People in the U.S. tend to take a rather ― um ― American approach to bath towels: The bigger, the better.
It’s true that thick, plush towels often feel soft and luxurious, and offer a sense of comfort and familiarity. But lately, more people are gravitating toward another towel style with a breakfast-y name.
The waffle weave, sometimes called a honeycomb or lattice weave, is a textured style with recessed squares that make the fabric resemble the popular breakfast treat. By contrast, traditional terry cloth towel material consists of tightly woven loops.
“The waffle weave style has been around for a long time but has been getting more attention as of late,” Shane Monson, founder of the internet-famous waffle towel company Onsen, told HuffPost. The brand’s name stems from the hot spring and bathing facilities in Japan where Monson grew up.
Indeed, waffle-weave towels have long been popular in places like Japan and many European countries, but they’ve started spreading stateside in recent years. These days, countless brands are offering trendy waffle weave options ― from established retailers like West Elm and Pottery Barn to direct-to-consumer startups like Brooklinen and Parachute.
The style is making many appearances in aspirational bathroom interior photos on Instagram. And waffle-weave robes and towels seem to be more common sights at hotels and spas. So what’s with all the buzz?
“The two main benefits of waffle-weave towels are that they dry faster and take up less space,” Monson explained. “While heftier terry woven towels may seem more capable at first, the densely packed loops can take quite a bit longer to dry between uses which eventually leads to that musty smell.”
The science is simple: The design of the waffle weave creates a larger surface area, which increases absorbency. The lightweight, breathable fabric also allows air to flow through more easily, so it dries quickly. And as a bonus, you can use the weave to exfoliate your skin as you dry off with it.
Of course, quick-drying towels are good for frequent shower-takers, as well as for people who have small bathrooms with poor ventilation and limited storage options.
And because they roll up and take up less space than their hefty counterparts, you can store more sets, which could mean less frequent loads of laundry.
Monson had other thoughts on the laundry component of traditional terry versus waffle-weave towels.
“We tend to ignore the drawbacks of longer drying times at first, but it becomes much more noticeable as it develops the dreaded musty smell,” he said. “You can follow the hotel playbook and get aggressive in your laundering tactics, although the harsh cycles will deteriorate the fabric’s absorptive properties and [do] no favors for its drying times ― not to mention the beating your washer/dryer will take.”
Monson emphasized that not all waffle-weave towels are created equal. They can be made from a variety of different cotton types or microfibers, and the production process might include chemical softeners that alter the features of the fabric, for instance.
Ultimately, the best towel choice is a matter of personal preference. The texture of a waffle weave might feel more coarse or otherwise unappealing compared to a super-plush and soft terry cloth offering that may seem more sumptuous.
For those who are unsure whether they’re team waffle or team terry, a number of brands offer towels with a waffle weave on one side and traditional terry cloth on the other, so you can get the best of both worlds. There are also thin, lightweight terry towel options for those who don’t want a thick towel but aren’t sold on the waffle.
Still, if you’re curious about the feel and appeal of waffle-weave towels, you could start small with a dishtowel or washcloth. And if you’re ready to take the plunge (no pun intended), we’ve rounded up some bath towel options below.