Best bath towels for the money?

vera want towels at kohlsI have done numerous stories on bathroom towels with retro style. I usually focus on the towels’ design. But anyone who has ever used and washed a bath towel a gazillion times knows that how the towel wears — or doesn’t — is even more important, in terms of making it a household favorite, not to mention a wise expenditure. We’ve had plenty of pretty towels start to unravel, or get pilly, or rough, way too soon. I am most definitely not the princess & the pea, so this doesn’t tend to bother me. But, other family members are *sensitive* types. Which means they are constantly, and annoyingly, wanting to try other towels every year or so. This is expensive! Towels should last a lot longer than a year! So now we get to the recommendation: 

The recommendation: Simply Vera Vera Wang Simply Soft towels… but…

BUT, UPDATE Oct. 23 — The family now has washed the towels and bad news, some of the towels did not hold their color. They got that blotchy rusty look in spots. Dear Husband went online and found complaints. Although, there also seems to be info that these spots are caused by face care products. For this reason — and for other key reasons — recommendation: WITHDRAWN.

Where to find the best bath towels: Buy them vintage on or ebay or at estate sales or thrift shops

Read through all the comments and maybe like me, you will come to the conclusion that the best value in bath towels is to buy them VINTAGE. That’s right. The bath towels made in th 50s, 60s, 70s — maybe even into the 80s — seem to have been much better made. They last forever. They may be “thinner” than the plush towels today — but *plushy comfort* aside, they seem to be more absorbent. They don’t pill… again, they seem to last on and on.

Where to find them: Search — where I usually can find a good selection, including New Old Stock. Check ebay, too. These sellers probably found these towels at estate sales and thrift shops like Goodwill or the Salvation Army. Also check with family — parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles — they might have extras (including New Old Stock they never opened) that they would be happy to give you, once you admired them.

What about you, readers?
Any FANTASTIC bath towels, quality for the money,
that you would recommend?


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.


Get our retrolicious free newsletter.


  1. Nancy says

    Towels! How I long for Martex Patrician towels of yore….made in America, soft and fluffy when machine dried, fabulously rough when air dried, absorbent and long lived. Of course, next to nothing is made in the USA now and the “zero twist” options available from China, Pakistan and India are super soft but like rubbing down with a piece of polyester. I’m thinking I might try a set made in Turkey or Portugal next and would be delighted to hear any other suggestions from your readers that share my pain! And don’t get me started on bed linens!

    So enjoy your blog….

    • weed30 says

      Nancy – you must try Kohl’s Luxury Collection 600 Thread Count Sateen Sheet Set ! Here is a link:

      They are the only sheets I have purchased in years. Sort of a brushed cotton, so they are soft right out of the package – I hate how most sheets need to be broken in. They are also what I call ‘temperature neutral’ – they don’t feel cold in the winter! You could buy just a couple pillow cases if you want to test them out.

      They really are great sheets. The down side is they don’t come in the greatest colors. I have white and pale blue, but I don’t see pale blue in their current offerings.

      • weed30 says

        YIKES! I just saw the current pricing! No way did I pay $180 for sheets!! I think at the time I bought them, they were $149 full price, on sale for 30% off, and I had an additional coupon. That is one thing I am irritated about with Kohl’s – about 2 or so years ago they really jacked up the prices on everything. 20% or 30% off these days seems to get you down to the old full retail price. Hmph.

  2. gsciencechick says

    I’ve always used JCPenney towels, but I don’t think they even have the same quality as we bought 5 years ago when we got married, that they have changed their line. However, they do have an excellent color selection. Our main bath towels are yellow and azure blue, which I can’t really find the azure anymore to replace them.

    Target seems to have a good variety of colors, but I don’t know anything about quality. Same thing for Bed Bath & Beyond.

    • katie a.a.w. says

      we have some great hand towels in our bathroom (i had to get white, though, because i couldn’t find the right color blur or green to go with our retro crane fixtures and vintage wallpaper) from target. they are sort of ribbed and the tag only says “home” with the target bullseye. i recollect that they had a specific name for the line, but the tag isn’t giving me anything.

      anyway, have absolutely loved these towels. i just bought them a quick freshen-up for the bathroom, but would absolutely buy again. very durable, yet the softest towels we own.

