SH Sean Harding/blog
Too many towels
Monday, April 21st, 2008

As some of you know, we’re having our master bathroom remodeled. I don’t really want to talk about that right now. But I do want to talk about towels.

We decided that when our new bathroom debuts, we should have new towels too. Of course, just going to the store and buying some towels wasn’t good enough. No, as always, I had to overdo it. It started out with some research online. I found quite a few opinions, but no consensus and precious little information about many of the recommended products. What to do? Buy some samples, of course!

I ended up buying samples of nine types of towels, mostly based on recommendations I found online. For each type, I bought one white hand towel (except a couple for which I accidentally bought washcloths instead). We felt them, washed them a bunch of times and used them just as we would normal towels. And in the end, we had a winner. But I’m getting ahead of myself. First, let me introduce the contenders. The prices here are the best (legitimate looking and in-stock) price I could find for one full-size white bath towel (not a bath sheet) as of April, 2008.

Clearly there’s a huge range of prices there. But is a $64 towel really that much better than a $15 towel? Well, it depends on what you’re looking for. Some people seem to value softness above all else. Others obsess over color fastness. And for some folks, absorbency is king. We don’t care about color fading — we’re getting white towels. Clearly absorbency is important. But softness is an interesting issue. In the past, I’ve found some towels to almost be too soft — they can feel “sticky” as they go across your skin. No good.

In the batch of towels, there were a few styles. The Pinzon and Restoration Hardware towels are almost identical. They’re a heavy, dense, absorbent towel, but not terribly soft. The Pinzon feels slightly softer and thicker, but I can only tell the difference when they’re side by side. I actually really like this style of towel. On the other end of the spectrum are the Abyss and Matouk towels (and maybe the Yves Delorme Etoile). They’re thick, absorbent and extremely soft.

The rest fall somewhere in the middle. They’re soft, but not unusually so. They’re mostly nice, basic towels. The bamboo towel is my favorite of the Lands’ End selection. The Egyptian is pretty nice and is thick, but not as soft as the bamboo. The Supima Zip-Dry was unimpressive. The Yves Delorme Olympe was also fairly unimpressive, especially when the price is taken into account. It’s just a notch above the Supima Zip-Dry, but costs almost three times as much. No thanks.

After using them for a while, the Matouk Milagro was the winner.

The runners-up were: Lands’ End Bamboo, Pinzon and Yves Delorme Etoile. If you like the dense, heavy (but less-soft) style, the Pinzon is a great option. Given the similarity to the Pinzon and the higher price, I can’t see a reason to buy the Restoration Hardware other than color selection. The Yves Delorme is very nice, but is substantially more expensive than the others, and the Matouk is at least as nice (I like it better even when cost isn’t taken into account). The Lands’ End is very nice also, but really seems like it’s out of its league in comparison to the others. If budget is a concern, though, it’s definitely worth taking a look at.

The Abyss Super Pile has been touted as the best towel in a few places, so it might surprise some people that it didn’t even make our final four. The Abyss is nice. But I don’t think it’s uniquely great. The Matouk seems thicker, softer and more absorbent to me. The Abyss has a sewn edge all around, with curved corners. Some people like that, but I prefer a more traditional look. And on top of all that, the Abyss is the most expensive of the bunch, and also apparently in short supply (almost everywhere I checked was out of stock when I ordered my samples). It’s not bad, but I don’t think it lives up to the hype.

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