What is a Towel Bar?

Brad Cole

A towel bar is a very simple rack used to hold both wet and dry towels. The purpose of the bar is twofold: first, it positions dry towels for easy access and use; second, it spreads wet towels out so that they can more easily dry, thus preventing the growth of mold. Towel bars are common in kitchens and bathrooms, and are used to hold both hand and bath towels.

Colored cotton towels.
Colored cotton towels.

Modern towel bars sold in retail stores have many similar aspects. The most common sizes are 18 inches (45.72 cm) long for hand towels and 24 inches (60.96 cm) long for bath towels. They are usually made out of metal with a chrome, nickel, bronze, or brass finish. They also come in both single and double bar designs.

Towel bars are commonly found in bathrooms.
Towel bars are commonly found in bathrooms.

The basic design of a towel bar is extremely simple. A rod is suspended a few inches from a wall by two holders called posts. Towels are hung on the rod, used, and then re-hung on the rod in order to dry.

It is important that a towel bar be firmly anchored to a wall. Not only do towels get much heavier when wet, but people also have a tendency to use towel bars as handholds when in the bathroom. If possible, the posts should be anchored into the wooden boards embedded in and behind the drywall. These boards are called studs or blocking depending on their direction. If these boards are not available, wall anchors should be used. In certain situations, a towel bar can be attached to a sturdy board and then the board attached to the wall in order to provide additional support.

The posts of many retail towel bars do not directly screw into a wall. Instead, a small piece of hardware called a bracket is added first, one for each post. The brackets are each attached with two screws that are usually anchored into the wall. The posts are then placed over the brackets and secured with a single screw. This design allows the rod to be easily added and removed.

A towel bar is not the only way to keep towels dry. Standing towel racks that do not screw into a wall exist, though they are uncommon. A single ring attached to a wall that hand towels are hung from is very popular, and is called a towel ring. In addition, devices called towel warmers that look like small ladders and gently heat towels to keep them dry are also available.

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