How to Find the Best Towels for Gyms and Hotels


The notion that there is “a tool for every job” has sailed beyond the land of clichés and hopefully settled into the realm of collective common sense. This rule can be applied to all topics, with towels offering no exception.

However, when you’re trying to find the “best” towel, it can be more complicated than you might assume. You’ll want to select the towel based on your needs, and it’s not as simple as just getting the most expensive towel type.


Different factors work together to make a variety of towel options, each better suited for some tasks than others. It might be tempting to walk into the store and choose the fluffiest towels or the softest towels, but these characteristics can be manipulated in the manufacturing process, and they aren’t the best indicators of performance.


Today we are speaking specifically of the best towels for gyms, and we will see very clearly that this advice wouldn’t hold for finding the best bath towel. However, you should be able to take this information and apply the thought processes to other towel purchasing decisions. So let’s take a look at the relevant performance indicators for picking the best gym towel.




Regardless of the intended purpose of the towels you are considering for purchase, the material is going to be the most important factor. Cotton is the most widely-used material, but it’s not the only one. Cotton-polyester blends can be found in all shapes and sizes, and microfiber is gaining a serious foothold in the market as well. Linen and bamboo are other varieties worth discussing, just to round out the industry.


100% Cotton


This is the standard. Cotton is by far the most common material for towels, thanks to its position in history. Cotton and linen were the first two materials to be used for towels, and the versatility of the various species of cotton plants have helped the resultant textiles dominate the market. Cotton has played a central role in the American economy, both in the north and the south.


Cotton has been a popular choice throughout history when it comes to towel design precisely because it is so good at its job. Cotton fiber is absorbent and dries relatively quickly. The raw materials can also be gathered and processed efficiently, which helps keep the cost down on the finished product.


Not all cotton is the same, of course. Egyptian cotton is famed for its soft, luxurious texture, a reputation that is well-deserved. This makes for bed sheets with unmatched comfort levels and some of the softest, fluffiest towels you will ever see.


If this description begins to trigger dollar signs in your mind, you would be correct. Towels made out of Egyptian cotton will be more expensive on the whole. Taking all of these characteristics and the cost of the fabric into account, it is hard to justify the expense when you are trying to identify the best towels for a gym.


Other Cotton Varieties


Turkish cotton doesn’t produce as thick of a finished material as Egyptian cotton, but that trade-off gives the advantage to Turkish cotton in a comparison of drying times. Turkish cotton is plenty absorbent, and absorbency plus quick drying time sounds like a pretty good combination for a desirable gym towel. However, this more exotic cotton will command a price premium, so cost may still prevent this from earning a top spot in your rankings.


Pima cotton is an American agricultural product that aims to replicate the desirable characteristics of Egyptian cotton. Pima cotton used in American goods is generally grown in the southern United States, but pima is also grown elsewhere in the Americas, such as Peru in South America. Supima is a trademarked variety of pima, so that’s the term you are more likely to see on the tag or the store shelf label.


Finding the Truth About Cotton Towel Design


Some argue that not all cotton grown in Egypt is worthy of the “Egyptian cotton” reputation. Towels made with lesser-quality threads are not actual “Egyptian cotton,” and these false cotton classifications can be somewhat frustrating for a consumer.


Conversely, industry-level quality control checks ensure if your product has Supima on the label, it does in fact meet the highest quality standards. This distinction is non-trivial. If you find yourself doubting the authenticity of a product labeled as Egyptian cotton, or if the price comparison is close, you may want to choose the Supima cotton option.


Cotton-Polyester blend


Textile manufacturers will blend polyester fibers into their cotton cloth to promote durability and resiliency. We are all familiar with “cotton-poly blends” in the clothing industry, but these blends are used in the towel world as well. Towels made with a cotton-poly blend will never be as soft or fluffy, but they will last a good deal longer, given proper care and handling.


Cotton-poly blends have a useful place in the world of towels, offering decent performance in terms of absorbency and drying time, usually at a lower cost. Throw in their exceptional lifespan, and cotton-poly towels quickly become an attractive candidate for value-based decisions. This cost-effective decision-making process can also benefit hotels that are looking for the best towels for a hotel gym.




Microfiber is a combination of polyester and polyamide, and it has achieved media darling status recently, which isn’t surprising. Microfiber can be made into cloth of all thicknesses, from fluffy bath towels to lightweight lens cleaning cloth, and many variations in between.


The most common application of microfiber cloth is in cleaning products. If the cloth is made using split fibers, the space in between the fibers can literally attract and lock in dirt and dust. This is not merely an exaggerated marketing claim.


Microfiber material can claim impressive absorbency, adding to its versatile reputation. It is capable of absorbing seven times its weight in water.


Microfiber is durable and resilient, so with proper care, these towels will last just as long as cotton, if not longer. Their higher price will be offset in the long run, as you can expect several years of use before replacing them.




