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Why everyone is talking about towels

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Twitter asks: How many towels does a household need?

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Last spring, our Home Shopping Guide included these ultra-soft, fast-wicking, and eye-popping patterned towels by Dusen Dusen.
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If you’ve hopped on Twitter in the past 24 hours, you’ll find a slew of tweets on an unlikely trending topic—towels. The onslaught of home goods-related tweets began when Unrelatable Podcast co-host Abdul Dremali posed a rather benign question: How many towels should two people own?

It’s a reasonable question, but #Towelgate really started heating up when The Huffington Post’s Yashar Ali replied to Dremali’s question with an answer that included no fewer than 50 towels. If that seems like a lot of towels to you, that’s because it is. Ali believes that a two-person household needs 10 bath sheets, 10 bath towels, 10 hand towels, and 20 wash cloths. The kicker? Ali ended with, “Preferably more.”

As one might expect, Ali’s response stirred a reaction in the Twitterverse. Some wondered—as do we—where one might store 50 towels, especially in city apartment. It also caused a moment of introspection as people stopped to ask themselves: Wait, exactly how many towels do I have? Answers ranged from a spartan one or two to the discovery that a select group of people have even more than 25 towels per person.

Like any good Twitter trend, a genre of sub-tweets emerged, all focused on lists of things that people should own. From pizza rolls to animals, this is Twitter at its best. Things really hit high gear—and #towels started trending—when celebrities like Chrissy Teigen weighed in.

It wasn’t all fun and games, however, as Ali’s tweet also prompted an educational moment. Many Twitter users struggled to grasp the difference between a bath sheet and a bath towel. As any textile-addict will tell you, bath sheets are larger. Most people don’t necessarily need the larger sheet, although some say the size feels more luxurious. For anyone over six feet, however, a bath sheet can be more comfortable than trying to squeeze into the smaller bath towel.

Here at Curbed, #Towelgate prompted a heated discussion on whether bath sheets are too large and why a person would need 20 washcloths. For one, it’s conceivable that having too many towels is better than having too few—unless storage is a problem. And most of us are probably not washing our towels often enough; environmental health science professor Kelly Reynolds at the University of Arizona told BuzzFeed Life that towels should only be used three times before washing.

When towels aren’t washed enough, bacteria and mold growth can lead to both unsanitary conditions and smells. Of course, the need to wash towels frequently doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy more towels, it just means more laundry.

So how many towels do you actually need? We turned to 2015 Curbed Young Gun and interior designer Natalie Myers for answers. According to Myers, a two-person household needs four bath sheets or bath towels—whichever one you prefer—and four hand towels and eight washcloths (not 20, as Ali suggests) is sufficient. “More than that,” Myers says, “means that you aren’t doing laundry enough.”

In all, a household can survive on about 16 towels for two people, a far cry from Yashar Ali’s 50.

If this intense discussion of towels has you rethinking your linen closet, check out some of our favorites, below. Got other towel thoughts? Let us know in the comments.