Bath linens, including bath towels, hand towels, washcloths, and bath mats, are as much home fashion accessories as necessities. Bath linens can act as a makeover to the look and feel of your bathroom.
Anyone who's shopped for towels lately can tell you about the vast array of fashion colors, trims, patterns, sizes, and quality to choose from.
Although the basic fluffy white towel is a classic and can give a clean, spa-like, feel to any bath, you may wish to experiment with color as you refresh or add to your stock of bath linen.
It's also important to understand what makes up a good quality towel. Softness alone is no longer the only barometer to measure towel quality.
Remember, as with bed linens, that towels are traditionally discounted during January white sales. Good buys can be found year-round at linen outlets and home discount stores.
Here are some ideas to consider when shopping for bath linen, including bath mats and rugs.
Color Choices: White and ivory coordinate with any bathroom color and have longevity. However, towels are a great way to get more color into a bath. When concerned about fading, choose light colors that don't show fading as much as dark colors. For color interest, combine two colors, mixing shades such as green with blue, or tan with cream.
Bath Mats: If you use two colors for towels, choose a bath mat in one of the colors. For a clean look, use only washable cotton bath mats. Avoid using top or seat covers on the toilet and don't use a rug around the base -- they all trap moisture and are dust and bacteria catchers.
As previously mentioned, softer doesn't always mean better quality. Manufacturers sometimes add fabric softeners to towels to create a silky feel; these silicone-base additives coat the towel fibers so a soft towel can actually be less effective than its coarser cousin. When selecting towels, use weight as an indicator of durability.
Because of its absorbency and strength, cotton is the fabric of choice. Longer-staple varieties, such as those grown in the delta regions of the U.S., are stronger and softer than shorter-staple versions. As the staple length increases, the individual loop gets softer and more supple, for better wear and less lint. Combed cotton is considered a top-quality fiber for toweling because only the best grades of cotton can be combed.
Performance: The manufacturing process and the material affect towel absorbency. Although sheared towels are the most absorbent, they aren't necessarily the best dryers. Towels don't dry simply by absorbing moisture; the fiber loops also brush water off the body.
Bottom line: The number of loops per square inch is the most important indicator of performance.
Good quality bath towels can last for 10 years with proper care. To get the most from your towels, follow these laundering tips and suggestions: