14 Different Types of Towels: Purposes and Best Materials

There are many types of towels depending on their purposes, materials, thicknesses, and sizes. While you can use one type of towel for different tasks, the best use is their intended purposes as they have better results. As shall be detailed below, there are towels for almost everything you do.

The main types of towels are bath towels, washcloths, hand towels, bath sheets, kitchen towels, gym towels, beach towels, pet towels, paper towels, fingertip towels, face towels, spa towels, foot towels, and tea towels. These towel types are based on the purpose, size, and material of the towel.

The main towel materials include cotton, lyocell, bamboo, cotton-polyester blend, linen, and synthetic microfibers. These materials differ in absorbency, quickness of drying, and weight and are thus suited to different purposes. 

Different Types of Towels

The different types of towels

The main types of towels include the following:

Towel typePurpose 
Bath towelMedium towels to dry up the body after a shower or bath
Wash clothWash the body while showering
Hand towelSmall to medium towel to dry hands after hand-washing
Bath sheetLarge towels to dry up the body after a shower or bath
Kitchen towelDry utensils and hold hot utensils
Gym towelWipe sweat off the body
Pet towelDry pets after bathing them
Paper towelDry items or hands and disposed off
Fingertip towelSmall towel to dry hands and fingers after washing them
Face towelDry the face after washing it
Spa towelCover or support the body in a spa
Beach towelLarge and thin towel for use in the sun
Foot towelDry the feet 
Tea towelCover warm baked goods

Bath towel

Bath towels are medium-sized towels used to dry up the body after a shower or bath. Bath towels often measure 28 x 55 inches on average and are commonly found on towel bars inside the bathroom or outside. 

Bath towels aren’t large enough to wrap around the body for most adults. The best materials for bath towels are cotton, cotton polyester blend, bamboo, and linen. These materials absorb well and also dry quickly. 

Wash cloth

Wash cloths are the small towels used to wash the skin while taking a shower or bath. They measure either 12 x 12 inches or 13 x 13 inches. Washcloths should be soft and easy to use with soap and water. Make sure to dry the washcloth between each use.

The best materials for washcloths are 100% cotton or a blend of cotton and polyester, or bamboo. These materials are soft enough not to damage the skin while being rough enough to clean toxins and other substances from the body. 

Hand towel

Hand towels are small towels used to dry the hands after washing them. Hand towels measure (15-18) inches x (27-32) inches and are often found hooked on rings or bars in kitchens, bathrooms, and over sinks. 

The best materials for hand towels are linen, cotton, and cotton polyester blend. These materials offer the best hygiene after washing your hands and leave your hands properly dry afterward. 

Bath sheets

Bath sheets are large towels you use to dry the body after taking a shower. Bath sheets measure 35 – 60 inches in length and are large enough for an adult to wrap around their body. This means that bath sheets are larger than bath towels are the latter cannot wrap around the body. 

The best material for bath sheets is cotton is it has a high absorbency level and will thus quickly dry up the skin. Cotton also dries up quite fast thus making it easy to dry the towel ready for the next use. 

Kitchen towel

Kitchen towels, also called chef towels or dish towels, are small to medium towels used to dry dishes and hold hot utensils in the kitchen. They’re also used to decorate the kitchen and are some of the toughest towels in the home. 

You can use many different materials, styles, and sizes for the kitchen towel as long as it serves the desired purpose. Given that most kitchen towels are multipurpose, you have a wider choice than with other types of towels. 

Gym towel

Gym towels, also called workout towels or sweat towels, are medium-sized towels used in the gym to wipe sweat off the body. Gym towels need to be highly absorbent and will thus mostly be made out of cotton, bamboo, linen, or microfiber materials. 

Gym towels can be of any size with a lot of users simply going for bath towels given their high absorbency levels. They need to be of the right size to avoid being too large and cumbersome, or too small and ineffective in cleaning sweat. 

Pet towel

A pet towel is used to dry a pet after giving it a bath. Since pets easily develop a bad odor if they’re cleaned and not dried fast enough, a pet towel will help keep them dry, smelling good, and free of colds. 

The best material for a pet towel is synthetic microfiber since it works well with pet hairs and won’t develop bad smells easily. The size of your pet towel depends on the size of the pet and will thus differ greatly between users. 

Paper towel

A paper towel is a towel made of paper that is absorbent and disposable and meant to be used only once. Paper towels are available as pre-cut and folded layers or as rolls. Given how paper towels are used, they’re the most hygienic since they’re not used more than once. 

Paper towels are available in many shapes, sizes, and colors. They also come with different scents, qualities, and even patterns. They’re mostly used in the kitchen to wipe dirt off surfaces and even dry up utensils. 

