If you’re looking for a towel that’s low-lint, high-durability, decently soft, quick-drying, high-absorbency, and fade-resistant…well, you’ll need to pay a little extra to get all those things. Cheap towels are almost always linty, especially after the first few washes, so we suggest washing in hot water and drying them alone until the fibers have shed their winter coats, so to speak. And while some are fairly fade-resistant over time, there are a lot of cosmetic and household chemicals that can discolor even (and maybe especially) expensive towels. But with all that in mind, these AmazonBasics Quick-Drying Towels get a whole lot of things right, and that’s why they’re our low-budget pick.
These towels are designed to be quick-drying AND absorbent, which is hard to do. They’re zero-twist, which means the 100% cotton fibers used to manufacture them are stronger and the surface area of the yarn is more open, which makes the material more absorbent and soft but also allows it to dry more quickly. Zero-twist only works if the cotton is high-quality, so that makes these even more of a bargain.
The weight of a towel is measured in GSM, or grams per square meter. The higher the GSM, the denser the threads. While a higher GSM doesn’t always mean the towel is softer, more absorbent, or even physically thicker, it does usually correspond with price. The higher the GSM, the more expensive (sort of like thread count for sheets). AmazonBasics Quick-Dry Towels are 400 GSM, which makes them lightweight to medium-weight towels. Medium-weight towels are usually as absorbent as heavier weights (700 GSM or more) when made from 100% cotton, but they’re lighter and they dry faster, which is great for small or poorly ventilated bathrooms — or people who just leave towels lying around the house (no shame, just being real). These are also great for pets and other creatures that get gross and smelly, since they’re cheap enough to replace now and again.
You’ll notice something that all three of our bath towel picks have in common: They all have only a thin border hem, rather than a thick striped border a few inches up from the edge. We’re against those borders for several reasons. One, if the towel shrinks, or is wrinkled, the border gets misshapen easily and starts to look wonky. And two, they are never soft, and it always seems to show up just where you want to dry your face or other sensitive parts. They also make the towels harder to display on hooks. Overall, we’re just anti-borders over here at BuzzFeed Reviews — especially on towels and washcloths — and this AmazonBasics set has a nice waffled border that doesn’t get in the way.
We also didn’t pick any towels that come in sets (besides this one, which comes with a washcloth and hand towel). A very valuable thing we learned in the course of testing for this review is that the only thing more annoying than not having enough towels is having too many! Storing more towels than you have room for in your home is a huge pain, so while there are some good quality towels that come in sets of four (especially this Turkish set that’s only $6+ per towel), being able to get the right number for your household is key.
These AmazonBasics towels are also made in an Oeko-Tex Standard 100 factory, an independent certification program that tests household fabrics and materials for more than 300 known harmful substances — though the towels themselves are not Oeko-Tex Standard 100-certified (likely because they’re a private-label brand from Amazon and they didn’t apply for the recognition).
Among the other cheap towels we tried, these were the best overall in terms of quality, design, colorways, dry time, and absorbency. Durability and softness vary depending on your use and laundering techniques, but at $12.99 for a set, we think it’s the best budget version you’re gonna find.
Editor’s note: In the course of writing this review, our number one favorite GOAT cheap towel from Target, the Fieldcrest Luxury, was discontinued and replaced with the Fieldcrest Spa Solid. Which is just okay. It’s as good as any other Target towel, which is to say it is soft and seems to be durable for the price and comes in great colorways. But there are a few things that differentiate it from the Luxury Solid that made us hesitant to fully switch loyalties: It’s not benzoyl peroxide-resistant or fade-resistant (and we haven’t yet found another on the market that actually makes that claim). The border is a different design, which makes it wrinkle/shrink easier. And it’s almost TOO soft, if you know what we’re saying. Something about it made us kind of suspicious, and it doesn’t dry quite as well on the floor of a teen’s room or in a windowless bathroom. And maybe we’re resistant to change or too attached to the old ones, but the Spa Solid is still a solid choice, if you will. You won’t go wrong with that one. But it’s just not our FAVORITE in the same way the Luxury Solid was. Amazon Basics Quick-Dry is the new king in town.