As you shop for new bath towels or replace old linens, you may wonder: are bath towels considered linens? The answer is yes – bath towels are indeed classified as linens.
Let’s explore the details of why this is the case and what it means for the towels in your home.
A Brief History of Linens
To understand why bath towels are linens, it helps to look at the history of linens. The term “linens” refers to household textiles made from the flax plant. Ancient civilizations like Egypt and Mesopotamia used linen for bedding, clothing, and other purposes.
In the Middle Ages in Europe, linen was popular for clothing and undergarments since more expensive cotton was imported. Linen bedsheets, tablecloths, and towels were signs of wealth. New brides often received linen trousseaus, including towels, to set up their households.
Over time, cotton replaced linen as the preferred material for most household textiles, though the term “linens” stuck around. Today, linens include bedding, table linens, towels, and related items – whether made of linen or other fabrics.
Why Towels Are Considered Linens
There are a few key reasons why bath towels fall under the linens category:
- Traditional association – Bath towels have long been grouped with sheets, tablecloths, and other household textiles as linens. This traditional classification continues today.
- Materials – While today’s towels are usually cotton or cotton blends, linen can also be used to make towels. The absorbent fabrics are similar.
- Function – Towels serve a similar purpose as other linens like bedsheets – providing comfort, hygiene, and luxury in the home.
- Usage – Towels are used regularly in the bathroom just like sheets in the bedroom. Their daily use binds them as essential linens.
- Care – Towels and other linens often require similar laundering and care to keep them clean and in good condition.
So while bath towels have a distinct purpose from bedsheets, their close ties to other linens in material, function, use, and care make them a firmly established type of household linen.
Bath Towel Materials
While old linen towels were made of linen, most modern bath towels are cotton. However, there are some other common bath towel materials to know about:
- Egyptian cotton – Made of long cotton fibers, Egyptian cotton towels are very soft, absorbent and durable.
- Turkish cotton – Also long-fiber cotton, Turkish cotton is lightweight, fluffy, and very absorbent.
- Bamboo – Bamboo makes towels exceptionally soft, hypoallergenic and antimicrobial.
- Microfiber – Synthetic microfiber creates ultra-soft and quick-drying bath towels.
- Cotton/polyester blend – Mixed with polyester, cotton is more affordable and wrinkle-resistant.
The material affects the feel, absorbency, durability, and price of bath towels. High-end Egyptian or Turkish cotton offers luxury, while budget-friendly cotton/polyester blends can still be soft and functional.
How To Shop for Bath Towels
When shopping for bath towels, consider these guidelines:
- 100% cotton is best for softness and absorbency.
- Look for long-staple cotton like Egyptian or Pima for strength and durability.
- Check the grams per square meter (GSM) as an indicator of thickness and absorbency. 600-900 GSM is thickest.
- Feel towels in person when possible to judge softness and texture.
- Consider color/patterns to match your bathroom decor. Stick to light colors to limit fading.
- Buy bath sheets around 40 x 70″ for a luxurious spa-like feel.
- Stock at least 2 full sets of bath towels per household member for laundry rotation.
Taking these factors into account will help you invest in the highest quality bath towels as linens for your home.
Caring for Bath Towels
To keep your bath towels looking and feeling their best for years to come, follow these care tips:
- Wash in warm water using a gentle detergent and color-safe bleach as needed.
- Avoid fabric softener which can coat towels and reduce absorbency.
- Shake towels while wet and again when dry to fluff the loops and nap.
- Dry towels completely to prevent mildew, but don’t over-dry to maintain integrity of cotton fibers.
- Wash and dry towels separately from clothing items for sanitary reasons.
- Wash white towels separately or with whites to prevent discoloration.
- Use non-chlorine bleach monthly to remove detergent buildup and restore absorbency.
With proper laundering and drying, high-quality 100% cotton bath towels can last up to 10 years, giving you your money’s worth from these linens.
Key Takeaway: Invest in 100% cotton or bamboo bath towels and care for them properly by washing in warm water, avoiding fabric softener, and drying completely to maximize longevity as linens.
Are Hand Towels Also Linens?
Yes, hand towels are considered linens as well. As smaller cotton or linen towels used for drying hands, face, and body, hand towels serve the same linen function as bath towels on a smaller scale.
