Bath Sheet vs. Bath Towel
A lot of people are confused about what the difference is between a bath towel (or bath sheet) and a bath towel (or bath sheet). And it’s really not that hard to understand. The confusion comes when the idea in your head becomes an out-of-date model so you stop using it or replace it with something else, but still call it by its original name.
Since the nomenclature didn’t change, when you use that term even though everyone knows exactly what you’re talking about, someone will jump in at some point in the conversation to say “wait, do you mean ‘bath towel’? That’s two words.”
So, to help out everyone here’s an explanation of what the differences are. The above-mentioned bath sheet is just a big towel that doesn’t fit in your normal-sized bath towel rack so it hangs on its own separate thing–just like how there are clothes hangers for your jackets and stuff, but also coat trees for when you don’t want to use a hanger.
A bath sheet can be any size up to round (as long as the ends touch). If it’s bigger than that then it’s not really a “sheet” anymore; instead, it’s more of a blanket or quilt or afghan—something that covers the bed rather than takes the place of towels.
Bath sheets became popular back when bathrooms were shared and it was common to have one designated towel for the whole family. They’re still used today in some houses, but they’ve usually been replaced with smaller regular-sized bath towels this century.
The only place where bath sheets are still commonly used is in spas and at gyms (and sometimes hotels that want to give their guests a very luxurious experience). And then there’s the beach—which is rare because people almost always swim in swimsuits so there’s no need for big towels.
Size and Shape
A standard-size bath towel is not much longer than they are wide, maybe somewhere between 1.5 and 2 times as long as they are wide at most (although you’ll find some that come in the range of 1.75 to 2). Large versions exist which serve more like a blanket than like a towel (they still work fine to dry off with, but they’re also big enough for use as an actual blanket), and these can be anywhere between twice as long as they are wide up to about four times; the bigger versions tend to be much longer than they are wide.
It’s easier to explain the difference if we first go over what a typical bath towel looks like and also touch on the sizes they come in. So, for this article, let’s imagine that you took a regular-sized blanket and cut it into pieces.
Each piece is still big enough to cover one person (or even two or three people, depending on how much overlap there is) but now it’s smaller than a full bedsheet. These pieces can be called either “sheets” or “towels”, so they’re not really what we’re talking about here; however I’d like to mention them because they do illustrate an important point: size does affect nomenclature.
A bath sheet isn’t twice as big as a bath towel, and if we go by the strict rule of “if it’s twice as big, then call it ‘two towels’ (or two sheets) and not one,” then we find that there’s no such thing as a bath sheet. But the sizes of these pieces do have an effect on what you use them for. How so? Well…
A bath sheet is a whole lot bigger than a typical bath towel, and that means it’s usually not as absorbent. In fact, if all you used it for was to dry yourself off after a shower, then it would probably take twice as long to get the job done because the surface area of this thing is just so much larger.
For example: If we equate ‘bath sheets’ with ‘bath towels’, then a large bath sheet should be equivalent in size/shape/absorbency to two large bath towels.
Weights and Measures
As with most things, bath sheets and standard-sized bath towels are sold in units of measurement based on the size/weight they usually come in. For example:
Standard Bath Towels (which measure 30″ by 56″) normally come in packages of 6 to 12, where a single one is about an ounce-and-a-half thick while a whole package can weigh anywhere from four to six pounds total.
Bath Sheets (which usually measure 35″ x 70″) also come packaged in groups of 6 or more, but because they’re bigger this means there’s less material overall; hence, these normally come in lighter weights than their standard counterparts. A single bath sheet is only about 2 ounces thick, but the whole package still weighs about four to six pounds.
A typical bath towel is a relatively thin cotton cloth or terrycloth; using them has become synonymous with drying oneself after a shower (although they can also be used for things like wiping down wet counters). The purpose of a standard-sized bath towel is to cover your body from head to ankles when you’re standing up in the shower. However, because most people have different proportions from each other, some people prefer being wrapped up higher than just their feet or lower than just their necks.
Hence, there are also bath towels which are about twice as big as regular ones (making them large bath towels or “bath sheets”), and these can be used as a short dress or toga if one prefers; most people who use them this way let the ends of it drag on the floor behind them instead of picking it up off the ground, but they’re exactly the same thing otherwise. Bath sheets are typically twice as long (going from head to ankles) but not twice as wide (hitting the shoulders).
Materials and Construction
Bath sheets and bath towels are both made from cotton for the most part, although you may also find those that are made from microfiber. The basic construction is largely similar as well: it involves stitched fabric (normally terrycloth, although some come as simple weave like a regular cloth would).
