Cooling Towels vs. Neck Fans

As summer arrives and temperatures start to soar, finding ways to stay cool becomes a top priority.

Cooling Towels vs. Neck Fans

Two popular personal cooling products that can provide relief are cooling towels and neck fans. But which one is more effective?

How Cooling Towels Work

Cooling towels are made from specialized fabrics that provide a cooling effect when wet. The towels are usually made of polyester, nylon, and spandex blends. When soaked in water and wrung out, the fabric pulls moisture from the air through evaporation. This endothermic reaction creates a chilling effect, dropping the temperature of the towel significantly below ambient levels.

To activate the cooling abilities, simply wet the towel thoroughly and wring out any excess water. Snap the towel to open up the fibers. As the water evaporates, it draws heat away from your skin to provide a cooling sensation. The chilling effect can last 1-2 hours before needing to be re-wetted.

Cooling towels come in various sizes from small 12″x24″ hand towels to larger 30″x60″ towels that can wrap around your neck and shoulders. The towels often feature UV blocking properties to protect against sun exposure. They are highly portable and can be stored in a sealed pouch when not in use.

How Neck Fans Work

Neck fans are personal electric fans designed to be worn around your neck for hands-free cooling. They feature small fan blades that direct air upwards across your neck and head. The airflow increases evaporation of sweat to effectively lower your skin temperature.

Neck fans are battery powered, usually via a rechargeable lithium battery. The battery life ranges from 2 hours up to 10+ hours on a single charge depending on the model and settings used. Most fans offer multiple speed settings to control the airflow strength. Many also allow you to pivot the fan directions as needed.

In addition to the fan itself, neck fans have a ventilated frame that sits around your neck for stability. The frames are adjustable to fit all sizes and often have soft padding for comfort during wear. When not in use, neck fans easily fold up into a compact size.

Cooling Effectiveness

When it comes to actual cooling power, neck fans tend to provide greater temperature reduction than cooling towels. The reason is simple – neck fans use active airflow to increase evaporation while cooling towels rely solely on passive moisture evaporation.

With a neck fan, you get the benefit of both active airflow across your skin as well as increased evaporation. This enables the fans to lower skin temperature by up to 18°F. Cooling towels provide around 15°F of cooling through evaporation alone.

Neck fans also direct airflow right where you need it most – your neck, head, and upper body. Cooling towels can only cool the skin they directly contact. For full coverage, you would need a larger towel wrapped around your neck and shoulders.

However, cooling towels still offer an effective means of heat relief. Their cooling capabilities are “self-contained” – you simply wet, wring out, and snap the towel for immediate chilling effects wherever you are. Neck fans require power and periodic recharging to operate.


When it comes to portability and convenience, cooling towels have a slight edge over neck fans. Cooling towels require no power source – simply wet and wring out to activate. Carry them in your bag or purse until needed, then snap and wrap around your neck for quick cooling relief.

Neck fans must be powered on to function. While rechargeable batteries allow for decent runtime, you still need to remember to charge them. The fans take up a bit more space when packing compared to ultra-compact cooling towels.

However, neck fans are still highly portable. When folded down, they easily fit into bags or backpacks. The batteries allow for hours of continuous use before needing to be recharged. So while not as instantly convenient as cooling towels, neck fans still provide an excellent on-the-go cooling solution.

Usage Limitations

Both cooling towels and neck fans do have some limitations on their usage and effectiveness:

  • Cooling towels lose effectiveness when the humidity is very high, which limits evaporative cooling. Keep them in an air conditioned space for 10+ minutes to recharge. Avoid direct sun exposure which heats the fabric.
  • Neck fans require periodic recharging of batteries. Their effectiveness decreases in higher humidity environments. Avoid getting the fan unit wet which can damage the electrical components.

Proper maintenance is important for both products. Rinse out cooling towels regularly to prevent salt and mineral buildup. Recharge fan batteries fully before each use. Store both in sealed bags or cases when not in use.

