Last Updated on September 13, 2022 by The Filtery Staff
When the towels around your house start getting tattered and faded, you may consider replacing them with organic ones instead of the typical polyester or conventional cotton.
And the good news is that there are some really great brands to choose from that are not only using healthy, non-toxic, and eco-friendly materials, but are also making bath towels that are super high-quality and will look beautiful in your bathroom, too.
In this article, we’re going to talk about why organic towels are better, let you know what to keep your eye out for while you’re shopping, and then we’ll tell you about our favorite brands.
Oh, and before we dive in, here are a few related articles you might be interested in as well:
- Our Favorite Natural & Non-Toxic Bath Mats
- Our favorite organic bathrobes
- What’s the Deal with PVC-Free Shower Curtains?
- Best non-toxic, unbleached TP!
- Best Organic Kitchen Towels
- Our Favorite Organic Hooded Baby Towels
- Best Organic & Non-Toxic Beach Towels
This post contains affiliate links, which means we may earn a small commission if you choose to make a purchase. We only make recommendations that are genuine and meet our standards.
Featured Image Credit: Coyuchi
What is the Best Material for Bath Towels?
Most towels are made out of cotton, polyester, or some mixture of the two.
Polyester is not the best option because it’s just plastic. It’s a byproduct of the petroleum industry, takes a toll on our environment as a whole, and can include chemicals like bisphenols (BPA, BPS, BPF, etc.) which are toxic to humans. Not only that, but polyester fibers shed microplastics, which are currently wreaking havoc on our ecosystems and food chains.
(P.S. If you see the word “microfiber” on towels, that usually means it’s made at least in part with polyester or another synthetic.)
The next best option is conventionally grown cotton. It’s better than polyester because it’s a natural fiber, which means it’s renewable and biodegradable. It’s also more breathable and moisture-wicking than most synthetic fabrics.
But conventional cotton comes with its own problems. It’s sprayed with a lot of carcinogenic pesticides and herbicides, the residues of which can end up in cotton end products like towels (which we can then absorb tiny amounts of through our skin). It also requires a LOT of water to grow.
Not only that, but the conventional cotton industry is incredibly harsh on farmers, particularly in India (where a good deal of the world’s cotton is produced). Not only are the poisonous pesticides themselves killing a large number of Indian farmers each year, but the entire corrupt industry is causing thousands of farmers to die by suicide.
The best materials for towels are organic cotton, hemp, and linen. These are all three natural resources that are biodegradable and much healthier for the Earth as a whole, as well as the humans who use them.
Organic cotton doesn’t use herbicides and pesticides, requires much less water to grow, and is not destructive to the soil. Most third-party labels like GOTS Certified Organic Cotton also ensure that farm workers along the supply chain are safe and treated/paid fairly for their work as well.
Hemp is a really strong fiber that’s naturally resistant to water, UV, and mold. It also requires significantly less water to grow than conventional cotton, doesn’t require pesticides, and can yield a lot of crop in a short amount of time. Hemp plants also produce more oxygen and absorb up to four times as much carbon dioxide than trees. Unfortunately, hemp farming got caught up in the drug war, which is why it’s still almost impossible to find in the U.S. The good news is that’s slowly starting to change!
Lastly, one more natural material that’s great for towels is linen. It’s similar to organic cotton and hemp in that it requires much less water and zero pesticides to grow. It’s also very breathable and hypoallergenic, anti-pilling, as well as very strong and durable. Linen towels also tend to be thinner, which means they dry faster and take up less space in your washing machine and linen closet.
Are Organic Towels Really Better?
When it comes to performance alone (absorbency, durability, etc.), there really isn’t a big difference between conventional and organic cotton.
But when it comes to our individual and collective health, organic really is better.
Organic vs. Conventional Cotton
Non-organic crops are sprayed with pesticides and other toxic chemicals that have been linked to everything from cancer and ADHD to infertility and Parkinson’s and more. (Remember: modern pesticides were first invented as poisons for the Vietnam war.)
Not only that, but conventional monocrop farming strips our topsoil of vital nutrients and minerals that are crucial to our food supply. The type of farming methods used by conventional growers is not sustainable in the long run and poses a real threat to our food supplies.
(This is not to blame conventional farmers, however. Because of the decisions of our government officials—mostly due to the successful lobbying of huge pesticide companies—taxpayers spend millions of dollars in subsidies to conventional farmers each year in order to keep their farms running. In many ways, farmers are incentivized not to grow using organic methods.)