      • JefferyK says

        I believe the ribbed towels from Target are the Spa Home line — they are 25% bamboo rayon. Not super absorbent, but soft and, most importantly, NO LINT. I bought other towels from Target that were a little cheaper and 100% cotton, and they never stopped linting (is “to lint” a verb?). I mean, after 10 washings they were still leaving lint everywhere: me, the floor, the walls. I hated them.

  3. gavin hastings says

    I have had pretty good luck with the Ralph Lauren line. 3 years and still ok.

    I think the secret is buying ALOT of a towels- so that you are constantly rotating the stock. An extra 50 bucks might buy you a few more years……
    There are 2 people here in the house. !0 bath and 12 hand towels.

  4. katie a.a.w. says

    when registering for my wedding in 2008, i stumbled upon “suite collection” towels at bed, bath, & beyond. i haven’t bought any since, so i can’t speak to the (often inevitable) reduction in quality that some manufacturers do to a trusted product as the years go on, but a quick glance at their website finds that the wide range of colors is gone, the price is reduced, and they have been phased out. overall, we absolutely love these towels and it was the #1 reason that we registered at BB&B., but i guess we will have to find a substitute. 🙁

  5. Katey says

    I was a big fan of the KMart Martha Stewart Egyptian Cotton towels… but they’ve been discontinued. My biggest towel-wear peeve is when the stripe shrinks and puckers up. So in general I look for towels with no stripes- just bound edges- and I don’t wash them after every use! I also dry almost all my laundry on LOW heat, which seems to make everything last longer.

    My idiot male roommate is notorious for taking my neutral colored towels so in response to that I bought a set of screamingly salmon pink towels at Walmart that he can’t mistake for his own. I bought them just for the color, at a rediculous low price, but they’re already feeling worn- they’re just not well constructed.

  6. Natalie says

    I LOVE my Pottery Barn towels! I have washed them every week for over two years and they are just as thick, plush, and vibrantly colored as ever.

    • alice says

      We too have some Pottery Barn towels for our original pink bathroom and they have held up well and stay fluffy and colorful. Some of their patterns work well with the retro theme.

      I also agree with Gavin, more towels, more rotation helps.

  7. effika says

    I’m still using JC Penney towels that I bought 9 years ago. They’ve faded (of course) but remain soft and thick and absorbent. We recently got another set as a wedding present. I don’t know what the quality will be like with these new towels, but they are very soft and absorbent!

  8. Peggy says

    I discovered a brand I love carried by J.C. Penney called Linden Street. They are made in India. These are advertised as being eco friendly because they dry very fast which cuts down on dryer energy usage. My old towels used to take a 50 minute cycle on high and these totally dry in 30 minutes on the high setting. They aren’t thick and fluffy, but I like the interesting thread twist design and the thickness is suitable. I use a new towel each time I shower, so these are all washed once a week and I have had them over two years and they look new. I buy only white towels, so I can’t vouch for the color fastness of them.

  9. Bryan says

    Restoration Hardware’s Turkish Cotton Terry cloth towels. In 28 colors. They are just simply amazing towels. They changed the “Silver Sage” color a year or so ago, so I ended up having to buy different complimentary color. I was ticked off, but the quality of the towels speaks for themselves. If you have one near you, I would definitely give them a look.

  10. chris says

    Here’s a story to prove the old “they don’t make ’em like they used to” expression.

    I have some of my parents old towels — gifts from their wedding in 1964!

    These towels are gorgeous and fluffy. I started using them about 20 years ago.

    So — these towels are going on 50 years old — still lovely and not all puckered at the end or frayed.

    The ones I got for my wedding in ’98 are like little rags.

  11. gavin hastings says

    One other thing:

    Towels are the one household item that I put on a charge card. Why? Because I would never stand in a department store and shell out over $300/400 for this item.
    By charging it…I can play “Mr Big”, spend more than I really should, and pay in digestible bites.

    You pay more in the end- but it is the one expense that I think is outside the rule.

  12. Kate H says

    I have Ralph Lauren towels now and they are fine, but they didn’t change my life or anything. I don’t use dryer sheets or Downey, as those both affect absorbency.