However, even though they’re still cotton, there are enough differences in their materials and construction so that bath sheets don’t absorb water the same way as bath towels do — which we’ll discuss next.
Even though both of these things can be made out of terrycloth or plain fabric (or “terry-toweling” if you prefer), this really doesn’t affect how well they absorb water; what does affect it is the weight, density, and weave.
A terrycloth towel will always absorb water better than a plain weave because of how the cotton fibers are laid out in this weave; however, the weight and density do play a role in how well they can handle dampness.
When you take a bath towel (which is already pretty thick) and double it up to make a bath sheet, then that’s actually not doubling how well it can absorb moisture; instead, what happens is that you’ve just made it thicker. Thicker things can’t bounce back into their original shape as quickly or easily (because there’s more material for gravity to work against), so when they get wetter/damp/dewey the result is that they take a lot longer to dry.
It’s better for these towels to have a lighter weight so the air can circulate through them better, which is why bath sheets are traditionally made out of thin cotton or terrycloth rather than something bulkier.
The Price Difference
You can find bath sheets for sale at locations like Bed Bath & Beyond for under $10, whereas you’d usually pay around $20 or more for a set of six (or more) standard-sized bath towels.
The total cost will also depend on factors like what type of cotton they’re made out of, whether or not there are any special features involved (like monogramming), and where you buy them; however, these things will usually end up costing you roughly half as much per towel compared to buying standard ones.
But keep in mind that two/three uses are all it takes before it’s time to wash them again, so this means you’re also going to have to spend more money on laundry detergent and the like.
Bath sheets are great for those who live in colder areas because they’ll keep you warm even when they’re damp, which means it doesn’t matter as much if they take longer to dry. But people living in warmer climates would be better off with standard-size bath towels simply because of how quickly it takes for them to dry once wet. With that said, no matter where you live there’s a good chance that both of these types will be available somewhere nearby whenever you need them!
Now let us discuss the difference in style. The distinction between “bath sheets” and “bath towels” is somewhat arbitrary because, as we said above with regards to thickness, there’s no real way to quantify what makes something a bath sheet rather than a bath towel.
For example: In Europe, people typically refer to terry cloth as ‘toweling’ instead of just calling it plain cotton, so that might be considered one of those region-specific titles that other places don’t really pay attention to. Even if bath sheets are larger/thicker/bulkier than most other kinds out there, they’re still going to be designated as a bath sheet because they have a specific size and shape for this purpose.
Despite the name, it’s perfectly normal to still use a bath sheet as a towel (just like you can use a regular one as a sheet). This is especially useful if someone has exceptionally long hair that gets damp easily; instead of getting their whole face wet with water dripping off of their head, they can wrap the towel around it and keep the top dry.
It’s good for people who don’t like having wet hair and want to speed up drying time (although we still recommend using a microfiber towel on your hair because it will absorb more moisture than cotton towels ever will).
Even though this isn’t incredibly common, there are some people who prefer being dressed in just all-cotton terry cloth robes or towels rather than wearing clothes. We wouldn’t recommend this unless you’re very confident with yourself (and the people around you) because it’s not particularly modest or formal.
Washing and Storage
The last thing we should touch on is how to care for these towels — because it’s something that most people aren’t aware of. Even though you can technically wash them with regular detergent, the best type of soap to use specifically for towels is liquid laundry detergent. We recommend avoiding regular bar soaps (or solid body washes) because they can cause your towel fibers to break down more quickly, which would make the cotton brittle over time.
These are all things you want to avoid if possible; but even if you don’t mind replacing your towels every 6-12 months, at least be sure to hang it up somewhere where they’ll get enough airflow. Hanging them in a cupboard or an enclosed space like a cabinet is really bad for the longevity of your towels because they won’t get to dry out properly (and will stay damp and mildewy). Towels need to be hung in an area where there’s airflow, and they’ll last longer when you do that.
So, what is the difference between bath towels and bath sheets? More or less it comes down to thickness and size. Bath sheets are larger and (typically) made from thinner materials than regular towels; but even though we think of them as different kinds of clothes, they’re still all interchangeable on a basic level. This goes for things like microfiber hair towels too — which aren’t quite as big as normal bath sheets but can absorb moisture just as well.
As long as you remember that towels are bigger than sheets and use liquid laundry soap, there’s no reason why you can’t just use whatever you have lying around the house instead of buying new ones! Most of these things will wear out eventually anyway so it’s not like you need to spend a fortune on them — although we recommend microfiber cloths over cotton/terrycloth because they’re more effective at absorbing water and won’t be as rough on your skin.