Additional Factors to Consider

A few other factors to weigh when choosing between cooling towels vs neck fans:

  • Style – Neck fans are more techy and futuristic looking. Cooling towels are simpler with more color and pattern options.
  • Convenience – Cooling towels just need water. Neck fans require charging and power.
  • Coverage – Neck fans focus cooling on your upper body and head. Towels cool wherever skin is exposed.
  • Cost – Budget cooling towels run $5-$15. Neck fans start around $20 ranging up to $50+ for premium brands.


Based on effectiveness and convenience, here are our top recommendations:

  • For a simple, budget-friendly cooling option – go with a cooling towel. They provide decent cooling relief and are easy to use repeatedly.
  • For maximum cooling power – choose a neck fan. The active airflow and evaporation effect work better to reduce skin temperature.
  • For versatility – pack both a cooling towel and neck fan. Use the fan when convenient, but always have the towel as a backup to quickly get cool relief.

Whichever you choose, both cooling towels and neck fans are great solutions for beating the heat. Test them out to see which works best for your needs. Stay cool and enjoy your summer activities!

Key Takeaway: Neck fans tend to provide better cooling capabilities than cooling towels. However, cooling towels offer greater convenience and portability. For versatility, pack both options.


How long do cooling towels stay cold?

On average, a cooling towel will provide chill for 1-2 hours when initially wet and wrung out. As the towel starts to dry, it becomes less effective but can still offer some cooling. Douse the towel with water again whenever you need to reactivate the chilling effects.

Do cooling towels really work?

Yes, cooling towels do work to lower your skin temperature, provided they are made from specialized evaporative fabric. Soak the towel in water, wring out excess moisture, and snap the fabric to open the fibers. As the water evaporates it draws heat away from your skin. Wrap the chilled towel around your neck or drape it over your head for heat relief.

Can you put ice in a cooling towel?

Yes, adding ice is an effective way to make a cooling towel even colder. Simply place some ice cubes in the center of the towel before rolling or folding it. The ice melts slowly to keep the fabric chilled for longer. Just be careful not to overfill the towel with ice or it may drip water.

Are cooling towels machine washable?

Most cooling towels can be machine washed to keep them fresh and free of salt and mineral deposits from repeated use. Avoid using fabric softener and be sure to wash in cold water on a gentle cycle. Line dry or tumble dry on low. Harsher detergents, warm water, and high heat drying can damage the special fabric.

How long does a neck fan battery last?

Battery life depends on the neck fan model and settings used. Entry-level fans may only last 2-3 hours on a charge. More advanced models with larger batteries can run for 6-10+ hours. Using higher fan speeds will deplete the battery faster than lower speeds. Recharge the battery fully after each use for maximum runtime.

Can you go in water with a neck fan?

No, you should avoid submerging a neck fan in water. While the fan itself may be splash resistant, the battery and electrical components can be damaged by water exposure. Take your neck fan off before swimming or engaging in water activities to prevent issues.

Do neck fans work in humid climates?

Neck fans are still beneficial in humid environments, though their effectiveness decreases compared to dry heat. The reason is because high humidity limits evaporation, which is a key component in how the fans provide cooling. A neck fan still provides airflow and some evaporative effects even when humidity is high.

Are there neck fans without batteries?

Most wearable neck fans are battery powered for portability. However, there are some fans available that have a wired connection to a portable battery bank or outlet. These can operate continuously without needing to recharge. But you are tethered by the wire which limits mobility. Battery-powered neck fans allow for greater freedom of movement.


Beating the heat is all about using the right tool for the job. When choosing between cooling towels and neck fans, consider your needs and environment.

Cooling towels provide simple, convenient chilling thanks to innovative fabric technology. Just add water for instant evaporation-powered relief.

Neck fans take things up a notch with battery-powered active airflow to lower temperatures.

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.