The 4 best ways to hang bathroom towels to maximize your space and make the room feel chic

Deciding how to hang your bathroom towels can be tricky, especially when space is limited, but these experts have some useful advice

modern red and grey bathroom with a gold towel rail
(Image credit: Future)

Towels are a necessity, but there's no reason why we shouldn't over look their aesthetic potential in our modern bathroom designs. However, hanging a bathroom towel to be both practical and stylish can be a difficult balance to strike.

When it comes to hanging up a towel after a bath or shower, making sure it's beautifully displayed is probably the last thing on your mind. The limited space within smaller bathrooms can also make it challenging to know where best to hang your towels. 

But our towels - or, more specifically, where we hang them - should be just as important as our cabinetry or tiles when it comes to design decisions. 'Think about the aesthetic you're trying to create in your bathroom,' says Jen Rhodes, founder of Tubtopia. 'Straight lines and matching hardware can give the space a more polished look, while mismatched or vintage hangers can add a bit of personality.'

Depending on your space, you'll need to decide between hooks or a rail for your towels, but how do you know which is best? We've asked a couple of experts who are in-the-know when it comes to how to hang a towel, so you don't have to comprise style for functionality. 

1. Double up - or pocket fold - for a hotel vibe

two towels on a brass hand rail

(Image credit: Future)

A classic option to hang your towels is a fixed metal rail. These work best in larger bathrooms where there is plenty of wall space, allowing you to hang multiple towels over the bars for a more organized bathroom.

Besides the practical benefit of allowing you to have more floor space, a towel rail also allows you to display your towels in different ways.  Michael Miller of Old Fashioned Bathrooms suggests creating a pocket with your towel. To do this, lay your towel flat and fold one of the shorter edges into the towel by about a third. Next, fold lengthways into the middle, then doing the same on the other side to fold into thirds. Fold the towel again in the middle and turn over to display the folded pocket.

'By creating a pocket, you give a clean, uniform, and sophisticated visual to your bathroom,' says Michael. ' Or, a more simple trick is to fold your towel as your normally would and hang your hand towel on top. You can then color coordinate your towels for a complete look.'

'If you have a traditional bathroom then a Victorian heated towel rail is best,' says Michael Miller of Old Fashioned Bathrooms .  'Folding towels neatly and smoothly, resting them over the chrome bars is best for this as old bathrooms call for simplistic and clean visuals.' 

2. Use a freestanding towel rail 

A grey bathroom with a wooden freestanding towel rail

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Sometimes, your walls won't support a fixed towel rail, or perhaps there isn't the free wall space in a small bathroom to install one. A cheaper and easier alternative is a free standing rail. 

'If you’re looking for a larger towel rack, then you need to think about the functionality. Freestanding rails might therefore be easier since they can be moved,' explains Michael. 

You can keep a freestanding rail in storage and only use it in the bathroom if you have extra guests staying. Or, if your bathroom doesn't allow for a rail nearer the bath or shower, a freestanding rail can be moved so you can reach your towels more easily. 

Wooden freestanding towel rails can make an especially beautiful addition to neutral or more traditional bathrooms. However, it's important to consider the weight of your towels. 'Heavier fabrics like terry cloth will need stronger support than lighter-weight materials,' explains Jen from Tubtopia

3. Hang on hooks in smaller bathrooms

Two towels hanging on hooks against a grey wall

(Image credit: Old Fashioned Bathrooms)

When space is an issue, wall hooks are the best bet for hanging your towels. Plus, although they might not seem like the most design-led way to hang a towel, a hanger with multiple hooks can be a great way to achieve a more rustic, beachy vibe in the bathroom.  

'Our top tip for hanging towels on hooks is to purchase towels with a hook in the middle of the towel, rather than the end,' says Michael. 'This way your towel not only dries evenly, but it creates a symmetric look which creates a much more aesthetically pleasing bathroom.' If your towels don't have hooks, you can sew them on yourself with a small piece of fabric. 

'They can also add a decorative touch to the room,' says Jen, who recommends trying mismatched hooks. 'Another good option is to hang your towel on the back of the door. This way, it will be within easy reach when you need it, but it won't take up any valuable space in the room,' she adds. 

Because towels don't dry as well on a hook as they do on a bar, installing bath hooks near windows or radiators is a good idea as this will speed up the drying process.
'Hang one towel per hook,' suggests Michael. 'Putting multiple towels on one hook can trap moisture in between the layers, no matter how neatly they are placed on the hook. This causes them to dry very slow and need to be washed more frequently.'

4. Use a towel ring for hand towels

A modern bathroom with a black vanity and black towel rink

(Image credit: Britton Bathrooms)

While hanging bath sheets is important, hand towels shouldn't be overlooked. With these, practicality should certainly be considered. 

Although it might seem like a given, Michael stresses the importance of placing hand towels next to basins and baths. 'Install towel rings near basins for convenience after washing hands.' Not only is this more hygienic as it keeps dirtier hand towels separate from your bath towels, but it will prevent unsightly and hazardous drips across your bathroom floor. 

Some freestanding vanity units will also have designated rails or towel rings built on the side or below the basin (worth baring in mind next time you remodel your bathroom).

Which is better, hook or rail? 

Having had the low-down on how to hang bathroom towels, you might be left wondering which is the better choice overall. While this comes down to personal preference from an aesthetic point of view, there are some practical perks which help the rail steal the top spot.  

'Drying your towels on bars allows for greater air flow so your towels will last longer and dry quicker in between uses,' explains Michael. 'A lot of towel bars have the option to be heated too, making it the preferred choice to hang your towels.'

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.