What to Look for in High-Quality Sustainable Bath Towels
In addition to eco-friendly, non-toxic fabric, there are a few more things to look for in organic towels:
If you’re buying colored towels, make sure the brand has used non-toxic, low-impact, and/or organic dyes. Look for the OEKO-TEX certification, which indicates that no toxic chemicals were used throughout the entire production process (or just go with undyed if you want!).
Third-party certifications indicate that someone outside of the company has verified the brand’s safety and environmental claims. Here are the three main labels you’ll see when it comes to towels:
Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS): This indicates that a material has been grown and processed without harmful chemicals such as herbicides and pesticides. GOTS also has qualifications that involve fair treatment of farm workers and suppliers.
OEKO-TEX: This certification verifies that no known toxic chemicals were used throughout the entire production process.
MADE SAFE: This one is similar to OEKO-TEX in that it ensures that the end product is safe and free from potentially toxic chemicals. MADE SAFE is a newer and smaller certification than OEKO-TEX, but has stricter standards.
Ideally, you want to see at least two certifications: one that indicates that the plant was grown organically from the start (like GOTS) and another that indicates only safe ingredients were used throughout the rest of the process (like OEKO-TEX or MADE SAFE).
It should be noted that while third-party certifications are great, they aren’t the end-all/be-all. These types of certifications can be very costly to small farmers who work with tight margins; therefore, some farmers choose to grow crops using organic methods, but skip the certification process. Don’t be afraid to ask more questions of the brands you buy from to find out more about their sourcing practices.
Other Ethical & Sustainable Initiatives
When looking for the best organic towels, we didn’t stop at natural, organic, and non-toxic materials. We also look for ethical supply chains (such as Fair Trade certified) and other initiatives like low-waste and low-energy production methods, non-profit give back programs, and circularity schemes.
These Are Our Favorite Organic Bath Towels
Okay, so now that you’ve got a thorough rundown of what makes a great towel, let’s get to the best brands for non-toxic and organic cotton towels to stock up your eco-friendly bathroom!
Carries: Bath towels, hand towels, wash cloths, beach towels
Made In: India, Turkey
Price: $8 (wash cloth) – $198 (6-piece set)
Coyuchi is one of our favorite brands for non-toxic and organic bedding, bath, and other home goods. Their highly absorbent organic cotton towels are colored with low-impact dyes and come with a variety of certifications, including GOTS organic, MADE SAFE, and Fair Trade.
They also have some other great sustainability initiatives such as their 2nd Home circular program to give products a second life as well as giving back 1% of their profits to non-profit environmental organizations.
Coyuchi has a wide selection of towels to choose from when it comes to colors (including undyed), textures, weight, absorbency, and more. So you’re almost certain to find something you love!
In addition to bath towels, they also carry hand towels and washcloths, beach towels, bath rugs and mats, and organic bath robes.
2. Under the Canopy (Best Affordable)
Carries: Bath towels, hand towels, washcloths
Made In: Pakistan
Price: $8 (wash cloth) – $115 (set)
Under the Canopy offers truly high-quality bedding and bath goods at a lower price point than some of the comparable brands.
They use organic cotton as well as hemp for their towels, which are available in Textured, Signature, and Luxe. These ethically made and sustainable towels are both GOTS and OEKO-TEX certified.
3. Boll & Branch (Best Plush Luxury)
Carries: Bath towels, hand towels, washcloths
Made In: India
Price: $19 (pair of washcloths) – $228 (set of full sized towels)
You’ve likely heard about Boll & Branch before; they’re one of the most successful direct-to-consumer companies that has arisen over the past decade.
Their spa quality towels and washcloths are made from GOTS, OEKO-TEX, and Fair Trade certified cotton. Although they have a wide variety in terms of weights, sizes, weaves, and colors, we especially love their plush collection. If you love that extra fluffy luxury feeling in your bath towels, definitely check out Boll & Branch.
Oh, and they also carry bath mats as well as plush and waffle robes for adults.
4. California Cloth Foundry (Best Bath Towels Made in the USA)
Carries: Bath towels, hand towels, washcloths
Made In: USA
Price: $16 (washcloth) – $179 (set of 6)
It can be difficult to find bath towels that are made in the USA from start to finish, but California Cloth Foundry (a B Corp brand) has them!
Cotton towels that are made in America usually have an overall lower carbon footprint by cutting down on driving emissions and minimizing the size of the overall supply chain.
