Drying Off

Here’s how to care for your towels while still caring for the environment. Unless you are air-drying your body out in the sun after a shower under a waterfall, your basic bath towel and bath mat are pretty much essential to any household.

Top Tips

At home

Organic Cotton Towel
  • Wash carefully. To keep your towels looking nice longer, wash white towels separately to avoid discoloration. Wash dark-color towels separately for the first few washings because colors may bleed. Use warm water, not hot.
  • Dry separately. Other fabrics will dry faster without thick towels in the mix. Remove towels as soon as they are dry; overdrying wastes energy and degrades the cotton fibers. Ironing wastes energy and reduces absorbency. And don’t wash towels after each use. That wastes energy, too, and wears out your clothes.
  • Find new life for old towels. When a towel is too worn, recycle it. Use it as a rag for cleaning, or if you want to get creative, find higher uses. Make it into a bath mat–just fold it in half and put it on the floor. Make it into a small pillow. Add some cotton for the filling and then sew it up. Or use it as the filling in a pillow. Roll it up and use it as a neck roll pillow. Take it to your local veterinarian or animal shelter. They always need towels, sheets, and blankets.

When shopping for environmentally friendly towels, look for

  • Organic cotton. Because of its absorbency and strength, cotton is the fabric of choice. But conventional cotton is grown with toxic pesticides that taint the soil, air, and water where they are grown. Choose organic cotton instead to be environmentally friendly.
  • Natural blends. Some environmentally friendly towels mix cotton and other natural fibers, including bamboo and hemp, to make a better towel. Hemp gives the towel more strength and bamboo makes it more absorbent.


  • Fabric softeners. Their purpose is to reduce static cling on synthetic fibers. They are not necessary for natural fibers, and they reduce absorbency.

Other Considerations

When selecting environmentally friendly towels, use weight as a measure of durability. The heavier the towel, the longer it will last. Super-thick luxury towels are usually around 800 grams per meter. Cotton quality can affect durability, too. “Longer-staple” cotton, such as the varieties grown in the delta regions of the United States, has longer cotton fibers. Towels made with it are softer and have more supple loops, resulting in better wear and less lint.


…to you
Organic cottons are a joy to use–they are oh-so-soft against all that bare skin.

…to your wallet
If you buy good-quality towels, they will last longer and won’t need to be replaced as often.

…to the Earth
Cotton uses even more toxic pesticide per acre than growing food, so it’s even more important to buy organic cotton than to buy organic food.

Common Mistakes

  • Softer may not be better. Manufacturers sometimes add silicone-based fabric softeners to towels to create a silky feel, but they coat the fibers and actually reduce absorbency. Since these additives are not mentioned on the label, you might not know the towels are less absorbent until you get home. To play it safe, buy a single washcloth and test it before you buy a whole set of towels. That will give you a chance to check the color in the light of your bathroom as well.
  • Bigger? It depends. Towels come in many sizes today. While a supersize bath sheet may be luxurious, it’s not needed to dry your body after a bath–the standard size will do just fine. On the other hand, if you’re buying a beach towel, the extra length serves a purpose.

Getting Started

Keep your bathroom looking clean and serene with a minimalist approach. Only purchase essential bath linens: towels and a bath mat. Decorative linens like toilet seat covers use resources without much benefit.

Related Articles
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