Eco-friendly shopping is always tricky, but with towels, it’s downright confusing!
Lots of towels claim to be sustainable and good for the environment, but when you do your research it turns out to be a half-truth.
I’m going to help you bypass all the greenwashing and pick the best eco-friendly towels for your bathroom.
Best eco-friendly towels
The best sustainable towels have all the qualities of a standard towel, such as being super soft, absorbent, and quick-drying. But instead of using toxic chemicals in the manufacturing process, they use natural, organic materials.
Eco Terry Sustainable Bath Towels
These eco-friendly towels are made using 10% recycled cotton, 10% recycled plastic water bottles, and 80% combed cotton. Each set saves 4.7 water bottles from being sent to landfill and reduces water usage in the production process by over 33 gallons.
The luxurious towels are GRS certified, which means they meet global recycling standards specifically for textiles. They also hold an OEKO-TEX Made in Green certificate, which means they’re free of any harmful substances and have been manufactured sustainably AND ethically.
GLAMBURG GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Towels
These organic cotton towels are GOTS, and OEKO-TEX certified, so you can be sure they are a sustainable addition to your bathroom.
The towels are 550 GSM and represent the perfect balance between comfort and weight. They’re thick enough to feel plush but also won’t take ages to dry. The waffle texture helps improve absorbency, so both you and the towel will be dry in no time.
Nature Is Gift GOTS Certified Organic
These super lightweight towels are great for a trip to the beach or a spa day. The material is thin with a GSM (grams per square meter) of 155, so it dries quickly and doesn’t consume a lot of energy while washing or drying. This is especially helpful in the winter when thicker towels can take significantly longer to dry.
The 100% organic Turkish cotton is so soft that the towel can easily double as a blanket. It’s been pre-washed, so you shouldn’t experience any shrinkage. And at 37″ x 70,” it’ll easily wrap around you.
LOFT by Loftex Sustainable Towel Set
These towels are a blend of 60% cotton, 20% recycled polyester, and 20% hemp. Hemp is a renewable resource that doesn’t require any herbicides or pesticides to grow. It also uses very little water and returns up to 70% of its nutrients back to the earth.
Loft claims that the Oeko-Tex certified material is more absorbent than a 100% cotton towel and faster drying. You can choose from a range of colors, including aqua ice (pictured) and blush. I love the subtle tones because it means the towels should look good in any bathroom.
Eco Linen Soft Organic Bath Towels
For those of you after a budget-friendly option, Eco linen offers these six full-sized towels for a very reasonable price.
The bath towels are made from 100% organic combed cotton in an OEKO-TEX Standard 100 factory. The brand has a continued focus on meeting high safety and environmental standards.
Pinzon Organic Cotton Bath Sheet Towel
Pinzon bath towels are made using GOTS certified cotton and offer a truly luxurious experience. Measuring 70″ x 40″ with a GSM of 700, the bath sheets will envelop you in comfort and dry you off in no time.
As this is an Amazon brand, it ships in frustration-free packaging. Frustration-free packaging uses recycled boxes to cut down on waste and is free of any unnecessary cases or bindings.
Natural Linen 100% Flax Bath Towel
This towel is made using 100% organic linen and meets the international Oeko-Tex standard. Linen is an absorbent, skin-friendly material. It also washes well, producing zero fluff, and dries impressively fast.
Flax linen has some unique thermo-regulation properties that mean the towel will keep you cool in hot weather while also warming you up if it’s cold. Combine this with the ultra-portable nature of linen, and you have the perfect travel towel.
Welhome Hudson Ethical Towels
Welhome claims that their GOTS certified organic cotton towels are softer and more durable than regular cotton towels.
The ethical towels are manufactured by Welspun, a leading textiles producer that has set up several initiatives to improve the lives of workers in the industry. They also have a strong program to ensure sustainable practices are used across their whole supply chain.
