Today the automatic machines that cur the wash cloth from the wide widths of fabric also sew the edges at the same time. Thus the creation of the square wash cloth. If you have a choice, I recommend the square shape. Besides being easier for the factory to make, it is more secure in the sewing process and will not fray nor come apart as easily as the manual lock stitch. Also the wash cloth will keep it shape better and last longer.


Weight

General rule, the heavier the towel the more it will cost. Simple, the largest cost of the towel is the cotton or cotton and what ever fiber you mix with the cotton. This is about 60%-66% of the cost to make the towel. The remaining 34%-40% is the cost to manufacture the towel, electricity, labor, cost of money, labels, hang tags, and cartons to ship the towels in. As you have seen in the tour of the factory, there is not really very much labor to making the towel, machines do all of the work. The largest cost besides the cost of the raw materials is the cost of money and energy.

As you most likely know we always discuss the weight of the towels in either GSM (Grams per Square Meter) or pounds per dozen (in the US only).

GSM is the weight of the terry fabric 1 meter x 1 meter expressed in Grams.

The reason grams per square meter are used even in the U.S. is that they are a more accurate indicator of quality than pounds and makes it easy to compare one towel to another.

One way to determine the GSM is to weight the towel and measure the towel length and width.

Let's compare, for example, two towels both weighing 1.5 pounds (680 grams) but with different dimensions, as follows:
Towel A weighs 1.5 pounds (680 grams) and measures 26 by 52 inches (.66 meters by 1.32 meters).
Calculate the surface area by multiplying the length and width in meters: .66 times 1.32 equals .8712 square meters.
Divide the weight in grams (680) by .8712 and find that you have a 780 GSM towel.

But when we price towels in the US we seem to always discuss pounds, example a 14-pound towel.  What we are discussing is the weight of 12 towels (dozen) and how much that dozen towel weights.  So many times you will see pricing as $36.00 per Dozen, and the price per pound is $3.00, guess what this would be for a 12 pound towel? $36.00.

But dealing only in how much a dozen towels weight does not tell you the GSM, because you have not discussed the size.  Is that $36.00 per dozen for a 27 x 52 towel for 30 x 54 towel?  The 27 x 52 (1404 sq. inches) would be heavier per GSM at this price that the 30 x 54 (1620 sq. inches) would be because the same weight of cotton is in a smaller towel.

So GSM is the best way to talk about towel weight as this makes everything equal.

But don’t put all of your eggs in the GSM basket as the only way to determine quality.  Remember, there are lots of ways to do something.  First we know that the quality of the cotton will make a towel better or worse.  Second we know that if it is open end, carded or combed will make a difference in the quality of the towel. Third the size of the yarns will make a difference in the quality of the towel.

Suppose for an example we made two towels, both with the same number of warp years and the same number of weft yarns and the same number of loops (Picks) on the surface of the towel.  But one was made entirely of 16 singles and the other entirely of 8 singles.  Remember that the weight of the yarn for the larger number is less than for the smaller number.  This is for theory only, but the towel made with 8 singles would weight twice as much.  Would that mean the 8 singles towel is better quality?  I doubt it; the coarse 8 singles yarns would never feel as soft and luxurious as the 16 singles yarns.  So don’t get hung up on the weight, it is only one of the parameters you need to know to determine the quality of a towel.

I am sure you have seen terry shop cloths that seem to have only a few terry loops on the surface of the towel.  This is because the factory made the cloth with thick weft and warp yarns and that is where the weight of the towel comes from, not the terry loops.

You can increase a towels weight by;

  • Thinker yarns in the weft, warp or loops.
  • Weaving the warp, weft or loops closer together.
  • Making the length of the loop yarns longer.
  • Using 2 ply or 3 ply yarns in the loops.

Each of the above ways will change the weight of a towel in GSM.

If someone liked a 700 GSM towel but wanted to make it a 750 GSM towel, we could:

  • Make the loops longer
  • Weave the loops closer together
  • Add warp and/ or weft yarns and leave the loops the same length.
  • Make the weft and/or warp yarns heavier and the loops the same.

There are endless ways to change a towel, and each factory has their own protocols as to how they manufacture their products.

One other factor will affect the weight of a towel.  Since the towel is made of Cotton, when the cotton is put into an environment with more or less moisture the towel will absorb the moisture in the air and increase in weight.

I have seen towels that have been flown in airplanes where the humidity is very low weight 5% -10% less when they arrive at their destination than before they left.  Very often we will take towel out of they poly bags they are in and let them air out 24 hours before we weight them so they can get back to the moisture count they originally had to get the correct weight.

Want to condition as towel, put it in a dryer with a wet wash cloth and let the dryer run for 10-15 minutes, the towel will come out feeling softer and heavier then before you put it in the dryer.

