Face & Hand Towels – Are They different?

Towels are a necessity in daily life if not a luxury, and they’re probably something most people don’t give much thought to. You may already have towels in several different shapes and sizes in your home, and you likely come across them while you’re in businesses like hotels, gyms, spas, salons, restaurants and bars.

In this guide, we’ll focus on two of the smallest but most common — and easily confused — types of towels: face towels and hand towels. Both of these essential small-sized towels should be stocked in healthy quantities in both homes and businesses.

 Although both of these types of towels are important to have around, some crucial differences distinguish each type. Let’s take a look at what makes these types of towels distinctive, how to care for them and why you need both for different purposes. Towels can be luxury items, functional tools used for drying and cleaning or simply products for comfort after bathing, swimming or enjoying spa treatments. No matter their use, it’s essential to stock the right towels for your purposes — and take care of them properly.

The Difference Between Hand Towels and Face Towels

Difference Between Hand Towels & Face Towels

Although some people may use these two terms interchangeably, hand towels and face towels are very different in their sizes and functions. Here are some of the main differences between hand towels and face towels:


  • Size: Probably the biggest difference and the easiest one to see is the size of each of these types of towels. Face towels, also commonly called washcloths, are the smallest type of towels. They’re usually a square shape and about 13 by 13 inches. A little larger than washcloths, hand towels are rectangular in shape and usually about 16 to 18 inches wide by 28 to 30 inches long. There’s no need to measure when shopping or organizing these two types of towels — the difference in size is easy to see.
  • Function: Face towels and hand towels technically have two completely different functions when they’re used properly, and these functions are apparent in their names. The small, square shape and plush quality of face towels make them ideal for washing and drying the face. Hand towels are a little larger and should be a bit tougher, making them ideal for drying off freshly washed hands. In the home, it’s a good idea to have plenty of both as well as extras for guests. It’s best to keep hand towels, face towels and guest towels separate so as to keep things sanitary and avoid contamination.
  • Material: While both face towels and hand towels can be found in a wide variety of materials and qualities, there are ideal fabrics for each type. Because face towels are most often used on the face where the skin is usually most sensitive, these towels should be the softest and gentlest. For face towels, you’ll want soft, plush fibers and natural materials. Turkish cotton is a perfect choice for face towels because it’s organic and soft yet still strong and easy to wash. Hand towels should be a perfect combination of a gentle fabric for the hands and a tough, resilient fiber that can stand up to frequent use as well as frequent washings.

With these key factors in mind, it’s easy to see that face towels are different from hand towels, each having its own specialized purpose.

Why Do I Need Both Hand Towels and Face Towels?

Even with these key differences, some people may still use the towels interchangeably or wonder why they should have plenty of both. It’s important to remember that these two towels have distinctive qualities for a reason. They function certain ways due to their unique sizes and materials, and having both types of these towels around can successfully prevent the spread of germs. For instance, though your hands should be clean when you dry them on a hand towel, the damp towel can still harbor some germs, and it’s best to keep those germs off of your face.

Face towels have a small and convenient size, making them ideal for a quick face wash. The smaller size also means that you can change them often and fit more face towels in a load of laundry. Hand towels are the perfect size for hanging on a towel bar to use for drying hands after frequent washing. They’re also relatively small, and it’s easy to fit several in the same wash load.

What Materials Are Available for Hand Towels and Face Towels?

All types of towels come in a wide variety of cotton fibers as well as other materials. The fibers and materials used to make the towels will deliver different results as far as how long-lasting the towels are, how they perform and how soft they feel. While cotton is the most common material used for towels, there are many different blends and qualities of cotton towels. Here are some of the most common materials and blends to look for:

  • What materials are available for hand towels and face towelsEgyptian cotton: This cotton fiber comes from a different plant than regular cotton, and it’s widely considered the best quality cotton for towels. These fibers are stronger and softer than other types of cotton, resulting in finer threads that are woven into a more consistent finish. Towels made of Egyptian cotton have a luxurious feel and superior absorbency. Many of the finest luxury spas and hotels choose Egyptian cotton towels for their superior quality.
  • Turkish cotton: Grown in the Aegean region, Turkish cotton has similar properties to Egyptian cotton. With its long, soft fibers, Turkish cotton is another excellent choice for luxurious towels. It offers a good balance between the absorbency of Egyptian cotton with a faster drying time. Turkish cotton often gets softer and fluffier the more it’s washed.
  • Pima cotton: This cotton comes from the same plants as Turkish cotton, but it’s grown in the American Southwest. Also known for its excellent durability, Pima cotton has strong fibers and superior absorbency. It’s another top choice for soft, luxurious towels.
  • Organic cotton: Any cotton plants that are certified organic are grown without synthetic chemical pesticides or fertilizers. Organic cotton is also generally harvested with more sustainable methods and has far less of an environmental impact than conventional cotton. It’s an excellent choice for any home or business concerned with their environmental impact and hoping to have a smaller carbon footprint.
  • Bamboo: Another good choice for the environment, bamboo plants grow quickly and without the need for chemical pesticides. When it’s used as a material for towels, bamboo fabric is very absorbent, great for anyone with sensitive skin and found as either a cotton/bamboo blend or as 100% bamboo. Towels made from bamboo are also naturally anti-bacterial, making them great for use in any type of business.
  • Microfiber: This synthetic material is becoming more and more popular for all types of towels and is often made of a polyester blend. Highly absorbent and quick and easy to dry, microfiber towels are ideal for using as cleaning towels and great for use in any type of business.