Key Takeaway: Like bath towels, hand towels are classified as linens due to their absorbent fabric material, frequent use for hygiene and comfort, and need for regular laundering.
What About Washcloths?
Washcloths, also known as face cloths, are another type of bath linen. These small, square cotton or linen towels are designed for gentle cleansing and exfoliating of the face and neck. Their size makes washcloths ideal for travel or setting out by bathroom sinks. As a linen item regularly used for personal hygiene, washcloths are definitely part of the linen family.
Key Takeaway: Washcloths are soft, absorbent towels sized for facial use, joining hand towels and bath towels in the linens category.
Are Bath Sheets Linens?
Oversize bath sheets also fall under the linens umbrella. Bath sheets provide full body coverage when stepping out of the tub or shower. They measure around 40 x 70 inches, larger than a standard bath towel. The expansive size and soft, absorbent fabric classify bath sheets as luxury bathroom linens.
Table Comparing Towel Sizes:
|Towel Type||Standard Size|
|Bath towel||27 x 52″|
|Hand towel||16 x 30″|
|Washcloth||13 x 13″|
|Bath sheet||35 x 60″|
Are Beach Towels Considered Linens?
Large, absorbent beach towels made of cotton or microfiber also qualify as linens. Their functionality is the same as bath and hand towels – providing a soft, absorbent textile to dry off with after swimming or bathing. The lightweight fabric, colorful designs, and oversize shape adapt beach towels for outdoor use. But at their core, beach towels have the same linen purpose we expect from regular bath towels.
Do Paper Towels Count as Linens?
Paper towels are disposable paper sheets instead of reusable fabric towels, so they are not categorized as linens. However, paper towels serve a similar function as linen kitchen towels – absorbing spills and drying dishes, hands, and surfaces. So while they aren’t linens themselves, paper towels could be considered a substitute for certain linen uses.
Are Towels Considered Bedding?
While clearly categorized as linens, towels don’t fall under the definition of bedding. Bedding refers specifically to the fabrics used on a bed, like sheets, pillowcases, and blankets. The purpose of bedding is providing comfort for sleeping.
Towels are designed for drying and absorbing water, whether in the bath, kitchen, or elsewhere. So while towels and sheets are both linens, only sheets, pillows, comforters, and mattress covers qualify as bedding.
Do Tea Towels Count as Linens?
Yes, tea towels are linens as well. Also known as dish towels, these absorbent cotton or linen towels are designed for drying dishes, hands, and countertops in the kitchen. As reusable cloths used regularly for household hygiene, tea towels serve a traditional linen function. Their frequent use and laundering needs make tea towels part of the extended linen family.
Are Table Napkins Considered Linens?
Table napkins made of cotton, linen, or other fabrics are classified as linens. They provide diners with a soft textile for personal use and hygiene while eating. The absorbent material and regular laundering make cloth dinner napkins similar in purpose and care to towels and other standard linens.
Key Takeaway: From bath towels to table napkins, absorbent fabric textiles used regularly in the home for comfort, hygiene and cleaning all qualify as linens.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why are towels called linens if they aren’t made of linen?
The term “linens” originated when these household fabrics were made of linen fibers. But today, “linens” refers broadly to any reusable textiles like towels, napkins, or bedding used regularly in the home and laundered frequently.
What’s the difference between a bath sheet and a bath towel?
A bath sheet is much larger than a standard bath towel, measuring around 40 x 70″ instead of 27 x 52″. The huge size provides more fabric to absorb water and wrap around the body after bathing.
Should you use fabric softener when washing towels?
No, avoid fabric softener when laundering towels. Softeners coat the fibers and reduce absorbency. Wash towels with gentle detergent and color-safe bleach if needed.
How often should you replace bath towels?
With proper care, high-quality 100% cotton bath towels can last up to 10 years before needing replacement. Look for signs of wearing like holes, fraying, or thinning of the fabric.
Should you wash new towels before first use?
Yes, it’s recommended to wash new bath towels in warm water before first use. This pre-wash removes excess dye and finishes while softening the fabric.
Bath towels and related absorption fabrics used routinely in the home are considered linens.
This classification comes from their historical ties to bedding and table linens, their similar materials and care requirements, and their daily use for personal hygiene.
While towels have a distinct functionality from other linens, they are firmly established as an essential type of linen in the home.