5 bath towel colors to avoid – experts urge you to steer clear of these shades, and what to pick instead

Choosing the right bath towel color is crucial in creating the desired environment in your bathroom

A wooden bathroom vanity with a vessel sink and a stack of towels on a wooden stool
(Image credit: Sheridan)

Choosing the shade of your bath towels might not seem like a momentous decision at the time, but getting it right is key to creating the desired environment in your bathroom. For many of us, this functional space can be lacking in color, but towels offer a great way of adding a spattering of hues in small doses which can easily be switched up, too. 

While we've all been welcoming more color into our homes in recent years, bathrooms are often the one place that remains all-white. Without the same curated palette, they thus end up sacrificing the character and personality you see in other spaces. To prevent an overly clinical white bathroom, a splash of color in the form of bath towels can be the best way forward, but there are still some shades you want to steer clear of if you want a calming, clean aesthetic. And of course, there's also the question of practicality to consider, too.

To throw some light on these no-go tones, we've asked some experts in color psychology and interior design for the top five bath towel shades we should steer clear of, alongside some tips on what to choose instead. The serene modern bathroom of your dreams could be just a few towels away. 

What colors should I avoid for bath towels? 

Just like every other element of design, colors go through trends. When it comes to our bath towels, however, we also have to bear practicality in mind. 

While neutral colors like white and beige will always endure - as well as offer a somewhat spa-bathroom feel - they will wear more easily thanks to their lighter coloring. And, while brighter hues might be the best way to inject some personality into a bathroom, they can be too stimulating in a space that's primarily meant for self-care and relaxation. So, how do you strike the right balance? Below, our experts share their two cents. 

1. Black

If white towels are the bane of your life you might be tempted to move to the dark side. Black towels certainly have their benefits by helping to minimize visual stains including blood, but this doesn't necessarily make them a good choice from a practical standpoint (nor an aesthetic one). 

'A black towel can create a dramatic look against white tiles however, the darker the towel, the dirtier they are likely to be as stains don’t show up,' says Ruth Stevens, Marketing Manager at Sheridan. 

From an aesthetic point of view, black towels can also simply appear too dark in a bathroom. 'While they may seem chic, they can actually make your bathroom feel smaller and darker, which is not ideal for a space that should feel open and inviting,' explains Liam Davis, color expert and Art Historian at Art File Magazine.  

A bathroom with a white sink, brass faucet, and a blue towel hung on the wall

(Image credit: Sheridan)

The best bath towels should make your space feel fresh. To achieve this lighter, fresher feel, Ruth encourages you to try blue instead. 'It can have a positive effect on our mood as it connects us to the blue sky and ocean, which helps us to feel relaxed and one with nature,' she says. 'It's also known to help calm the mind and produce a feeling of tranquillity, a perfect sensation for winding down at the end of your day.'

Dusen Dusen geometric print bath towel, Bloomingdales
Editor's pick

Dusen Dusen geometric print bath towel, Bloomingdales

For a more calming scheme, go for a two-toned towel. This blue and white chequered design, available at Bloomingdales, adds a subtle hint of color but in small doses

2. Red

If you want a colorful bathroom brimming with character and charm, red may seem like a sound choice of bath towel. From a color psychology perspective, however, this vivid hue might be a bit too brash for this typically small space. 

'While it's a bold and passionate color, it's not the best choice for a bath towel,' says Liam. 'It can be too stimulating and some say it even increases your heart rate and blood pressure, making it tough to relax after a shower.' 

A wooden bathroom with wood panelled ceiling

(Image credit: Wing Ho. Design: Project Refuge Studio)

Instead, he recommends going for cooler hues like blue or green to create a more calming atmosphere. Lucy Ackroyd, Head of Design at Christy, is in agreement. 'If you want your bathroom to be a place of tranquillity and relaxation, I would choose more relaxing and muted colors such as subtle light shades of green,' she explains. 'If you need help with waking up in the mornings, however, then red could be a good choice after all!' 

