Looking for ethical and eco-friendly towels for the bath, shower, or beyond? Here are my top ethical and sustainable picks – from organic cotton to the zero-waste ones made from waste yarn, and more.
Many of us are busy trying to reduce our use of plastic in the bathroom. But did you know that your environmental efforts don’t have to stop at switching to bamboo toothbrushes and solid shampoo bars? Yes, if you need to replace your towels, then you can buy eco-friendly towels that are kind to both the environment and the workers who made them.
It can be a bit of a sustainable minefield trying to work out what products are actually eco-friendly and ethical (spoiler: even in the eco-friendly towel market there’s a lot of greenwashing). As such, I’ve done the leg work for you and rounded up my favourite sustainable towels.
Sustainable Towel Quick Links
First off, here are the quick links for towels in case you just want to visit the site of a particular brand. Scroll down past this section if you want more information about each ethical towel brand, including a price guide.
In order to help support the running costs of Moral Fibres, this post contains affiliate links, denoted by *. Moral Fibres may earn a small commission, at no extra cost to readers, on items that have been purchased through those links. This income helps keep this site running.
What To Look For In An Eco-Friendly Towel
When asking what towels are eco-friendly, there are a few things you can look out for. Organic cotton is a better choice than regular cotton. This is because regular cotton requires heavy pesticide use that can contaminate the soil, land, and water. For peace of mind, look for external certification, such as Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) certified cotton. This means that the entire textile supply chain is backed up by independent certification, so you can be sure you aren’t being greenwashed.
OEKO-TEX® certified cotton is another good choice to look out for. This means the product has been tested at all stages of production for harmful substances. This ensures that workers are working in a safe environment and that the product does not discharge any harmful chemicals either in the production stage or at home.
You might come across BCI cotton, which positions itself as a sustainable alternative. I personally avoid BCI cotton, as it turns out it isn’t a great ethical choice.
Some brands have started to use leftover yarn from making other products to make towels. This is a great zero-waste and low-impact eco-friendly option, which I’d love to see more of.
Bamboo is also pervasive in the eco-friendly towel market. However bamboo can be problematic. Whilst bamboo is faster-growing and requires fewer chemicals and water to grow, it is chemically intensive to turn woody bamboo into soft fabrics. This process can be harmful to both workers and the environment.
I haven’t featured any bamboo towel brands in this guide. This is because I couldn’t verify the bamboo towel brands that I found were making bamboo fibre responsibly. If you do specifically want bamboo towels, then look for brands that prioritise the safety of their workers. Also, look for those that have robust chemical management plans in place to minimise the environmental impact of the industrial effluent.
The Best Eco-Friendly Towels
Whilst it can indeed be a minefield separating the green from the greenwash, to help make it easy for you, I’ve put together a guide to my favourite eco-friendly towels. I’ve particularly looked for ethical brands producing independently certified organic cotton towels. I’ve also found brands using sustainable materials such as waste yarns.
On to the towels!
Gudrun Sjoden’s range of brightly printed organic cotton towels are a favourite in our house. Here are ours hanging in our bathroom! In the interests of full transparency, these towels were a PR gift to me three years ago. This means I’m under no obligation at all to share them in this post. However, we use them on a daily basis and they still look new, so I wanted to share them as a tried and tested recommendation.
As well as being durable, these ethical towels are cuddly soft. They also cleverly feature two in-built hooks. This means you can hang them either on the long side or short side depending on the height of your hook. I love this clever feature!
Find Gudrun Sjoden’s towels online, starting from £14.
Himêya’s eco-friendly ‘Rescue’ hand towels are made with yarns from production waste. They are a by-product of waste yarns that do not conform to a designed size, weight, or pattern and would otherwise be binned. However, Himeya found that when these yarns are woven together, they make great-looking and well-functioning hand towels.
As well as using waste yarns, Himêya donates 20% of its Rescue Towel proceeds to the International Rescue Committee (IRC). This is an organisation dedicated to supporting those whose livelihoods are shattered by conflict and disaster. Donations help affected people to survive, recover and regain control of their future.
I have a set of these hand towels, also previously given to me as a PR gift. I find these stand up well to daily life, and all the extra hand washing that we need to do these days.
Buy the Himeya Rescue Towels from Bedeck* for £8.
Luks beautiful handcrafted bath towels are handmade ethically in Turkey from OEKO-TEX® cotton. As a lightweight towel, rather than fluffy bath towels, the fabric itself is lightweight and quick drying.
Whilst it does take some getting used to a thin towel, if you’re used to the fluffy variety, you’ll soon be swung round to the pros of these types of towels. I love that they don’t take long to dry. Damp towels hanging around your bathroom for hours soon becomes a thing of the past.
Storing your towels also takes up less room in your home – which is great if you live in a small space. The Ekin towel, for example, is as big as a bath sheet but it rolls or folds down to about a quarter of the size. This also means they are great for travelling or for trips to the beach or for wild swimming – taking up much less space in your bag. More room for snacks!
Buy Luks towels from Wearth*, from £35.
Natural Collection’s Eco-Friendly Towels
Natural Collection’s GOTS certified organic towels organic cotton are ethically made in Turkey.
Super soft, and a great size for drying off after a relaxing shower or bath, these eco-friendly towels will soon be a favourite in your house.
These towels come in a range of sizes and coordinating colours, so you can mix and match your towels, or have a different colour for each member of the family.
Buy Natural Collection’s towels from Ethical Superstore*, from £4.95.
Wild & Stone Eco-Friendly Towels
Finally, Wild & Stone’s hand towels are fairly made in India from organic cotton that is both GOTS and OEKO-TEX® Standard 100 certified. To minimise their carbon footprint, Wild & Stone use sea shipments, rather than air, for all of their products.
All of their lovely hand towels are packaged in fully recyclable, plastic-free packaging. And what’s more, a percentage from each purchase is donated to the Marine Conservation Society.
Buy Wild & Stone towels from Ethical Superstore* for £14.95.
I hope this roundup of eco-friendly and ethical towels is helpful! Do also check out my guide to plastic-free bubble bath if you have all things bathing in mind.