Understanding GSM for Your Towels

Avoiding choosing a towel based on feeling alone is important when shopping for towels.

Understanding GSM for Your Towels

Here are tips for finding high-quality towels and understanding how a towel’s GSM (grams per square meter) can play a vital part in the selection process.

What is GSM in Towels?

GSM refers to the weight and density of the towel fabric measured in grams per square meter (g/m2). This measurement indicates how thick, absorbent, and plush a towel will be.

Towels typically range from 300-900 GSM. The higher the GSM, the more dense and heavy the towel. This means it can absorb and hold more moisture. Lower GSM towels tend to be lighter and thinner.

Here’s an overview of common GSM towel weights:

  • 300-400 GSM – Lightweight and thin but quick drying. It may work for gym or kitchen towels.
  • 400-600 GSM – Medium weight that is soft and absorbent. Ideal for bath and beach towels.
  • 600-900 GSM – Heavy, plush towels for luxury spas and hotels. Highly absorbent but take longer to dry.

While GSM indicates towel quality, other factors like fabric type and construction impact softness and absorbency too.

Choosing the Right Towel Weight

While personal preference varies, most people enjoy mid-weight 400-600 GSM cotton towels.

Here are the pros and cons of different weights:

Lightweight (300-400 GSM)

Pros: Quick drying and inexpensive

Cons: Less plush, absorbent, and durable

Medium Weight (400-600 GSM)

Pros: Balance of absorbency, softness, and easy care

Cons: Not as thick and plush as heavy towels

Heavy Weight (600-900 GSM)

Pros: Thick, super plush, and absorbent

Cons: Heavy, takes longer to dry, more expensive

Mid-weight towels provide an ideal blend of quality, softness, and practicality for daily use. But lightweight gym/kitchen towels or luxury heavyweight spa towels may suit other needs.

Caring for High-Quality Cotton Towels

  • Wash before first use for maximum softness
  • Follow the care instructions on the label.
  • Use a gentle, color-safe detergent
  • Avoid bleach and fabric softener
  • Wash in cool or warm water, not hot
  • Tumble dry low or line dry
  • Avoid over-drying towels

High GSM luxury cotton towels become softer and more absorbent with proper care.

Restore Absorbency of Towels

Towels can lose absorbency and feel scratchy or stiff from mineral buildup and laundry product residue.

To restore them:

  1. Wash in hot water with 1 cup of white vinegar. No detergent.
  2. Wash again in hot water with 1/2 cup baking soda. No detergent.

The vinegar dissolves residue in the fibers, while the baking soda acts as a natural deodorizer.


Q: Why does GSM matter for bathrobes and other cotton fabrics?

A: While GSM is most often discussed regarding bath towels, it can indicate quality for any woven cotton item, including bathrobes, sheets, duvet covers, and table linens. A midweight 400-500 GSM cotton terry or velour fabric provides warmth and absorbency for bathrobes. A higher GSM number signals durability, softness, and longevity with sheets and duvets over regular laundering.

Q: How does piling affect towel quality?

A: Pilling occurs when loose cotton fibers tangle on the towel surface. It makes towels feel less soft and look worn. Pilling happens more quickly on low GSM towels. Using a 100% cotton towel with long staple fibers reduces pilling. So does washing in cool water and line drying instead of the dryer.


Understanding GSM is key to identifying high-quality bath towels that feel soft and absorbent when new and maintain those properties over years of use. While price and brand name can indicate towel quality, evaluating weight, fabric, stitching, and care recommendations allows you to select durable high GSM cotton towels tailored to your needs.

For a hotel or B&B, practical 500-600 GSM towels balance absorbency with lower cost and easier laundering than premium spa towels over 700 GSM. Mid-weight towels also tend to meet expectations for softness and drying ability for daily home use. Light 300-400 GSM towels work well for kitchens, pools, and gyms where quick drying is convenient.

No matter your goal, avoid choosing towels by appearance or feeling alone. Evaluate them when wet, check for dense stitching, and read fabric content and care labels. With this knowledge, you can invest wisely in cotton terry or velour towels that retain their plushness and rapidly absorb water from your skin for years of daily bathing.

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.