Simple pleasures are the order of the day and we’re all for making every usually humdrum experience a little more special. Stepping out of the shower and wrapping yourself up in a luxurious towel is a simple way to eke every drop of pleasure out of your daily wash or indulgent soak.
Organic and fair trade cottons are making their mark, as are geometric and printed designs that will add a little bit of chic to the smallest room.
And if you want to step away from traditional white or beige, there are some wonderful acidic bright colours and a rainbow of subtle pastels.
When choosing a towel, consider the quality and size you need, especially if you’re doing regular laundry loads.
Opting for a range with a good gsm (grams per square metre) rating will give you a more luxurious feel. The highest we tested was 700gsm, which was unusually plush. Anything over 400gsm is a good bet for a soft wrap up.
Some ranges feature bath sheets that are larger than traditional bath towels, so go for an extra-large if you like to be fully swaddled rather than just needing a cover up for that bathroom to bedroom dash.
If you don’t have a fancy towel rail and want to keep yours on a door hook or sink-side holder, look for something with a built-in hanging loop or well-sewn hanging label.
Although most of the towels we tested were recommended to be washed at 40C, all of them were also run through a 30C cycle, as some of us like to go for a more eco-friendly wash.
Don’t use fabric conditioner on towels as the build-up can affect the absorbency and make them feel stiff over time. And remember to wash only with other towels or bed linen as zips and details on clothing can catch on the fine cotton loops and cause unsightly pulls.
You can trust our independent reviews. We may earn commission from some of the retailers, but we never allow this to influence selections, which are formed from real-world testing and expert advice. This revenue helps to fund journalism across The Independent.
Sheridan living textures bath and hand towels: From £16, Just Linen
A generous 670gsm makes for a plush “ribbed” towel, and this ultra-luxurious set has a lovely, indulgent feel. Sheridan uses a system of weaving cotton called hygro, which makes for superior absorbency, and this was commented on in testing – our guinea pigs felt dry quickly, with hair a cinch to blot before blowing or just towel dry in a rush. There’s the choice of eight colours in this range, from a zingy yellow citron to a pale petal or classic white.
Soak and Sleep organic cotton bath and hand towels: From £6.50, Soak and Sleep
Soak and Sleep’s classic towels have a lovely deep woven border and strong labels that double up as hanging hooks. They felt far more expensive than their price would suggest. This range is certified organic and the website does a brilliant job of explaining the difference in fabrics and grades of cotton used in towels and bed linen. Soak and Sleep claim that 91 per cent less water is used in the production of its organic cotton compared with non-organic cotton, which is something to think about in the shower.
The Hut Egyptian cotton towels: £60, The Hut
This gorgeous bale from luxury was a joy to use, with a whopping 700gsm rating. The set comprises two hand towels, two bath towels and a single bath sheet that our family of testers fought over. We tried the navy bale, which washed and dried perfectly and looked great piled high in a crisp white bathroom. Even though the cotton loops were long and lustrous, there were no pulls in the towelling after heavy use and plentiful washes, so these are sure to sustain heavy family rotation.
Ikea himlean bath sheet and hand towel: From £6, Ikea
Ikea has taken an eco-friendly approach with its new himlean range, using recycled materials or cotton that's grown using less water, fewer pesticides and fertilisers, and ensuring farmers are given a fairer price. These tonal towels washed well and stayed absorbent and chunky, with loops making them easy to hang on bathroom door hooks. The larger bath sheet, at 100x150cm, was a generous size and was quick to dry after use.
Ted Baker opal geo bath and hand towel: From £16, Amara
Ted Baker’s towels have a gorgeous combination of bold florals and geometric print. Our testers were polarised by these unusual towels – some loved, some hated, but if you’re not one for a bland, beige bathroom (or indeed, want to liven one up) then this range is a great choice. Not the thickest towels we tested but the finish was luxuriously soft, almost velveteen on one side, with short cotton loops on the other. Our fashion-obsessed teenage tester thought the set looked great in her en suite, so they get the style seal of approval.
Jokipiin Pellava laituri sauna and bath towels: From £37, Finnmark
Fancy a new and exhilarating Nordic shower experience? Finish off your wash with a cold blast of water and dry yourself off with these authentic sauna towels, which are an interesting 70/30 linen to cotton blend. They’re miles from the fluffy numbers you may have in your bathroom at present, but the feel-good factor comes from the robust texture of the fabric, which exfoliates and tingles the senses as you rub yourself dry. They wash like a dream and get softer with use, are very absorbent and look the absolute business in an industrial-style bathroom.
Dip and Doze the bath towel and the hand towel: From £11, Dip and Doze
We loved these towels from Dip and Doze, a small company trying to take the mystery out of buying bed linen and towels with straightforward descriptions and a debunking of sizing and fabric quality jargon. The super-soakers we tested were a delight. Made from Fairtrade and Soil Association certified organic cotton, they were plump and soft and only got better with every wash. The flax colour was a warm neutral that would fit in any bathroom and the sturdy woven loops stitched to every top-quality towel means we think these will be hanging around in our tester’s bathroom for quite a while to come.
Christy Carnaby stripe hand and bath towels: From £12, John Lewis & Partners
This brand has been making linen since 1850 and it has supplemented its traditional designs with some more bold choices, like this Carnaby range of striped hand and bath towels. The combination of colours stayed bright after washing and they kept their absorbency well, drying easily and staying soft to the touch. There is a larger bath sheet available, which we also liked, and they come in four colourways.
Designers Guild Coniston towels: From £15, Designers Guild
These towels washed like a dream and felt luxurious to the touch. At a rating of 700gsm, the cotton is velvety and indulgent. The larger sized bath sheet measures at 165x90cm which makes for a luxurious wrap. But what we especially loved about this range is the selection of colours. In a choice of 15 unusual shades, from its trademark fuchsia to dusky pastels, these are a great choice if you’re looking to add a pop of colour in an otherwise bland bathroom.
Dunelm geo tile grey towel: From £6, Dunelm
If you’re looking for something that is a bit different but very affordable, these are for you. They feature a design that has taken inspiration from patchwork tiling. In a subtle mix of grey and brown, these coordinate well with plain hand towels or bath sheets in similar colourways.
The verdict: Hand and bath towels
We loved the superb colour choices of Sheridan’s luxe living textures range and these were the ones that felt most of a treat to wrap up in after a bath. The Dip and Doze organic hand and bath towels were a close second, thanks to the smart addition of a hanging loop. It’s the little things that make a big difference.