Fingertip Towel vs. Hand Towel

Hand and fingertip towels are two essential linen closet items for any home.

Fingertip Towel vs. Hand Towel

With so many sizes and varieties of towels available, it can get confusing to distinguish between the two.

While hand and finger towels have distinct dimensions, at a glance, they may appear almost identical.

What is a Hand Towel?

The hand towel earned its name for being the perfect size to dry your hands after washing up. These towels commonly hang on the wall near sinks or laid neatly folded on countertops in bathrooms and kitchens. Hand towels range in size from around 16 to 18 inches wide and 28 to 30 inches in length.

Since hand towels experience frequent use and laundering, they should consist of soft yet durable fabrics. Terry cloth is most common for the plush, absorbent texture. However, hand towels come in various materials like cotton, linen, bamboo, and microfiber.

Hand towels have a versatile functionality. Hotels place them out for guests in rooms, while households use them daily for hand drying, face drying, quick spills and child bathing. Hand towels are a must for drying hands after washing at public restrooms in restaurants, gyms, salons and other businesses.

What is a Fingertip Towel?

Fingertip towels are daintier, smaller rectangular towels, typically measuring about 11 by 18 inches. Other common names for fingertip towels are guest towels or finger towels. They were traditionally used at fine dining establishments along with finger bowls for patrons to dip and dry fingers between courses.

While the finger bowl ritual is uncommon today, fingertip towels still frequently decorate powder rooms or lay neatly folded at sinks as an elegant guest towel option. Fanciermaterials like linen or lace trim enhance the upscale style.

Beyond aesthetics, you can also use a fingertip towel functionally to dry hands, wipe up spills or complete small cleaning tasks. Their compact size makes them ideal for travel or gym bags.

Key Takeaway: While hand towels focus on utility, fingertip towels add a refined decorative element and are sized for guests. Both can multi-task as functional and ornamental towels.

Hand Towel vs Fingertip Towel Size Comparison

The main distinguishing factor between hand and fingertip towels comes down to the size. Let’s look at the typical dimensions of each:

  • Hand towel: 16″ to 18″ wide x 28″ to 30″ long
  • Fingertip towel: 11″ wide x 18″ long

Clearly, the hand towel is larger overall. The hand towel’s size makes it better for drying the face, hands, and body, while still fitting within smaller spaces.

Meanwhile, the markedly smaller fingertip towel works nicely for briefly drying hands or fingers without using excess fabric. It takes up less space to neatly fold and display fingertip towels.

You may also hear fingertip towels called guest towels. Hosts set these out in bathrooms to allow overnight visitors to use a dedicated face/hand drying towel. The smaller size prevents waste of larger towels on single uses.

Materials for Hand Towels and Fingertip Towels

Cotton is the most ubiquitous fabric choice for both hand towels and fingertip guest towels. The softness and absorbency of cotton terry or other cotton textiles make it suitable for frequent use.

Egyptian or Turkish cotton are prized for towels and sheets as the highest quality extra-long staple cotton. They become softer and even more absorbent with each wash.

For an eco-friendly alternative, try bamboo fiber towels. Bamboo grows quickly without pesticides and also naturally resists bacteria and odors.

Linen makes upscale yet durable fingertip towels. The European flax linen offers a smooth surface and elegant draping quality. Linen can be tediously slow to produce, making it a luxury choice.

Uses for Hand Towels vs Fingertip Towels

Now that we’ve compared materials and size, how do you decide whether you need hand towels, fingertip towels or both? Here are the common functional and decorative uses for each type:

Hand Towel Uses

  • Drying hands at bathroom and kitchen sinks
  • Gently drying faces after washing
  • Bathing babies or small children
  • Placing out towels for overnight guests in hotels and homes
  • Gym members drying hands and body sweat after exercising
  • Cleaning and drying equipment at gyms and sports facilities
  • Salon customers and staff drying hands during manicures, massages, etc.
  • Blotting wet hair after showering
  • Wiping up spills and cleaning counters in kitchens and bathrooms

