Consumer Reports: Buying the best bath towel

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A towel is such a simple, every day product. But picking from a huge selection of towels can be daunting. (WPVI)

Bath towels are something you and your family rely on every day, and an important item for the off-to-college student.

A towel is such a simple, every day product. But picking from a huge selection of towels can be daunting. So here's what you need to know.

Thick and heavy towels will dry you off better, and Egyptian or Pima cotton is the best quality. Their longer fibers are stronger and less likely to pill. But shop carefully.

Pat Slaven from Consumer Reports explains, "There are a lot of towels out there that are labeled Pima or Egyptian but aren't. If their price is too good to be true, they're probably not the real thing."

Another option: Look for cotton-rayon blends. They absorb a little bit better, although they won't wear as well.

And be aware that those towels that are so soft in the store won't stay that way. They're treated with a special finish that will wash out.

Slaven tells us, "Using liquid fabric softener will make your towels feel soft, but we've found it decreases absorbency significantly."

An occasional dryer sheet is a better option. But over drying towels can shrink them. So, instead of the timer setting, use the machine's moisture sensor.

And if you have a teen at home, colored towels can be ruined by benzoyl peroxide in acne medications, which can leave bleach spots.

Some manufacturers claim their towels resist these bleach stains, so Consumer Reports bought several brands. The letter "B" was painted onto several towels thickly with benzoyl peroxide gel, then washed.

Both the Real Simple and the Sonoma towel from Kohl's came through the wash just fine.

L.L.Bean's showed some bleaching, although when retested with a smaller amount of benzoyl peroxide, they didn't bleach.

Consumer Reports also tested regular white towels, and they all came through the benzoyl peroxide test unscathed. So white towels are a great option for teens.

Consumer Reports suggests when you buy colored towels, buy a matching washcloth and store it away. If your towels fade, the washcloth will be good evidence when you ask for your money back.
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