Linen fabric is generally lighter than cotton, and you won’t find the term “fluffy” in any description of a linen towel. Linen towel fabric doesn’t contain the same loops of fabric as cotton towel fabric does. However, linen is absorbent enough to compete with cotton and other materials, and its lightness ensures it dries reasonably quickly as well. However, linen is generally more expensive, so if you are going to splurge, you can probably find better uses for linen than gym towels.




Bamboo fiber is another newcomer to the world of towels. Manufacturers claim their bamboo-blended towels (and they are all blends, as no one makes a 100% bamboo towel) are more absorbent than 100% cotton and are naturally antibacterial. Both claims are dubious, as is the ecologically-friendly image based on the bamboo plant’s mind-boggling growth rate. Don’t buy bamboo towels because you are saving the environment. Buy them because they feel good and compare favorably from a cost perspective.


Conclusion: Cotton


While microfiber is a worthy competitor for cotton in the gym towel arena, simple abundance of choice helps cotton retain the edge. If you are looking for a gym towel, cotton is still your best bet.


Thickness and Density


The next characteristic to take into consideration when choosing the best gym towel is the thickness and density of the towel. Thickness and density are both quantifiable characteristics, so a one-to-one comparison can be made by more than just “feel.”


For our purposes, we will talk about thickness in terms of the “pile” of the towel’s loops. Towel material is made by sewing loops of the cotton material into the base layer of material. Generally speaking, these loops are what make a bath towel different from a dish towel. The size of these loops contribute to the “pile” of the towel’s fabric. Higher pile towels will have longer loops or fibers, and shorter pile towels will, as the name implies, have shorter loops.


Density refers to how many loops are packed into a given area of the towel. Density is measured in grams per square meter, or GSM. Comparing GSM is a useful way to directly compare the absorbency of two different towels made of the same material.


The typical GSM range for cotton towels is 300-700. The higher the number, the denser the fabric, which will make it feel more luxurious and be more absorbent. However, be careful not to compare microfiber’s GSM to that of a cotton fabric, as their threads have different weights.


Thicker, denser towels will absorb more water and will take longer to dry out afterward. This can be an acceptable tradeoff for a bath towel that is used once a day. Provided the towel dries out quickly enough to avoid getting musty, absorbency is the most important factor for a good bath towel. However, that quality may not be so attractive when considering the best gym towel.


If you are going to use your gym towel to manage sweat during your workout, you don’t necessarily need it to be as absorbent as a towel used to dry off your whole body after a shower. Towels trap moisture, but they also grab everything that is trapped in that moisture. In the case of your body sweat, things could get gross quite quickly.


Conclusion: Medium GSM


If you are looking at cotton towels for the gym, go for a GSM in the 450-600 range. Any less and your towels will be thin and scratchy. You will notice, especially when your skin is more sensitive than normal during a workout. Don’t bother paying for anything higher — it’s simply more than you need in the gym.


Size — Large vs Small


This really comes down to how much extra weight you want to carry around. We don’t suggest using the same towel at the end of your shower that you just used during your workout. If you shower at the gym immediately after your workout, you are probably going to use two different towels.


Bath towels generally measure in the 24” x 48” range, which is a huge towel to carry around the gym during your workout. This is plenty of real estate for drying off after a shower, but it’s not ideal in the limited space of the gym floor. Gym towels usually resemble hand towels in size, measuring in the 16” x 27” range.


Conclusion: 16”x27” range


This is the ideal size for a gym towel used during a workout. Keep the bath towels at the shower.


Multipurpose Towels


So far, we have been operating with the assumption that different applications require different types of towels. When we factor in size, material and thickness, we can see that some towels are ill suited for use in the gym. That being said, if you value versatility in your linens collection, you would be justified in your thinking that “a towel is a towel”. If you can envision another use for your gym towels, factor those needs into your decision.


Some manufacturers embrace the utilitarian aesthetic of the active outdoor lifestyle, so you can find towels that come in their own carrying bag or that fold or roll up into an impossibly small package. You may even find towels that have a zip pocket built right in. Maybe you find these to be gimmicky, or maybe you find them to be useful. Either way, finding the towel that best suits your needs will be the best towel.


Conclusion: Skip the Gimmicks


Specialty towels might be useful for the person who camps out for weeks at a time, but the bells and whistles can be more potential points of failure if all you need is a simple gym towel.



What Next?



Determining the best towel for the gym really comes down to who is doing the purchasing. If you are buying a set of towels for personal use at the gym, microfiber offers a compelling alternative to a mid-GSM cotton or cotton-poly blend towel. In small quantities, the cost difference is manageable, and microfiber materials will pay for themselves in the long run when they receive proper care and maintenance.


However, microfiber is not necessarily the best towel for hotel gyms. If you are purchasing towels for your hotel to provide for guest use, the added expense of microfiber might not constitute a wise investment. Appropriate care for microfiber might also not be possible with your hotel’s current laundry setup, so finding a less-expensive cotton towel that requires the same care as your bath towels would make more sense.


It can be overwhelming trying to select the best towel for the gym. However, when you understand different fabrics, thicknesses and other design components, the myriad of options becomes a little easier to navigate. Browse our large selection of gym towels to find the best gym towel for you.

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