Fingertip Towel Uses

  • Decorative guest towel in bathroom to complement towels
  • Lining breadbaskets, cake stands, or dining platters
  • Small kitchen tasks like drying hands or wiping up spills
  • Fancy restaurants may offer with finger bowls before/after meals
  • Gyms for wiping sweat and cleaning equipment
  • Spa facial and massage appointments to dry hands and face
  • Wedding or shower favors with monogram or date embroidery
  • Seasonal designs out for holidays like Christmas trees or snowflakes
  • Laid in gift or holiday baskets and housewarming gifts
  • Dusting and light cleaning tasks around the home

Key Takeaway: Hand towels work for drying and cleaning medium-sized areas. Fingertip towels excel at decor and drying small spaces, but also help with some cleaning.

Caring for Hand and Fingertip Towels

Cotton and linen towels may have slightly different care needs based on the material blend. However, you can follow these general laundering guidelines for keeping all your hand and fingertip towels fresh and fluffy:

  • Wash new towels first to remove any residues before first use
  • Use mild detergent and avoid fabric softener that reduces absorption
  • Wash colors separately to prevent dye transfer issues
  • Wash similar materials together like cottons with cottons
  • Wash in hot water to kill bacteria and fully dissolve detergents
  • Add white vinegar periodically to remove odors and residues that build up
  • Avoid over-drying towels to prevent them from becoming scratchy
  • Line dry or medium dryer heat is gentlest on fabrics

Proper care keeps towels usable for years instead of necessitating frequent replacement. With a little attention when laundering, both hand and fingertip towels maintain their decorating and drying abilities.

Decorating With Hand and Fingertip Towels

Decorating with towels expands beyond functionality. Use hand and fingertip towels to add personality, color and elevate the style of any room.

  • Monogramming – Consider adding initials or monograms to hand and fingertip towels using embroidery or other techniques. Monograms personalize towels.
  • Color Scheme – Choose hand and fingertip towels in colors that coordinate with your decor. Combine them with washcloths for a complete towel display.
  • Texture Mixing – Layer plush cotton hand towels with smoother linen fingertip towels for visual depth.
  • Themed Towels – Weave in seasonal motifs like Christmas trees or Halloween themes. You can also create custom stripes or shapes.
  • DIY Ideas – Craft handmade towel designs using applique, embroidery, tie-dye, stamping, stenciling and many other simple DIY techniques.

There are endless ways to make basic hand and fingertip towels special with personalized details, colors and decorations that reflect your unique style. Change them out seasonally or for holidays to refresh your room.


What are fingertip towels used for?

Fingertip towels are dainty multi-use towels around 11 by 18 inches in size. Main uses are decorative as guest towels, lining breadbaskets, gyms, travel, and other small drying/cleaning tasks.

Where should you put hand towels in a bathroom?

Hand towels in bathrooms hang on towel bars or rings near sinks. You can also neatly fold on countertops or in baskets. Position within easy reach of the sink.

What size should a hand towel be?

Standard hand towel dimensions range from 16 to 18 inches wide and 28 to 30 inches long. This medium size easily dries hands without excess bulk.

Should you wash hand towels after each use?

It’s ideal to launder hand towels after every couple uses. Washing too frequently causes excess wear. At restaurants and gyms, wash towels after each customer.

What thread count is best for hand towels?

For softness and durability, look for a higher thread count around 600-900 for hand towels. Luxury Egyptian cotton towels often have a thread count over 1000.

What size are fingertip towels?

On average, fingertip towels are around 11 inches wide by 18 inches long. They are just slightly larger than a washcloth but smaller than a standard hand towel.


Hand and fingertip towels both make meaningful additions to your home textiles.

Keep plenty of 16 to 18 inch hand towels on hand for conveniently drying up after washing.

Combine with 11 by 18 inch fingertip guest towels to add a refined decorative element.

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.