What is GSM?
All towels have a fabric weight, measured with a GSM (grams per square meter) number. This refers to the density of the fabric used to make that particular towel. Lower GSM towels are lighter and thinner, making them a great choice for a gym bag or trips to the beach. As a general rule, you will want to save your heavier, thicker, higher GSM towels for use in the master or guest bathroom.
Feel & Quality
Most towels are made of cotton, however the look and feel of towels largely depends on what type of cotton is used. Towels designed and priced for everyday use are made of standard cotton, while Egyptian cotton or Pima cotton is considered the best of towel fabrics. These more expensive towels have longer, more-fibrous threads, meaning that each towel will have more moisture-sucking loops per inch. The ultra-soft, super-fluffy bath towels found in high-end spas and hotels are typically Egyptian cotton or increasingly, the American-grown version, called Pima cotton, which offers a similarly luxurious look and feel.
The basic quality of most towels on offer are made from carded cotton and usually of a 16/1; ring-spun construction. Towels of this quality will hold up well and yet you need to be careful, as some manufacturers and wholesalers will use inferior quality cotton and to create a soft feel, will add chemicals to soften the harsh fabric.
Towels that have had softener added will not dry well. The best way to check if softener has been added is to simply pour water onto your new towel. If the water sinks into the towel then it will dry well and be satisfactorily absorbent. However, if the water pools on top, then the towel has had softener added and will not dry or perform well over time.
Other types of fabric are also starting to find their way into today's bath towels, including Modal, made of cellulose from beech trees. Fans of this new fabric claim that it's 50 percent more absorbent than cotton alone, and that it won't fade over time, making it an excellent choice for bath towels.
Eco-conscious buyers can look for organic cotton towels or towels made from bamboo, which have a looser, velvety-soft texture compared to 100% cotton towels. It is interesting to know that Bamboo, along with the newer hemp towels, has natural mildew-resistant qualities.
Unlike towels made from these natural products, microfiber towels are made of engineered fibres. They are lighter and thinner than cotton towels, with a suede-like texture and excellent absorbency. These specialty towels are popular for wringing water from wet hair without becoming too heavy.
Caring for your Towels.
Bath towels of all types will look fresher and last longer if they are cared for properly. Manufacturers often coat new towels in a special fabric softener, which means the towels look extra fluffy and soft on the shelf, but don't absorb water well when you first bring them home. For this reason, it's best to wash your new towels before first use.
Dark and brightly coloured towels should be washed separately. For your more expensive towels, using wool softener or another gentle-care detergent will keep them at their fluffy best longer.
While a tumble in the dryer assures a fluffy towel, you don't want to overdo it as the heat from the dryer can damage fibres. Try using a lower-heat setting, or alternate between air and heat drying.