Are there towels that are not made in China?
All too often, I’ll research a product category and find it completely dominated by China manufacturing. But every now and again I’ll be pleasantly surprised at a category where the most popular items don’t come from China. Towels is one of those categories. When I go through Amazon’s best seller lists, I see that the higher end towels tend to be made in Turkey and Egypt, while more affordable towels are made in countries like India and Pakistan.
Don’t get me wrong–you’ll still see a ton of China sellers of no-name brands like MOONQUEEN and SEMAXE–complete with the usual assortment of fake reviews. But try as they might, they can’t seem to get close to challenging the top selling towel sets.
Why isn’t China dominating towel manufacturing?
I can think of a few reasons, but I’m guessing that the biggest reason is that China probably doesn’t have access to the best raw material that countries like Turkey and Egypt have.
Specifically, much of the cotton grown in the Aegean region and along the Nile River Delta is long staple cotton. What this means is because of the climate, the plant varieties, and the water in those regions the “boll” (or the white puffball that the plant produces) contains individual fibers that are at least 1.25 inches long. Contrast this to most cotton grown around the world with fibers that are less than 1.125 inches long, which is considered short staple. While this difference doesn’t sound like a lot, it makes a huge difference in the quality of the cotton.
Most of China’s cotton production is from the Xinjiang region, yes, the same Xinjiang region where Uyghur Muslims are being subjected to forced labor, re-education camps, and other human rights abuses. Not surprisingly, the Chinese Communist Party continues to deny any wrongdoing. On the contrary, they’ve launched propaganda wars, on the one hand blitzing sites like Quora and TikTok with staged videos showing Uyghur children dancing in the streets, and on the other hand using the power of the brainwashed masses to attack any Western brand that dares question Xinjiang cotton.
How do I choose a good towel?
The best bath towels are ones with 100% cotton. If you can afford the higher price, you’ll want to go with long staple cotton or extra long staple cotton. Long staple cotton produces towels that are stronger than short staple cotton, and yet somehow get softer as well. Even more remarkable, they tend to get softer and more luxurious each time you wash them.
You’ll also want to think about what weight you prefer. Weight is measured in grams per square meter, or GSM. 700 GSM gives you a nice amount of plushness and absorbency, but you can go to smaller numbers if you want a lighter, thinner towel.
One other thing to remember. A towel you buy today should last you for years. So it’s worth it to buy a few higher quality towels than to buy cheap towels that’ll break or become unusable after a few washes.
How I came up with this list
For this list I focused mainly on bath towels–if you can find a good bath towel, other sizes like hand towels and face towels will usually be good too, and you’ll likely be able to find them in sets. I went to each of the top review sites and–after screening each of their choices to make sure it didn’t touch China soil–I listed them here in order of how thorough their testing and rationale for picking them as the best was. Here are the best of the best not made in China, which happily for this category clearly means the best of the best.
This was rated by Wirecutter as its #1 bath towel. One bath towel goes for about $30-40, so they’re not the cheapest. But the reviews rave about how soft, quick drying, plush, and luxurious the towels are, and how “water jumps off your body”. They’re at that magical 700 GSM weight that most people who like plush towels prefer.
Wirecutter calls it a high-quality hotel towel that’s durable, feels fuller and plusher after every wash, and is the softest, warmest, and most comfortable towel they’ve ever tested. It’s been their top pick every year since 2017.
Forbes and HGTV both rated these are their #1 bath towel. They go for about the same price as Frontgate’s towels, and like Frontgate’s towels they are made in Turkey from 100% long-staple Turkish cotton. This makes them quick to dry, super soft, plush, and absorbent. They’re also 700 GSM.
Unlike Frontgate’s towels, these come in only one of six neutral colors and are thus free of any kind of synthetic dyes, a welcome benefit for those who are especially environmentally friendly. They have a ribbed dobby that adds a more modern touch.
If you’re looking to really treat yourself, these Super Plush Bath Towels from Brooklinen really live up to their name. This was GQ’s pick for the best plush bath towel and Good Housekeeping’s pick for the best heavyweight bath towel; it’s Brooklinen’s best selling towel and is, in GQ’s words, “ridiculously soft and luxurious”. At 820 GSM they’re going to be a lot softer and thicker than other towels.
They also use 100% Turkish Cotton and are made in Turkey. If you’re looking for a spa-like experience at home, this is the choice for you.
This one was Good Housekeeping’s choice for the best overall towel. At 550 GSM, it’s much thinner than the other choices above, which means they’ll be much quicker to dry. But like all the choices above it’s made in Turkey from Turkish long-staple cotton.
They claim that their towel is 10 times more absorbent than traditional cotton terry, and is supersoft and fast drying.
These are the best-selling bath towels on Amazon–by a lot. One reason is the price–for under $25 you get a bath towel, and hand towel, and a washcloth, all made in Turkey with Turkish Cotton.
I do notice that the product listing goes out of its way not to mention the word “long staple”, so my guess is that the cotton being used is of a slightly lower quality than the other towel sets mentioned above. Still, the reviews seem legit, and the vast majority of people love their purchase.
I’m including these in this list because they’re the towels I personally use. I’d gone for years and years looking for good towels. In my college days I bought a set of bath towels that felt like sandpaper over time. In my young adulthood I bought towels at Macy’s that literally disintegrated after years of use.
On a lark, I heard the infomercial on TV and decided to try the 6-piece towel set out. The first time I used the bath towel, I was amazed. True to the infomercial’s words, every last drop water really did seem to come off like a magnet, even though it felt like the towel was barely touching my skin. I figured the absorbency and the softness would go away after a few washes, but the towels actually seem softer and more plush after each laundry load.
On the commercial they mentioned how some luxury towels have a “lotiony” feel, and I knew exactly what they meant–many of those towels I bought in department stores seemed thick and warm, but when I used them they seemed to repel water like water off a duck’s back. Turns out a lot of these department stores will treat towels with conditioners to make the towels seem soft, but the combination of the material and weave make them terrible for absorption. These towels really feel like towels, so much so that I ordered three more sets for myself.
The towels are manufactured in Pakistan using cotton grown in the United States.
If price is not a concern for you, but getting the best of the best is, you’ll want to take a look at Matouk.
I had the pleasure of working with a local linen expert a few years ago, and that’s the first time I heard of two brands: Matouk and Sferra. These are the finest of the finest linens available anywhere–linens so fine that you’ll find them only in luxury hotels where rooms cost thousands of dollars a night, or in private mansions of multi-millionaires.
Matouk’s most popular towel line are their Milagro towels. They’re made in Portugal from long-staple, zero-twist cotton yarns for the ultimate combination of thickness and lightness. They’re not cheap, but you’ll get a towel that lasts for years and years, along with the satisfaction that you’re using the same towels that the millionaire class uses.
8. Red Land Cotton
Looking for towels made in the USA from USA-grown cotton? Then you’ll want to buy Red Land Cotton towels.
These towels aren’t just made from cotton grown at Red Land Farms in Moulton, Alabama, they’re also manufactured in Griffin, GA.
They’re lightweight and yet thick and absorbent. Their 2-ply construction means there’s more cotton in each loop, resulting in a durability and softness.
If you can afford these (they’re not cheap at $190 for a set of six), you’ll have the satisfaction and the security of knowing that the cotton was grown sustainably, the workers making these were treated fairly, and your money is going towards a company and communities right here in the United States.
Do you know of other towels worthy of mention here? Let us know in the comments!