There are a lot of luxuries, big and small, that you can cram into your bathroom. It’s one of the easiest places in your home to indulge. From whirlpool tubs to custom showers, to elegant soaking tubs, there are a lot of fancy bathroom upgrades to help you get your relax-on. But in the midst of our hectic lives, how often do you really have time to get in a good soak, or enjoy more than just the dirt-removing capabilities of your shower? Unfortunately the answer tends to be, not very. But even people who only get to use their hot tubs once every couple of months still bathe every day… And that makes a towel warmer just about the most actually useful bathroom luxury item out there.
The premise is pretty simple. Towel warmers are just a little bit bigger than your ordinary towel rack, and shaped similarly. They circulate heated liquid through them, heating the towels you hang on them and passively heating the rest of your bathroom (like a radiator). If you’ve ever gotten out of a nice hot shower or bath and got a little shock of cold air, a heated towel rack like this Mr. Steam W634 can not only take the chill out of your tiles, but will greet you with a ready-heated towel and robe as soon as you step out of the shower.
So how do you decide which one to buy? A lot of that depends on the layout of your bathroom, your budget for the project, how often you’re going to use it, and how much ambient heating you want to get out of it. You see, there are two basic kinds of towel warmers. Electric ones, like this Mr. Steam W216, recirculate water or scented oils through the body of the warmer, heating the liquid with a small electric heater. This model has a reservoir for the scented oil, which allows it to do triple duty as an aromatherapy machine. Electric towel warmers tend to be a little bit more expensive because the heaters are built-in and the units are self contained.
The biggest draw of an electric powered machine like this Mr. Steam W219 is that it doesn’t have to be installed into your plumbing. Because it circulates oil instead of water, it only has to be hooked up to your electrical wiring, not your plumbing, and can be turned on and off with a simple button-press control. Of course, the electrical component means it’ll need to be installed a little farther away from water sources than hydraulic models. On the other hand, the main drawback of electric models is that, unless you leave them on all the time (which can be a little expensive) they take far and away the longest to heat up, as they have to raise the internal liquid from room temperature. Instead of switching it on before you get in the shower, you want to give this style 30-45 minutes to heat before you need your towels.
Water powered towel warmers, like this Mr. Steam H542, are essentially radiators shaped like towel racks. They circulate 120-150 degree water through the interconnected bars or coils, raising the ambient temperature and heating anything that touches them. These, like radiators, have to be installed directly into your household plumbing with an intake and outlet valve. If you have a radiator in your bathroom already, you can replace it with a towel warmer fairly easily, but if not be aware that you may have to tear up some of your floor to reroute your plumbing to create a closed heat circuit.
Some hydraulic towel warmers use the water straight from your water heater, and others come with their own built in point-of-delivery electric water heaters. The latter is a little more expensive – as it comes with more hardware – but also heats up your room and your towels the fastest of any of the styles. As well, whichever type you choose, they’re typically available in one of two different materials: steel and brass. Steel towel warmers, like this Wall Mounted one, are significantly less expensive, but brass is much more durable and comes in a wider variety of finishes. In any style, the material is the biggest factor in price; you can get a towel warmer from anywhere between a few hundred to over a thousand dollars, but buying steel is the biggest way to save.
All that said, when it comes to actually using one, you want to make sure that your towels are as touching as much of the warmer as possible to ensure even, maximum heating. For long, ladder-style warmers like the ones above, that means draping your towel over as many bars as possible or weaving it between them (and hanging your robe from the robe hook). With a spiral or box-shaped one it’s better to roll the towels up tight and stuff them between the bars. For a very simple towel warmer like this Mr. Steam W500, just toss it over the top. Don’t be afraid to invest in a separate timer control to make sure your towels are warm when you need them, especially if you get an electric heater and don’t intend to leave it on all the time. Above all, though, be careful when you’re taking the towels off – just like a radiator, those bars will get HOT, and the metal can burn you if you aren’t careful!
Hot towels have always been a treat of spas and fancy hotels, but even if you don’t have the time or budget to enjoy a big bathroom bonanza on a regular basis, the simple pleasure of a heated bathroom and a dryer-warm towel on a cold day is easier than you think, and just as luxurious as it sounds. Have you ever enjoyed a hot towel? Are you tempted to try one?