Luxury Hotel & Spa 100% Cotton Premium Turkish Bath Towels
No article on eco-friendly towels would be complete without mentioning Turkish cotton. These towels have been made in Denzil, Turkey using ethically farmed, premium cotton.
There are no dangerous chemicals used in the towels’ manufacturing, and the ends are double stitched to enhance durability. The towels are 700 GSM, meaning they’re thick, soft, and fluffy. They give you that spa feeling in your own bathroom.
They come in an array of beautiful colors including cranberry (pictured), plum, and moss.
Are bamboo towels eco-friendly?
Bamboo is widely known as an eco-friendly material, so many people assume anything with bamboo on the label is good for the environment. Unfortunately, this isn’t always the case. Towels are an example where bamboo isn’t always best.
The bamboo plant itself is very sustainable, it:
- Grows quickly and regenerates from its roots so doesn’t need replanting
- Takes in more CO2 than trees
- Doesn’t require fertilizers or pesticides to grow
- Is very water efficient
Sounds great, right?
But pure bamboo fibers are hard and scratchy, so not suitable for making towels. The environmental issues come when bamboo is turned into the delicate soft fabric you know and love. The name for this fabric is bamboo rayon. There are three main types of bamboo rayon.
The most common type is viscose bamboo. Most bamboo towels are made using the viscose method unless they say otherwise. The viscose process uses highly toxic chemicals that are extremely polluting to the environment. These chemicals are either disposed of as hazardous waste or end up leaking into nearby waterways.
The second type is modal bamboo. The modal process is essentially the same as the viscose process, with a few extra steps to increase the material’s strength. The modal method still produces harmful chemical waste.
You might see some bamboo fabric products with an OEKO-TEX label, which is usually a good sign. However, these products could still have been produced using viscose or modal methods. An OEKO-TEX certificate only means that the final product contains no harmful chemicals, not that no toxic chemicals were used in its production.
The third and final type is lyocell.
The lyocell process is by far the most eco-friendly way to make bamboo fabric, but sadly the rarest.
Instead of using harsh chemicals like the previous two processes, an organic solvent is used. Both the solvent and any water used in the process can be recycled and reused. This creates a closed-loop system that’s much better for the environment. If you ever see Tenecel used, this is just a brand name for bamboo fibers made using the lyocell method.
Ettitude is one of the few brands around using lyocell, and luckily for you, they have some beautiful waffle weave towels made using their signature bamboo lyocell fabric. Sustainable, soft, and stylish!
One of the best ways to make sure you’re not being greenwashed is to look for certified towels. You can be confident that towels with eco-friendly certifications have been made sustainably and ethically.
The most common certification for towels are:
- GOTS, Global Organic Textile Standard certification. To be GOTS certified, at least 70% of the materials used have to be organic fibers. There’s also a strict set of guidelines around social and environmental responsibilities covering the whole process, from harvesting the raw materials to labeling and packaging. Check out my article exploring the sustainability of organic cotton for more information.
- OEKO-TEX certification. The standard 100 by OEKO-TEX means that the products have been tested and don’t contain chemicals that could be harmful to humans. The MADE IN GREEN by OEKO-TEX goes a step further and guarantees that the product has been made using sustainable processes and ethical conditionals.
- GRS, Global Recycling Standard certification. Having a GRS certificate verifies the products use of recycled materials. The certificate also means that the product was made under socially responsible working conditions using processes that cause minimal harm to the environment.
What is GSM?
GSM stands for grams per square meter. It’s a measure of the density of the towel. Generally, towels range from between 300-900 GSM with a higher GSM meaning the towel is thicker and heavier.
The GSM that’s best for you depends on what you want to use the towel for. Thicker towels are more luxurious and good for home use or guest bathrooms. Thinner towels are more portable and faster drying, so are better for on-the-go use and travelling.
Hopefully, I’ve helped you navigate the maze that is eco-friendly towels.
All the options I’ve featured are not only great towels, but are also great for the environment.