Not only that, but these towels actually go beyond organic by using regenerative cotton that restores the soil in the way in which its grown and harvested. That means they have a more positive environmental impact from start to finish.
Plus, but these ethically made bath towels contain all-natural, plant-based, and low impact organic dyes. So if you have a lot of skin sensitivities, I would definitely recommend checking out California Cloth Foundry.
5. Sunrise Bliss (Best Hair Towels)
Carries: T-shirt hair towels
I have a couple of these t-shirt hair towels and I use one every single time I wash my hair. They are so convenient—they wrap up nicely on your head and I can keep my hair tied up while I’m getting ready or doing things round the house. They absorb just as much water as a regular towel, but without all the bulkiness.
Handmade in Michigan out of GOTS certified organic fabric, the towels come in small (for kids and people with short hair), medium (for all hair lengths), and large (for those with long and/or thick hair). They come in solid colors as well as fun patterns.
To reduce waste, they also make scrunchies, face masks, and drawstring bags out of their fabric scraps!
6. Anact (Best Hemp Towels)
Carries: Bath & hand towels, washcloths
Price: $10 (wash cloth) – $60 (3-piece set)
These towels from Anact are made with a blend of 55% hemp and 45% organic cotton for a hemp towel that’s still super plush and soft. They’re available in “Natural” (which is both unbleached and undyed) as well as “White” (which is undyed, but bleached).
These towels are carbon neutral, too!
5. Rawganique (Best Linen Bath Towels)
Carries: Bath & hand towels, washcloths, dish towels
Made in: USA
Price: $10 (dish towel) – $55 (bath towel)
Rawganique is another great brand that makes everything in the USA, completely handcrafted and sweatshop free. Their focus is on clothing and home goods that are unquestionably non-toxic so that even the most chemically-sensitive among us can safely use and wear them.
They carry a wide selection of kitchen and bath towels that are made using eco-minded materials like organic cotton, hemp, and linen. They offer a wide range of textures and colors, but a lot of them are completely unbleached, undyed, and completely free from any harmful chemicals.
They also carry lots of other non-toxic bathroom products like bath mats, robes, and more.
8. Public Goods (Best for XL Organic Bath Sheets)
Carries: Bath & hand towels, washcloths, large bath towels, extra-large bath sheets
Made in: Turkey
Price: $9 (set of kitchen towels) – $45 (extra large bath towel)
Public Goods is another good brand for affordable bath towels, especially if you’re looking for extra large towels or sheets (40″ x 70″).
These crisp white towels are made out of 100% long staple organic cotton from Turkey and are manufactured without any harmful chemical treatments, synthetic fertilizers, or pollutant dyes.
These would be a great option for college students moving into their dorm rooms, too!
More F.A.Q.s About Organic Towels
Are There Any Organic Bath Towels Made in the USA?
What About Turkish Cotton?
Turkish cotton is exactly what it sounds like: it’s cotton that’s grown in Turkey. The fertile soil in Turkey has made it an ideal place for growing cotton for centuries. Turkish cotton fibers are usually extra long, which make for stronger and smoother textiles. You’ll notice a lot of the brands below use Turkish cotton.
Other types of cotton include Pima cotton (also an extra-long staple cotton and primarily grown in China), Supima cotton (a higher-quality version of Pima), and Egyptian cotton (which simply indicates cotton grown in Egypt).
Turkish, Pima, Supima, and Egyptian cotton can all be organic or non-organic. It just depends on the way in which the plant is grown in their respective regions.
What Does GSM Mean for Towels?
Another thing you’ll see when you’re looking at bath towels is GSM. GSM stands for “grams per square meter” and it indicates the weight and absorbency level of a towel.
Bath towels and sheets with lower GSM ratings tend to be more affordable, faster drying, and lighter weight (therefore better for travel and storage).
Towels on the high range of GSM are usually considered “luxury” towels and are very soft, plush, and ultra absorbent. They’re typically more expensive, require more time to dry, and take up more space in your washing machine and linen closet.
Most beach and bath towels lie somewhere in the middle of the GSM scale. You can read more about GSM here.
Bath Sheet vs. Bath Towel: What’s the Difference?
When you’re shopping for organic bath towels, you’ll see two different terms used: standard bath towels versus bath sheets. They’re actually very similar; the biggest difference is just that bath sheets are larger. For more explanation into what a bath sheet is (and to help you decide which one is best for you), check out this article.
When it comes time to replace your towels, go for organic cotton, hemp, or linen. These materials are healthier for you and for the planet we call home!
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