What are Turkish towels made of. Woman's hand touches the white Turkish towel

What are Turkish Towels Made of?

Traditional Peshtemals (the correct name for Turkish towels) are made with Turkish cotton. This is because they were conceptualized and developed in the 17th century for Hammam baths. At the time, synthetic fibres didn’t exist. 

Today, Turkish towels are made with a range of different fibres and in a variety of qualities. This article will walk you through traditional cotton, modern bamboo and synthetic options so you can make your own informed choice. 

Woman in a spa smiling and touching the white Turkish towels she is wearing

Turkish Towels Made with Cotton

High quality Turkish cotton can absorb up to 25 times its weight in water. This long fibre is twisted into yarn that makes up the fabric. If woven in a tight weave with natural colourants, it is long lasting, lightweight and fast to dry. 

When the towel weave is loose the chance for the fabric to catch and pull increases. Abrasive particles will also have more opportunities to embed into the fabric which causes the towel to feel rough. Even when these lower quality towels are made with pure cotton, they can start to look worn within a year of regular machine washes.

Smiling woman uses a Turkish hand towel around her neck after yoga practice

Turkish Towels Made with Bamboo

Bamboo towels can absorb three times its weight in water. The surface has a mild sheen to it and the woven elements often come in intricate textures. These beautiful towels aren’t as commonplace as traditional cotton but can be found in artisanal boutiques. 

Always look closely at the cotton bamboo ratio and woven pattern of your Bamboo towel. Like pure cotton towels, a tight weave is important. Look at the wash cycles and feel the texture. Use your senses or online reviews to determine if the texture and care instructions are right for you. 

A mans hands chop orange carrots. He wears a watch. A yellow honeycomb Turkish cotton tea towel is draped over a shoulder

Turkish Towels Made with Synthetics

Synthetic blend towels are appealing to some consumers because they can be brighter and less expensive than pure cotton or bamboo blend options. Because synthetic fibres are made with plastic, they will break down quickly when washed and dried on hot settings. Plastic will naturally dry, crack and break down leaving you with stiff or worn looking towels. When you choose this option you will not keep your towels for years due to plastic break down. The towels will also take 500 years to decompose after being disposed of.

For short term trends and low budget gifts, these may be the right option for you. But if you are looking for quality and longevity, natural fibres like cotton and bamboo are the better option overall. 

A black woman wearing green uses a green Turkish towel as a scarf.

A Final Word about Turkish Towel Fibre Options

The deep knowledge of the 17th century minds who first made Turkish towels knew that cotton was best. For purists this is still the ideal option. Bamboo is elegant and offers a different texture which can be appealing to modern homes looking to stand out. Synthetics are also available but don't offer the same experience as natural fibres.

In this author's opinion, plastic should never be our first choice when it comes to skin and hair care. Using natural fibres is best for our bodies and the planet. But the choice is yours reader and I hope this article was of service to you. 

Written by Nikky Starrett (she/they) Founder of Pomp & Sass Turkish Cotton Towels.

Disclaimer: All information and opinions are by the best intentions of the author.

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