Top 10 Towel Terms for Towel Shoppers

These are the top 10 towel terms that towel shoppers should know when buying towels. Some of these terms are common and some you may have never heard before.  Consider this a basic introduction to textile terminology and use it to determine quality products when shopping for towels.

1. Towel Terms: Yarn Count

Yarn Count describes how fine or coarse yarn is and is a good concept to understand for towel shoppers. A typical yarn count for a good quality bath towel is high and relates to a finer yarn, while a towel with a lower yarn count is made with more coarse yarn. You can expect towels made with high yarn counts, like our Aston and Arden cabana towels, to be thicker and softer than beach towels made with low-count yarns.

2. Towel Terms: Single-Ply and Double-Ply Yarn

Single and double-ply yarns affect yarn count differently. A single strand of yarn is easy when determining yarn count, for example, one strand of yarn is 1S, for 1 single or single-ply, in textile manufacturing terms. When two yarn strands are wrapped together they create a double-ply yarn.  Two single yarn strands wound together would be written as 1D, meaning single fibers that are doubled up to make double-ply yarn.

3. Towel Terms: GSM

GSM means “Grams per Square Meter” and it is a measure of how thick the terry is on your towel. A 300 GSM bath towel is a lower-weight towel and may be found in a discount chain store while a 600 GSM towel like our Aston and Arden cabana towel may be found in an upscale shop in a resort area like Martha’s Vinyard. Our Towelzilla™ car-drying towel is a whopping 780 GSM.

To determine GSM you can use a GSM calculator like the one in this blog post.

4. Towel Terms: Warp and Weft

Warp and weft are fabric weaving terms that relate to each other very closely. The warp and weft, once woven, make up the base or flat surface of the fabric. Yarn is woven in two directions to create the flat material. Warp yarn is vertical and weft yarn is horizontal and each piece of yarn alternate above then under the other.

Most clothing and furniture fabrics are flat and only have warp and weft, but towels have “pile” woven through the warp and weft. The pile, and type of yarn, are what make the towel thick and heavy.

5. Textile Terms: Pile

Pile gives weight or “plushness” to flat fabric. The pile yarn is woven straight through the flat fabric. The end “feel” of the pile depends on many things including, how loose or tightly the pile is woven and the type of yarn used. Aston and Arden Turkish towels are made with long-staple cotton yarn and have a deep pile which makes them extremely soft and absorbent.

6. Textile Terms: Ring Spun and Open End Yarn

Ring spun yarn, made from long cotton fibers, is used to make higher-quality towels. Extra processing separates the shorter fibers from longer cotton fibers and saves them for other products. Long fibers can be stretched even longer and when they are spun together they are softer and stronger. Ring spun towels are more expensive than open-end towels — a result of the extra labor needed to process the cotton.

Open end yarn uses short cotton fibers. Some short-staple cotton grows that way and some are mined from processes that separate long and short cotton fibers for spun cotton yarns. The shorter fibers in open end yarn poke out and some shed from the yarn during laundering. These loose fiber ends give the yarn a more coarse feel and make it less durable. Open end yarn is less expensive but also less valuable, so it is not used for the finest quality textiles.

7. Textile Terms: Zero Twist

Zero-twist towels are long-staple cotton towels also known as low-twist towels. Towel makers use long-staple yarns because stronger, longer yarn can be easily looped through the warp and weft instead of twisting it through like with open-end yarns. Looping the yarn through the ground creates a plush pile. Longer loops are softer and have more air between them exposing more of the cotton’s surface and making zero twist towels more absorbent.

Short-staple twisted yarns create a stubby pile that is rougher on the skin. Tight twisted yarn makes the pile less absorbent as less water can reach the yarn’s hidden side. Plush, zero-twist towels are perfect for newborn babies or those with sensitive skin.

8. Textile Terms: Yarn-dyed

Yarn-dyeing is the process of lowering large spools of yarn into vats of dye to create uniform colored yarns. Many large spools of yarn are placed on an apparatus that is then lowered into a hot pressurized vat where it will sit in the super-hot dye until all spools are the proper color. Some colors must be available for years for a particular product so it is very scientific to assure consistency of color. Arkwright Home’s Cabana towels are yarn-dyed for vibrant color and longevity.

California Cabana Towels - group stacked neatly on the beach

9. Towel Terms: Dobby and Cam Borders

Dobby and Cam are terms that refer to border styles on the short ends of towels. The more decorative styles found on higher-priced towels are dobby borders with subtle woven stripes, different weaves, appliqued fabrics, and even elaborate embroidery. More simple cam borders are usually found on less expensive institutional towels and consist of simple flatweaves, or minimal woven patterns.

Akrwright Home offers the Magellan collection of white hotel towels with a dobby chevron border while the Admiral collection has cam borders and a lower price tag.

10. Towel Terms: Microfiber

Microfiber is an incredible fabric. One of the first ultra-fine synthetic fibers, microfiber is finer than 0.7 deniers — that is approximately one-fifth the size of a human hair! In its infancy in the late 1950s, microfiber was used primarily as an industrial fabric for years.

In the 1970s, when Ultrasuede™ hit the fashion market, the apparel and home decor industries went crazy with this funky faux suede. Designers and consumers loved it for its moisture-wicking properties, and soon it was the fabric behind countless products, including accessories, sporting products, and apparel. The NBA even tried a basketball made with microfiber “leather” in 2006.

Microfiber’s cleaning properties are genuinely intriguing. Scientists spliced the super-fine microfiber threads and created microscopic “hooks” that enhanced their ability to grab dirt. Splicing also gave microfiber a positive charge which attracted negatively charged dirt. It’s this excellent magnetic feature that makes microfiber so powerful.

Microfiber cloths come in many weights and textures for multiple cleaning applications, including terry-style cloths for glass, metal, smooth surfaces, etc. Some microfiber cloths are extraordinarily soft, perfect for bath towels, beach towels, and especially facial cloths. The beauty industry has adopted microfiber towels for salons where bacteria puts clients at risk of infection. Microfiber decreases the risk of clients’ danger and the liability for salon owners.


Arkwright carries an assortment of wholesale towels, bath rugs, accent rugs, sheets, throws and comforter sets in both in-line and closeout merchandise that hold up to the modern family on the go. We supply linens to stores in our local tri-state area, nationwide chains, and internet retailers. We also export to seventy-five countries worldwide and have global sourcing capabilities.

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New York, NY 10001

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