How Many Hand Towels and Face Towels Do I Need?

In any home or business, it can be hard to know just how many towels to have on hand. For a home, it can depend on how many people are in the home regularly, how often you have guests and how often you do laundry. Personal preferences can also affect how many towels your household will need. For a business, the number of towels needed will depend on the type of establishment, what the towels are used for and how many customers or clients use the towels on a daily or weekly basis.

As a suggested guideline for a household, you should have about two hand towels per person, per week and one to two face towels per person per day. You should add in some extras if there are kids at home, as well as extras for guests. You should also have more in stock if you prefer to do laundry less often. For a family of four, this would amount to a minimum of 10 to 12 hand towels and about 30 to 40 face towels on hand at all times.

two hand towels per person per week

For any business, it can be a little trickier knowing just how many of each type of towel to keep in stock. You’ll need to think about what the towels are used for in your business and how many clients you serve each day. For example, a gym might have a hand towel for each client to use during a workout, and a spa might stock a variety of hand towels and face towels depending on the specific services offered.

Always stock a minimum number of hand towels and face towels according to your average number of clients or guests, plus plenty of extras for staff use. Consider whether you have on-site laundry and how often laundry is done to determine how many towels you may need. You’ll also want to order more towels beyond your average number of customers to have on hand so that you’re prepared for busier days, random emergencies and consistent growth in your customer base. That way, you’ll never have to worry about running out.

How to Care for Hand Towels and Face Towels

Caring for hand towels and face towels is very similar to caring for any other type of towel, but there’s one important distinction — they should usually be washed more often than other types of towels. Face towels should generally be washed after every use, and hand towels should be changed out and washed every few days. Here are some other cleaning and care tips for your hand towels and face towels:


  • Wash before the first use: New towels may have residues and chemicals from manufacturing, warehousing and shipping. The fluffiness of new towels could be compacted during the shipping process too, so it’s best to freshen them up with a run through the laundry before using them.
  • Wash hand and face towels often: For home use, face towels should be washed in between each use, and hand towels can go two to three days with normal use. Keep guest towels separate. If the towels are used at a business like a hotel, salon, spa or gym, hand and face towels absolutely need to be washed between each customer or client to stay sanitary.
  • Avoid bleach and fabric softener: While chlorine bleach is a great stain fighter and whitener, this harsh chemical can damage and weaken the fibers of the towels, leading to a much shorter lifespan. An oxygen-based cleaner is much gentler and can be used for stains and whitening. Fabric softener should also be avoided with any kind of towels, as it leaves residue on the towels that can reduce their ability to absorb moisture properly.
  • Add vinegar to the wash when necessary: If your towels do have too much softener residue or other soap residues, or if they have a musty, damp smell, this unique trick can really freshen them up again. Use about a half cup of plain white vinegar in the wash cycle to strip any residue and add freshness. And no, your laundry won’t come out smelling like vinegar!


Following these cleaning and care tips will keep your towels looking and performing at their best. They’ll last longer, absorb moisture better and keep their soft, fluffy texture.

Stock up on Hand Towels and Face Towels at Towel Super Center

Whether you need hand towels and face towels for your home or your business, Towel Super Center can help. We have discounts on wholesale towels of all shapes, sizes, colors and fabrics. Towel Super Center stocks a wide variety of hand towels and face towels to match the unique colors and décor of your business, as well as your individual requirements. Shop from hundreds of choices at every price point and towel weight imaginable — you’re sure to find the right towels for your needs!

Both your employees and your customers will love the quality towels from Towel Super Center that you order for your business, and you’ll love the discount pricing and bulk quantities. Get ready for ordering hand towels and face towels easier and more affordably than ever.

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