Just so you know, building a towel is not an exact science.  Usually the third party testing laboratories will give an allowance of 5%-7% in the weight of a towel.  So a 700 GSM towel can weigh between 660 GSM -740 GSM and still be acceptable to most testing labs.  I assure you that you most people could not tell the difference between a 700 GSM and a 740 GSM, it is just too little of weight to feel.

Basic rules to weight are:

Less than 400 gsm, a promotional towel at low cost

400gsm-500 gsm low price towel but suitable for general use but you can do much better.

500gsm-600gsm a pretty good towel, you would be happy with the feel and the ability to dry you after a shower and not feel that the towel as soaked. There are some very good towels at this weight, but they were usually made with better yarns.

600gsm-700 gsm a very good towel that will remain relatively dry even after you dried off from your bath.

This is a good weight for a towel. There are some excellent towels at this weight, check out More Shopping page for examples.

700 gsm-800 gsm usually a premium product that you will be happy with for many years of use. This is the recommended weight for a towel to give you the best qualities of everything a towel should do without waste and spending too much money.

Above 800 gsm, this is the heaviest weight you want to go. Any weight over 800 gsm will not give you your monies worth. It will be heavy to hold and dry off with and will take forever to dry in your automatic dryer and will weight so much after you take this damp towel out of the washing machine you might hurt yourself. Try to dry your ear with a 800 gsm towel, you cannot even get this towel into the curves of your ear, it is too thick. While I have seen some excellent 800 gsm towels, I would be very careful about spending your hard earned dollars on something that just doesn't justify the return.


Construction

Decide on the type of towels you feel best suit your decor plans for bathroom and the use of the towel.


Terry sometimes call looped towels:

These are the most common towel and usually is available in sold colors. The Terry towel is the one with the loops on both sides of the towel. This gives you the best drying ability and the best feel for the softness. The most common type of towel.


Velour sometimes called sheared towels:

Velour towels are similar to terry, but the loops are sheared on one side. Some people prefer the decorative sheen that results. The terry side should face the skin for optimum drying. You will find this as a common decorative item or in beach towels where the design needs the definition to be seen. they look wonderful, but you can only dry off on one side of the towel.


Printed:

Colorful designs are printed on the surface of both terry and velour towels. Again this is a decorative item that the design is the important part of the product. Usually the printing will diminish the ability to dry so I do not recommend this product if the purpose is to use the towel for drying off after a shower or bath. Think of this as a good product for a beach towel or to show off your support for your favorite team, Hollywood star or favorite drink.


Jacquard:

These towels feature a decorative area of sometimes slightly upraised fabric, in which a design is woven into the towel on a jacquard loom. As discussed before, Jacquards can be either terry or velour. As a terry Jacquard, they will dry you off just as well as a solid color terry towel would and yet have a decorative part to the product. As a velour, this is an excellent beach towel that will show off its colors and design while still being able to dry you off after a day at the ocean or boating.


Embellished:

To add a decorative flair to a bathroom, some manufacturers add embroidery or trim to a towel. Usually this would be a velour towel so as to show the design of the product. The embroidery will scratch the skin and this is not recommended for everyday drying purposes. Many people buy Holiday hand and finger tip towels to bring the holiday season into the bath room.


Other things to look at

Double-turned side hem edges with double stitching are the key to durability. This reinforcement reduces fraying at the edges, which will give your towels a long life. Be careful of self salvage towels that the side hems are woven into the towel. Besides not looking finished, these types of side hems may come unwoven and make the towel look poorly.

Earlier we briefly discussed the European style towels. We need to go a little further into this topic.

The first thing you will notice about the EU style towel is the size. In Europe they do not usually go for large size towels, so the bath towel will usually be slightly smaller than what we are use to in the US. But the hand towel is almost always larger and this is a real plus. Also they like to have a wash mitt instead of just a flat wash cloth, they add another side to the wash cloth to make a mitt that you can stick your hand into. Pretty neat.

But the interesting fact is the weight of the towels. In the US it is common for the bath, hand and wash to be different weights in terms of the GSM. In the EU if the bath towel is 700 gsm, the hand towel and the wash cloth will be 700 gsm. this is because in the early days of towel production all of the fabric was made on a single loom and then cut to make the bath, hand and wash from the same fabric. In today's factories, the bath towels are made on one loom and the hand towel on another and the wash cloth on another. This allows the gsm to be different for each size.Aa typical US bath program would have the 700 gsm bath towel and a 630 gsm hand towel and a 570 gsm wash cloth. Nothing wrong with this, as having a 700 gsm wash cloth is overkill. But you need to know this so you can see and feel the difference.

Of course there is always the economic reason. By reducing the weight of the hand towel and the wash cloth you also reduce the cost of the hand towel and the wash cloth, which puts more money into the cash register at the retail store.

To find more towels that are made in European sizes, check out our More Shopping page.

 

 

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