Both Egyptian and Turkish cotton are synonymous with luxury cotton products. But it takes a certain climate to grow extra-long staple cotton, the premium cotton grown in Egypt. Turkey grows a variety of cotton plants, the longest fibers of which are still shorter than premium cotton from Egypt. The basic difference between the cotton grown in both these countries boils down to the strength, fineness and absorbency of the cotton fibers as well as the products best-suited to them.

bathroom
credit: zhudifeng/iStock/Getty Images
Luxury towel draped over bathtub.

Turkish Cotton

About 99.5 percent of the cotton grown in Turkey consists of Upland cotton, a medium fiber cotton plant, according to the International Trade Centre. The Upland cotton plant, Gossypium hirsutum L., grows at minimum lengths starting at 3/4 inch, with its longest fibers at just under 1 1/3 inches long. The harvesting of most cotton grown in Turkey is mechanized, which increases production capabilities, but can result in damaged fibers.

Egyptian Cotton

Hand-picked Egyptian cotton, Gossypium barbadense L, has extra-long staples, or fibers, with its minimum length at 1 3/8 inch long, known as Pima when grown in the United States. The basic differences between Egyptian and Turkish cottons are the fineness of the fibers, the strength and staple length. The uniformity and strength in Egyptian cotton result in measurements much higher than those in Upland cotton, the primary cotton grown in Turkey.

ELS Cotton Products

The ELS fibers and longer weaved loops make Egyptian cotton an incredibly absorbent product, best suited to linens, apparel and bedding in which its wicking features draw moisture away from the body. These fibers are also thinner than Upland cottons, a factor that leads to higher thread counts -- the number of threads per inch -- for softer products such as bedding and sheets. But super absorbency isn't a good idea when in towels, especially if you live in a humid climate. Towels made from Egyptian cotton have a tendency to stay wet longer, which tends to make them develop mildew or a musty smell if not washed right away.

Turkish Towels

Upland cottons work best in a variety of towels because they dry faster than Egyptian cottons. To pick the correct Turkish towel, evaluate the towel by its weight, which is known as grams per square meter. For example, towels with 300 to 400 GSM work best in the kitchen or gym, since they're a thinner weight than the heavier, luxurious towels used after a shower or a bath. Luxury bath towels measure 600 to 900 grams per square meter, producing a denser product. For less luxury, choose towels measured from 400 to 600 GSM -- medium weight -- for the beach or in guest or bath towels.

Care and Cleaning

When washing cotton fabrics made from Egyptian or Turkish cottons, clean in warm water with half the amount of mild detergents used for a full load. Do not use fabric softeners, as this adds a silicon coating to the cotton, which affects its ability to absorb moisture. Tumble dry, but do not overheat, as this can damage the cotton fibers. About every six weeks or so, wash them in 1 cup of white vinegar after a regular washing or add it to the rinse cycle. This removes the soap buildup. For white towels, add 1/4 cup of hydrogen peroxide to the load; avoid bleach.