For a serene bathroom, we recommend some supersoft sage towels to compliment taupe tones on walls or flooring. 

3. Bright yellow

A modern bathroom with a black vanity and black towel rink

(Image credit: Britton Bathrooms)

It's understandable to want to be greeted by a bright and cheery bathroom in the morning, and if there's one shade that offers that, it's a sunny bright yellow. Similarly to red, however, yellow can be a bit too garish if you want a clean aesthetic, not to mention it can seriously date the look of your bathroom. 

As Liam explains: 'While yellow can be a cheerful color, it can be overwhelming in its bright shades. It can also clash with other colors in the bathroom and make the space feel chaotic.' Instead, he recommends a softer shade of yellow or even a relaxing green instead. 'Opt for more muted shades or pastel colors that will provide a soothing and calming effect,' he says. 

If you want the same level of warmth and brightness but with a pared-back approach, try a yellow that leans more towards orange, such as ochre. These smokier tones can add a seriously luxurious feel to your bathroom and lend themselves well to the richer and softer texture of a bath towel. 

Ochre cotton terry bath towel, H&M Home
Editor's pick

Ochre cotton terry bath towel, H&M Home

Cozier and calming but with all the same warmth, ochre is a great alternative to yellow, and the smokier tone adds a more luxurious feel to your bathroom, too. We love this lightweight terry cloth towel from H&M Home. 

4. Lime green 

Bright greens can be a playful addition to the bathroom, but shades like lime can be too lurid for this space. While it's a great way to lift a monochromatic color scheme, especially when offering some contrast to chequered tile flooring, bright green can be too overwhelming, especially if you have a small bathroom

There's also longevity to consider, too. 'Super bright colors can be very "of the moment" so think carefully about how often you want to replace your towels as these tend to go out of style quicker than some of the more neutral shades,' says Ruth. 

A bathroom with a white fireplace and a stack of sage green towels on a wooden stool

(Image credit: Piglet in Bed)

For alternative towel color options that offer a more calming effect, Liam suggests light blue, soft pink, or lavender. 'These colors can help create a spa-like environment in your bathroom and make it a more comfortable and inviting space.' For a moodier feel that's equally relaxing but with a hint of added luxury, why not try a deep forest green instead? 

5. Light grey

Monaco Supreme Cotton Towel

(Image credit: DUSK)

Go back five years and grey bathrooms were all the rage. While light grey towels may seem like a good alternative to black - and a stone-y grey can evoke the feel of a spa - light grey towels can easily end up looking like a worn white towel after a few washes (or one that looks as though it made it's way into your dark wash by accident).

As an alternative neutral shade, opt for beige instead. If your bathroom is inspired by the Scandi-decor style, a soft beige is the ultimate in creating a calming environment conducive to relaxation, not to mention the best middle ground between a stark white and an intense grey. 'If you are looking for a richer, more masculine shade, you can’t go wrong with a dark grey either,' says Ruth. 'It can add a really chic feel to the bathroom.' 

 6 Piece Textured Cotton Bath Towel Set, Walmart
Editor's pick

 6 Piece Textured Cotton Bath Towel Set, Walmart

A soft neutral beige bath towel is equally calming as light grey while still being more practical than white. The textured finish of this set from Walmart adds softness as well as visual appeal for a truly spa-like experience. 

Color & Trends Editor

Lilith Hudson is the Color & Trends Editor at Livingetc. Writing news, features, and explainers for our digital platform, she's the go-to person for all the latest micro-trends, interior hacks, and color inspiration you need in your home. Lilith discovered a love for lifestyle journalism during her BA in English and Philosophy at the University of Nottingham where she spent more time writing for her student magazine than she did studying. After graduating, she decided to take things a step further and now holds an MA in Magazine Journalism from City, University of London, with previous experience at the Saturday Times Magazine, Evening Standard, DJ Mag, and The Simple Things Magazine. At weekends you'll find her renovating a tiny one-up, one-down annex next to her Dad's holiday cottage in the Derbyshire dales where she applies all the latest design ideas she's picked up through the week.