It doesn't matter if you're a maximalist or minimalist, traditional or contemporary: Everyone has a huge stack of bath towels in their home.
At Apartment Therapy, we take shopping for towels very seriously. The right one, perfectly plush and absorbent, can transform your bathroom into an at-home spa. And, depending on the color or pattern, add some stylish flair to your space.
"People don't always think of towels as a luxury, but if you've ever stepped out of the shower and wrapped yourself in a fluffy, cloud-like, preferably oversized towel or robe, you know the truth," says Andres Modak, co-founder of direct-to-consumer company Snowe. "A luxury towel is one that surprises you with its softness every time you touch it, which means one that gets softer over time, with every wash."
So what gives? What makes these towels so expensive?
For most companies, it all starts with the material.
Not only do synthetic fibers tend to not feel as luxurious as, say, a plush cotton towel, they can't be bleached as often, which is a problem for anyone who wants to keep their white towels in pristine condition.
Cotton, on the other hand is super absorbent and can withstand bleach.
"We use long-staple cotton, which is the best option when manufacturing linens," says Ernesto Khoudari, president and CEO of Kassatex. "The long fibers weave a yarn that is stronger and softer, making higher quality products."
With sustainability and transparency on the tip of everyone's tongue, it's important to analyze both the fiber and how the fiber was treated in the production process.
"One thing that makes our towels superior is the OEKO-TEX certification, which means the towels, cotton, and entire process is free of hundreds of chemicals and processes," explains Snowe's Modak. "Many of them are legal, though we hold ourselves to a higher standard."
Khoudari of Kassatex adds ISO (International Organization of Standardization) and GOTS (Global Organic Textile Standard) are two other certifications to pay attention to.
Natural, sustainable fibers are the epitome of luxurious towels, but you don't have to pay a premium for them. Snowe's prices range from $8 for washcloths to $48 for a bath sheet, while the bulk of Kasstex's towel styles cap at around $50.
How? By shaking up the retail experience. As a direct-to-consumer company, Snowe is able to cut out the middleman, while Kassatex works with lower margins. Both strategies keep costs low without skimping on quality.
Pricier towels not only elicit some sticker shock, they can be more maintenance than they're worth.
"We've found that the priciest towels tend to be significantly heavier, which means they stay damp longer and can get musty easily," says Modak.
Some options require a pre-wash cold-water soak, very small amounts of detergent, and line-drying, which isn't conducive for anyone living in small, city apartments. Instead, Snowe makes sure its towels as machine wash and dryable.
That being said, there are some exceptions to the rule. Specifically, D. Porthault. Founded in 1920, D. Porthault is one of the last fully-integrated brand producing handmade linens and continues to be the gold standard of bath and bed linens.
"It's truly an artisanal process that is rarely seen today," says owner Joan Carl. "One that is labor-intensive, but that allows for a full saturation and stabilization of color into fabric, creating prints that last a lifetime. Customers tell us that D. Porthault linens and towels make them happy!"
Of course, D.Porthault's exceptional linens don't come cheap. Many styles can set you back a couple hundred dollars. Yikes!
Shelling out $100 for a washcloth is your call, but D. Porthault's astute attention to detail could help justify its price.
"Our towels are not mass-produced," Carl explains. "They are designed, printed, sewn, and packaged by a team of craftsmen and women, many of whom are second and third generation, who love and are proud of what they do."
Whether you pay $30 or $300 for your towels, it's important to do some research on a company and its materials.
Sure, you could buy lower quality towels for less, but you may have to replace them more often, which will cost you more money in the long run.
"Higher price does not always equate higher quality," says Khoudari. "Make sure you like the feel of the towel."
How much do you spend on towels? Do you think the material quality is the most important? Sound off below!