Fingertip towel

A fingertip towel is a small towel used to dry fingertips and hands after washing them. Fingertip towels measure 11 x 18 inches and are smaller than hand towels but bigger than wash cloths. It’s not easy to come across fingertip towels since most people end up buying hand towels. 

Fingertip towels are also used for decoration and, if there are other towels with a similar purpose such as hand towels, fingertip towels are mostly decorative. The best materials for fingertip towels are cotton, bamboo, linen, and synthetic microfiber. You can find them in various colors, designs, and patterns. 

Face towel

A face towel is a small towel used to dry the face after washing. It can also be used to remove makeup or wash the face in general. Face towels are square in shape and smaller than wash cloths. 

Face towels need to be absorbent, soft, and easy to clean. They’re best made of cotton, synthetic microfibers, and bamboo. These materials are easy to keep clean, soft, and highly absorbent. 

Spa towel

A spa towel is used at the spa to either cover the body or be sat on or even to support the head in a certain position. It’s as large as a bath sheet since it needs to cover the whole body. Spa towels are soft and good absorbers to quickly remove the sweat from the body. 

Cotton is the best material for spa towels since it’s highly absorbent and bleach-proof. Given the number of times spa towels are washed, they need to be bleach proof or they’ll easily get discolored and torn. 

Beach towel

A beach towel is a large and thin towel meant to be used for long periods in the sun. These towels dry fast and are used in the sand or on concrete. You can use them on the beach as well as the poolside. They’re often 40 x 70 inches in size.

Beach towels are available in different sizes, materials, colors, and patterns with most of them being brightly colored. Given their thin profile, they dry quickly in the sun and wind. They’re best when made of cotton, linen, or synthetic microfibers.

Foot towel

This is a small towel that’s rectangular in shape and that’s used to dry the feet after getting out of the shower. It has one soft upper side and a slightly rubbery side to increase the grip on the floor. Foot towels measure 20 x 30 inches or 24 x 36 inches or any size in between.

Foot towels are also decorative as they improve the look of the bathroom. They can be made of different types of materials such as cotton as long as they’re absorbent enough. They’re not as thick as rugs, mats, or carpets.

Tea towel

Tea towels are a type of kitchen towel used to cover warm baked goods. A tea towel is usually made of cotton or linen and can be of any size depending on how much baking you do each time. 

With these types of towels, you can keep your home, body, and pets dry without issues. Keep in mind that towels need to be cleaned frequently enough to avoid the accumulation of germs or growth of mold and mildew. Wet towels can also create rust on towel bars although you can easily remove the rust from the shower bars.

Types of towel material

The type of towel material determines its level of absorbency and how quickly it dries up. The main types of materials for towels include the following:

Cotton

Cotton is the best towel material for most types of towels. It doesn’t have chemicals especially if it’s organic cotton and is highly absorbent. Cotton fibers are also breathable and will thus dry quite fast after use. Cotton doesn’t irritate the skin or leave fibers on the body. 

Lyocell

Lyocell is a wood fiber used in to make premium quality towels. It’s very soft and gentle with high absorbency levels just like cotton. Lyocell is made from sustainable wood sources and thus environmentally friendly. A cotton-lyocell blend is often used to make high-quality towels. 

Bamboo

Bamboo towels are premium and often used as luxurious towels in the bath and kitchen. Bamboo fibers have a soft and silky feel to them and thus make highly absorbent towels. Bamboo also has a natural moisture-wicking property which makes it a good towel material.

Cotton polyester blend

A cotton polyester blend is second only to cotton in popularity when it comes to the number of towels made from it. When cotton is combined with polyester, the resulting material is highly absorbent, doesn’t fade, is breathable, and is very durable. For this reason, it’s used to make most towels and those that undergo lots of abuse like bath and hand towels. 

Linen

Linen was the first material used to make towels and it’s still used to make them. It has many beneficial properties such as anti-static and anti-microbial properties, is highly durable, dries quickly, is absorbent, and eco-friendly. It’s used mostly to make kitchen, spa, tea, and bathroom towels. 

Synthetic microfibers

Synthetic or manufactured microfibers are made from polyamides or polyesters and their various blends. These fibers are thinner than silk fibers with a lightweight, compact texture and high absorbency. They also dry quickly and are used mostly by hikers, beachgoers, gymnasts, and backpackers. 

Picking the right towel material is beneficial in that you know what to expect. If you need a towel that dries fast and is easy to clean, go for thinner and lighter materials such as synesthetic microfibers. On the other hand, if you want a towel that’s highly absorbent and luxurious, go for natural fibers such as cotton and bamboo.

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