    • kitty says

      I bought Lands End towels in 1984 that I still use. The ones I bought last year were awful and I sent them back. Don’t know what I’ll do when the old ones are really gone.

  13. says

    I don’t have any towel recommendations, but I discovered a way to really reduce my weekly laundry. I bought 3 towels for each my kids, each kid has a different color and/or pattern. They’re not allowed to leave their towels lying in the bathroom, they must stay in their room and they’re not allowed to use any towels but their own. This way, they reuse towels without having to worry about being infected with sibling cooties plus, if they leave a towel lying around so it doesn’t dry properly between showers, they’re stuck drying off with a damp towel since they aren’t allowed to use any towels but their own. I don’t even keep towels stored in the bathroom anymore, taking away the temptation of ‘borrowing’ someone else’s. I’ve gone from washing 4 or 5 loads of towels a week to 1 or 2, which is pretty good considering I’m living with 3 teenagers.

  14. Patty says

    I hate really thick towels or any towel like a velour. I especially like thin towels for my hair. The ones I use for my hair now are 20 years old and getting thread bare but I doubt I could find suitable replacements. I probably bought them at a discount store.

    Towel preferences vary widely.

    • Kitty says

      Patty, my daughter didn’t (she grew up and moved out) like thick towels either. K-Mart still carries a line of thin, but seemingly durable, small sized bath towels.

  15. KittenPoker says

    Regardless of the towel, make sure you DON’T use a dryer sheet. The sheet coats the fibers for softness but makes the towel less absorbent.

    We have also have Restoration Hardware towels. I snagged them on sale in 2006 and they’re still pretty awesome. I’ll have to check out the Kohl’s/Vera Wang for my guest bathroom!

  16. Beverly says

    “Magnificence” by 1888 Mills. They’re a good, sturdy quality, finished well, not too thick and not too thin. I haven’t bought any towels yet, but did order several wash cloths and hand towels. A lovely bed and breakfast we stayed in in Asheville, NC, The Queen Anne”, stocked the rooms with this brand. I loved them! And they’re made in the USA – a plus for me.

          • Andrew says

            You can also find these on My wife and I have been looking for better towels and we’ve went through 1 full set of towels and just bought another full set (both full sets were bought at JCPenney and the latest set was one of the few brands that weren’t actually made by JCPenney themselves) and we’ve only been using our own towels for 1 year and 3 months. This latest set we’ve only had for 2 months and 1 of them is already starting to fall apart. We will give a long hard look at these 1888 towels. They look to be really good quality. Thanks

  17. Laurie Johnson says

    We went with the Fieldcrest from Target, chocolate brown and white with brown detail. Have not been disappointed in the look or the quality.

    • pam kueber says

      I love my 450 thread count sheets from Fieldcrest from Target. I was just in the store the other day and noticed there now are 600 thread count… Might have to put that on the Christmas list…

  18. says

    Good to know about the Vera Wang towels (the update). Not that I can afford them anyway. lol

    When we were married we were given a set of JC Penny towels, and they lasted nearly ten years (they were still good when I tired of them actually lol)! The cotton didn’t ‘rough’ up, and the color didn’t fade. During that time, because we were young marrieds and on a tight budget, I bought some extra towels at Kmart, the Martha Stewart line. They were pretty good, but didn’t stand up to the Penny’s towels in the long run.

    I eventually headed for the Penny’s rack. The new towels were not nearly of the same quality as our gift towels, and didn’t last as long, but, the quality was still pretty good for the money. The last batch I bought, the towels weren’t as thick as previous purchases, and though they didn’t fade, they did rough up after only a year. I believe because of a lesser quality of cotton. No more Penny’s towels. The price went up, the quality went down.

    We can’t afford Ralph Lauren and other ‘name’ brand towels, and with quality a real factor with anything these days, I’d be cautious in buying anyway. For right now we’re buying towels from IKEA. The quality may not be up to par with some of the high end brands, but they’re affordable, and are working out well for us right now.

  19. ReneeK says

    I love my WalMart towels. They are also the type made to dry faster. They are soft and fluffy and not too heavy. Soft Indulgence, 100% cotton.

    I, too, have some of my parent’s wedding towels. 1956, frayed but still going strong. Let’s face it, we’re all here because we know they just don’t make ’em like they used to.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *