Dorm IQ #17 | The Best Quick Dry Towel For College and Dorm life

May 12, 2024

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Best Quick Dry Towel For Dorm and College

I see what you’re doing. You’re walking through Costco or Target picking up these big soft fluffy towels and imagining how much your daughter will love them at college. She probably would, but put them down!

If your student is heading to a dorm or even a college apartment, they are going to have to forgo the super thick, super fluffy, super absorbent towels for a few years. Dorms are humid and lack proper (or any) air ventilation, and there is not a great place to hang a towel to dry in your already stuffed to the gills dorm room. Wet towels turn into stinky, musty towels in a big fat fluffy hurry.

The good news is that there are several good and very affordable quick dry towels out there that will be a much better choice for college life. Put the fluffy towels down as a gift idea for college graduation. 🙂

I put 5 quick dry towels to the test, and the results are below.

Quick Dry Towel Options For Dorms

In addition to being less plush, quick dry towels come with one reported drawback. They tend to shed. At least that is what has been reported in our Dorm Shopping Recommendations Facebook group.

My son had a few of these towels (#3 below), and I wasn’t seeing this shedding when I washed them at home.

So I set out on a mission to figure out which towels are shedding and which are not.

5 quick dry towel test results

I tested these 5 towels pictured above, left to right. All 5 of these are are OEKO-TEX® certified to ensure no toxins in the material, and I purchased the navy blue regular bath size of each – not oversized or bath sheet. Ok, I accidentally bought the oversized bath sheets at Target and had to go back and get the regular ones (after I’d already washed the big ones). You can see in a picture toward the end of the article that all towels tested are just about the exact same size.

  1. Kohl’s Sonoma Quick Dry Towel – a ribbed, thinner but soft towel.
  2. Target Total Fresh Antimicrobial Bath Towel – a thick more plush soft towel with antimicrobial properties + a sewn-in loop to hang over a hook.
  3. Target Performance Plus Bath Towel – a thick more plush soft towel + a sewn-in loop to hang over a hook.
  4. JCPenney Home Expressions Quick Dri® Benzoyl Peroxide Friendly Bath Towel – a thinner textured towel with protection from Benzoyl Peroxide stains.
  5. Walmart Mainstays Performance Bath Towel – a ribbed, thinner but soft towel. VERY similar to the Kohl’s towel (#1)

All dorm bedding should also be OEKO-TEX® certified. This article contains all of the information about how to layer the dorm bed with our recommended OEKO-TEX® certified bedding layers.

Quick Dry Towel Test – Round 1

Wash & Dry

For round 1, I washed each towel individually in my washing machine on ‘normal’, and I put a clean white towel in with it. I had 5 of the same white towels to put in with each of the navy blue towels being tested.

I then put the test towel and the white towel into the dryer and let it run on a normal cycle.

Lint collection from dryer during quick dry towel test

At the end of the dryer cycle, I fully expected to see the white towel covered with lint as I opened the dryer door each time, but nope, almost nothing. I checked the lint trap for each towel and collected it. But I keep hearing about the lint, why wasn’t I seeing it?

I posted this question to the group, and they said that the issue is not out of the dryer, it is when you are drying yourself off – it gets on your skin.

Dry Off After Shower

Yes, I videoed all of the washing and drying for each of the towels, but there is nothing significant to show. And sorry, but I’m not videoing the next test – the shower dry offs!

I brought all 5 towels into my bathroom. Took a shower. Dried off with the first one, no lint. Turned the shower water back on again, got back under, then dried off with the second one. And the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. No lint is coming off on me! What the heck?!

Maybe I did too good of a job shaving my legs, so I had my husband do the test. Shower, dry off. Turn the water back on, dry off with towel 2. Continuing this process through all 5 towels. Guess what, despite not being nearly as smooth as I am (ha), no lint stuck to him. He thinks I’m nuts, and he commented about the water bill. Deaf ears.

Absorbency-wise, I really didn’t notice much of a difference from my more expensive towels at home. The biggest difference is that these are smaller than I’m used to, so I had to use more of the towel to dry off, but I didn’t notice that the towel itself wasn’t picking up as much water.

Quick Dry Towel Shed Lint Test

So Where’s The Lint?

I turned to my college freshman who had told me about lint issues at some point. He has towel #3 (Target Performance Plus) at college.

When I told him what I was doing and that I wasn’t getting any lint, he said that his towel is fine after he washes it at home, but when he washes it at school, that’s when he gets the lint when drying off.


So I asked him if the washing machines in his building have agitators. We were texting, so I couldn’t see his face, but I can only imagine. A what? Agitator. What the heck is that? You know, the thing that sticks up from the middle of the washing machine and the clothes go around it. Oh yeah, it has one of those.

Now we’re getting somewhere.

Quick Dry Towel Test – Round #2

This was about 3 days before we were heading to move this son out of his dorm. I needed to get my hands on a washing machine with an agitator! I ‘could’ bring all 5 towels to his college and run a load through the washing machine while we were packing the room, but honestly, this didn’t seem like the right thing to do while busy moving our son out of his one and only dorm at the end of freshman year. So I didn’t.

And then I regretted it because once we were home, I had to find a machine to use for my test. I looked up some laundromats and inquired, but none had agitators. My husband suggested going to the local Residence Inn, acting like a registered guest and go check their laundry room. We’ve stayed at a handful of Residence Inn’s during travel ball days, and I’d done laundry there, so this seemed like a possible option. Heck, I would’ve booked a room for an agitator.

But first I needed to move my older son out of his college apartment about 45 minutes away. While discussing the logistics of that move with him over the phone…light bulb. Why didn’t I think of this sooner?

I asked this son if the washing machine in his apartment has an agitator? Same response as little brother. What the heck (corrected) is an agitator? Once I explained, he matter of fact says, oh yeah it has one, why?


Wash (With An agitator!)

The towels set off in the pickup truck to go pickup kid #1. While collecting his things and packing up the cars, we ran one load of laundry with all 5 towels, normal cycle. At the end, the soaking wet towels went into a heavy trash bag and came home with us. Forgot to get a picture of that darn agitator!


I then dried them at home, one by one, with a clean white towel.

And there it was, a little bit of lint on the white towels! And a more significant amount of lint in the lint trap in the dryer. I collected it.

Dry Off After Shower

Now for the big test. I showered and then dried off one by one again.

My shower floor became the observation deck. A couple pieces of lint stuck to me, but the proof was on the floor. After each dry off, several specks of lint dropped off to the floor. I took note of the amount, cleaned all of that lint off the shower floor, and then went to the next towel.

It was scientifically impossible to count the specks that landed, but the 2 Target towels were definitely the worst offenders.

The other 3 were about the same. If I had to count, I would say the Kohl’s, JCPenney & Walmart towels each had about 10-15 little lint pieces on the wet shower floor with the Target towels maybe 25 each.

Towel Dry Time

To further test the towels, I decided I needed to see how long each took to dry and if they were actually ‘Quick Dry Towels’.

How long does it take for a quick dry towel to dry?

I got separate hooks and hung each towel to dry in the bathroom after the last shower off test. This was at 9am. You can see the 2nd and 3rd towels (the Target towels) are hanging from their sewn-in loops. The other towels are resting over the hook.

I checked them every hour.

By noon, the Kohl’s, JCPenney and Walmart towels were less damp than the 2 Target towels but more damp at the top where the towel was resting over the hook since these do not have the sewn-in loops.

By 3pm, the Kohl’s and Walmart towels were just about dry.

By 5pm, the Kohl’s, JCPenney and Walmart towels were entirely dry including the part hanging over the hook.

By 9pm, the Target towels were dry.

This is in a 7-year old house with decent ventilation, and I did not turn on any fans or do anything else to expedite drying time. It was also a very temperate day, so no A/C or heat was running in the house.

Quick Dry Towel Test – Round #3

I was curious what would happen if I put these towels back through my non-agitator washing machine since they were ‘agitated’ on their 2nd washing. My son had said that his Target towels only shed after he washed them at school.


So I washed them all, one by one, with the white towels again.

No lint on the white towel after the wash.

Into the dryer, and now there were a few pieces of lint on the white towel, but few and far between.

I collected the lint from the lint trap each time.

Dry Off After Shower

There was definitely still lint dropping on the shower floor. Less than the previous test round, but definitely some still flying. A few pieces sticking to me, but nothing to write home about.

Quick Dry Towel Test: DRYER LINT COLLECTION Results

In the image above, you can see the 3 blobs of dryer lint collected for each towel after each of the 3 wash/dry cycles in the tests above. The Kohl’s Sonoma, Target Performance Plus and Walmart Mainstays had the greatest amount of lint after that second agitating wash.

While they produced more lint in the dryer lint trap, there was not more shedding on the white towel in the dryer with them. All were about the same with a few specks on the white towel.

Here are closeups of each of the dryer lint blobs collected.

Quick Dry Towel Test For Dorm - Kohl's Sonoma Towel
Kohl’s Sonoma Quick Dry Towel
Quick Dry Towel Test For Dorm - Target Total Fresh Towel
Target Total Fresh Quick Dry Towel
Quick Dry Towel Test For Dorm - Target Performance Plus Towel
Target Performance Plus Quick Dry Towel

Quick Dry Towel Test For Dorm - JC Penney Home Expressions Towel
JCPenney Home Expressions Quick Dry Towel

Quick Dry Towel Test For Dorm - Walmart Mainstays Towel
Walmart Mainstays Quick Dry Towel


Towel tests are hard. I will keep washing and using these over the next months to see how they evolve in terms of lint, shedding and absorbency.

  • The Kohl’s and Walmart towels are nearly identical and were the quickest to dry.
  • The 2 Target towels (Total Fresh & Performance Plus) were the thickest and softest but with that were the lintiest and took the longest to dry. But if thicker and softer towels are super important, they will be fine. They also have the added benefit of the sewn-in hanging loop.
  • The JCPenney towel was fine too, but just a little thinner than the Kohl’s and Walmart towels with about the same shed and dry time. This one had less lint in the dryer lint trap collections, and it has the added benefit of Benzoyl-Peroxide protection – I did not test that feature though.

The great news is that all of these towels, when on sale or with a coupon, are around $4-6/each for bath towel size. So if you use them for a year or 2 in the dorm and are tired of them, they would make a great donation to a local pet shelter. And then you can upgrade your towels a bit.

While the name of this article is “The Best Quick Dry Towel For Dorm And College Life”, this decision comes back to a very similar mantra I have for all things dorm room. There is no one right answer. The right answer will vary based on the student and their circumstances.

Here’s how I recommend to choose the best quick dry towel for you:

  1. Kohl’s Sonoma Quick Dry Towel – If you’re a regular Kohl’s shopper and can earn rewards or cash in Kohl’s Cash, this is a great option. You can sew in your own loop or have the dry cleaner add one to help the entire towel dry thoroughly.
  2. Target Total Fresh Antimicrobial Bath Towel – If you like the idea of antimicrobial as well as the hanging loop and can deal with a bit more lint for the first many washes and uses, this is a good choice. It is thicker and more plush too.
  3. Target Performance Plus Bath Towel – If you want a thicker, more plush towel with the sewn-in loop, this is a good choice, but know that it will also give off more lint for the first many washes and dry off’s.
  4. JCPenney Home Expressions Quick Dri® Benzoyl Peroxide Friendly Bath Towel – If Benzoyl Peroxide stains are a concern, this seems like the perfect choice. You can sew in your own loop or have the dry cleaner add one to help the entire towel dry thoroughly.
  5. Walmart Mainstays Performance Bath Towel – This towel is nearly identical to the Kohl’s towel in color, texture and results from this test. Depending on sales and coupons, or if you’re a Walmart+ member, this may be a better choice for you. You can sew in your own loop or have the dry cleaner add one to help the entire towel dry thoroughly.


Dorm IQ is a comprehensive learning series covering all of the questions frequently asked in our Dorm Shopping Recommendations & Deal Alerts Facebook group. The Facebook group is also a great source for prior years’ move-in pictures for decor and organizational ideas.

See all of the Dorm IQ Topics here.

Our complete Dorm Essentials Guide is available here.

Don’t miss these important tips and tools for dorm and campus safety.


Still have questions? Please comment below, or come ask us in the Dorm Shopping Recommendations & Deal Alerts Facebook group. So much great info in the group along with hundreds, maybe thousands, of move-in pictures from 2023 to give you ideas and inspiration.

=> Please share this article with your dorm-bound friends and their parents. I would love for everyone to understand the topics in Dorm IQ before they start dorm shopping!


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