Are Turkish towels really the best? A shopping editor investigates

Turkish towels offer softness and strength, but they aren't as durable as linen, as breathable as bamboo, nor as plush as Egyptian cotton

A rainbow array of Turkish towels, hanging from hooks in a bathroom.
(Image credit: Frontgate)

You might not think that much about your bath towels. In theory, you could use any old rag to mop up water and dry your skin, even if it takes off the top layer of your skin cells in the process. If this sounds like you, you don't know what you're missing. A top-quality towel would make a quick and easy upgrade to your washroom routine.

When it comes to top-tier towelling, most people immediately reach for Turkish towels. These lightweight layers should dry quick, smell fresh, and soothe your skin. However, are Turkish towels really the best bath towels?

This article should tell you everything you need to know about the benefits of Turkish towels compared to their Egyptian counterparts, as well as linen and bamboo alternatives. You'll learn which materials dry quick, come cheap, and feel soft on your skin. While I love a good Turkish cotton towel, I've found that Egyptian cotton towels are often more absorbent. Linen is easy to wash and effortless to maintain, while bamboo bath towels are a more sustainable option. 

What is Turkish cotton?

Turkish cotton towels draped over the edge of the bath and hung against the wall.

(Image credit: Parachute Home)

Before we begin, it always helps to define our terms. You might be able to tell a Turkish towel from a linen layer by sight, but it's much harder to distinguish between Turkish and Egyptian towels 

Turkish towels are made from extra-long staples of Turkish cotton. Longer fibers are easily woven and require fewer joins. This results in stronger, smoother cotton threads, which feel softer against your skin and are less likely to pucker or pill. 

Buy Turkish cotton if: you like your towels to dry quick and smell fresh

Three Turkish towels - one black, one gray, one white - draped over a bathtub.

(Image credit: Brooklinen)

Turkish towels tend to be on the thinner side. They might not keep you warm for long, but those long fibers should open out to soak up water. 

Plus, they're easy to clean. You can just pop your towels in the washing machine on a cold cycle, then tumble dry on low heat. You could throw a few wool dryer balls into the drum to cut down on drying time. Give them a good old shake as you take them out of the dryer to keep them soft and supple. 

You might already own a set of Turkish towels. It's one of the most popular towelling materials for a reason. Just in case you don't, I've rounded up a few of my favorites from big-name brands, such as Brooklinen and The Company Store.

Buy Egyptian cotton if: you want something more absorbent

Three Egyptian cotton towels hanging from hooks in a bathroom.

(Image credit: Scooms)

Like I said, Turkish cotton towels are tightly woven with few interlacings. There isn't much room for air and water to flow in and out. Once water soaks up into the towel, it stays there. Turkish cotton might be quick to absorb, but it takes a little bit longer to dry. 

Egyptian cotton towels are woven from slightly shorter staples and feature a few more interlacing. Those tiny holes in the fabric boost breathability and aid evaporation. If I were going to bring a bath towel to the beach, I'd want Egyptian cotton. 

Since the look and feel of the towels is pretty much the same, you might be struggling to choose between Turkish and Egyptian cotton. In that case, I'd recommend shopping by site, rather than by product. Pure Parima makes my favorite Egyptian cotton towels, but you can pick up a set from Scooms or The White Company for a fraction of the price.

Buy linen if: you like your towels to have a little texture

Terracotta linen towels hanging in a bathroom.

(Image credit: Bed Threads)

Super-soft towels aren't for everyone. If you prefer the feel of coarser, crisp sheets, the chances are that you'll appreciate a more textured towel. For a quick, brisk dry or an exfoliation session, there's nothing like linen. 

Linen is woven from flax fibers, which are naturally moisture-wicking and antimicrobial. These threads can bust the bacteria that breeds in hot, damp environments, such as bathrooms. You'll get dry quick with a linen towel, since the hollow flax fibers can absorb more water than either Turkish or Egyptian cotton. 

If that weren't enough, linen is naturally hypoallergenic, which makes these towels more suitable for shoppers who suffer from allergies, though their tougher texture could irritate sensitive skin.

Buy bamboo if: you're shopping for something sustainable

Bamboo bath towels draped over a bathroom sink.

(Image credit: Cozy Earth)

Bamboo bath towels tick all the biggest boxes − they're strong, soft, and absorbent to boot. Then again, so are all the rest of the materials on the market. Bamboo begins to pull ahead of the competition when we consider sustainability. 

Bamboo is the fastest-growing plant on earth, bar none. According to the bath and bedding brand, Ettitude, bamboo grows three times faster than we can harvest it. That's hundreds of times faster than flax or cotton plants, whether they're growing in Turkey or Egypt. 

If you're keen to shop sustainably for every room in your home, you'll get a lot of use out of bamboo bath towels. Bamboo should wash well, dry quick, and stay soft, though it might cost you more than plain cotton. 

Bath towel FAQs

Why are Turkish towels so expensive?

When you're shopping for a premium product, you can't be surprised by a premium price tag. Authentic Turkish towels are woven from Turkish cotton, which only grows in remote regions. Expert craftsman take the longest cotton staples and weave them tightly together to boost absorbency. 

Where can I buy bath towels?

Most specialist stores stick to one type of bath towel, while your average home retailer will stock all sorts of materials. For Egyptian cotton, try Scooms or Pure Parima. While Parachute has a great line of Turkish towels, they come a little cheaper at Brooklinen. Bed Threads makes the most beautiful linen towels, though a Rough Linen rag might be better for exfoliation. As for bamboo, I'd stick to tried and true brands, such as Cozy Earth and Ettitude. 

Which bath towels dry quickly?

In order of absorbency, it goes: linen, then bamboo, with Egyptian and Turkish cotton close together at the bottom. Remember, though, it's all relative, and any decent bath towel should dry in a few hours. 

How many bath towels do I need?

You don't need more than two bath towels per person, plus a hand towel by the sink and a bath mat for the floor. Any more than that is overkill. 

Final thoughts

Once you've invested in a set of towels, Turkish or otherwise, you'll find to find somewhere to store them. We've rounded up some chic and simple towel storage ideas to help you cut down on clutter.  

If you want to get your money's worth, you should learn how to wash new towels to maintain their color, size, and softness. 

Emilia Hitching
Sleep Editor

Emilia is our resident sleep writer. She spends her days tracking down the lowest prices on the best bedding and spends her nights testing it out from the comfort of her own home – it's a dream job. Her quest to learn how to sleep better has taken her all around the world, from mattress factories in Arizona to sleep retreats in Scandinavia. Before she joined Homes & Gardens, Emilia studied English at the University of Oxford. She also worked on the other side of the aisle, writing press releases for regional newspapers and crafting copy for Sky.