Guest Towel vs. Hand Towel

When setting up the perfect bathroom, an important decision is choosing the right towels. From bath towels to washcloths, various towel sizes serve different purposes.

Guest Towel vs. Hand Towel

Two towels that often cause confusion are guest towels and hand towels. Though they have similar names, guest and hand towels have key differences in their dimensions, intended use, and benefits.

Towel Size Comparison

The most noticeable difference between guest towels and hand towels is the size. Though a guest towel is bigger than a washcloth, it is smaller than a hand towel.

Here is an overview of standard guest towel vs hand towel dimensions:

Towel TypeStandard Size
Guest Towel30×50 cm, 12×20 inches
Hand Towel50×100 cm, 20×40 inches

As you can see, a hand towel offers significantly more surface area and fabric to absorb water. The shape is also different—hand towels tend to be longer rectangles while guest towels are closer to squares.

Typical Use Cases

In addition to the size difference, guest towels and hand towels serve unique purposes. People typically utilize these towels in the following ways:

Guest Towels

  • Drying hands in the powder room
  • Drying face after washing
  • Small hair towel for short styles
  • Gym bag addition
  • Guest suite bathroom

Hand Towels

  • Drying hands near bathroom sinks
  • Wrapping wet hair after shower
  • Using after handwashing
  • Adding a pop of color to decor
  • Displaying neatly in main bathrooms

While you could use a hand towel for anything a guest towel does, the smaller guest towel works better for compact spaces. The hand towel’s larger proportions make it ideal as an everyday linen.

Key Takeaway: Guest towels conveniently fit in powder rooms and gym bags, while hand towels excel as workhorse towels for drying hands and hair.

Absorbency and Other Factors

In addition to intended use, there are a few other key differences between guest towels and hand towels:


Due to the extra surface area, a hand towel tends to be more absorbent than a guest towel. With nearly twice as much fabric, hand towels can soak up more moisture.

However, both towel types should still effectively dry skin without leaving behind dampness. Pay attention to the grams per square meter (GSM) as an indication of softness and absorbency.


Guest towels often feature decorative details like embroidery, patterns, and vivid colors. They add flair when displayed in a bathroom. Hand towels tend to be plainer to work well as daily use towels.


With more fabric, hand towels typically cost more than guest towels. However, decorative guest towels can also command higher prices. Generally hand towels range $10-30 USD and guest towels $5-15 USD.

Use Frequency

You will likely reach for hand towels multiple times per day, while guest towels see occasional use in powder rooms or for guests. So hand towels should be changed more often.

Pros and Cons of Guest and Hand Towels

Here is a comparison of some advantages and disadvantages of using guest towels vs hand towels:

Guest Towels


  • Compact size fitting small spaces
  • Often feature decorative accents
  • Lower cost
  • Perfect for gym bags and travel


  • Less absorbent due to size
  • Requires more frequent laundering
  • Too small for drying lengthy hair

Hand Towels


  • Maximizes moisture absorption
  • The right proportions for hand drying
  • Easy to neatly fold and display
  • Works for all hair lengths


  • Takes up more room in decor
  • Higher price point
  • Plain styles lack decorative flair

Neither towel is necessarily “better”—they each offer unique benefits depending on your needs. Evaluate both pros and cons when deciding between guest and hand towels.

Key Takeaway: Guest towels provide portability and style at lower prices, while hand towels excel in absorbency and hair drying with subtly decorated looks.

Recommendations for Bathrooms

When designing your dream bathroom, utilizing both guest and hand towels can optimize the space. Here are some recommendations on pairings:

  • For Powder Rooms: Add a stack of brightly colored guest towels to pull together sophisticated decor.
  • For Ensuite Bathrooms: Invest in soft hand towels for couples to use after showering and handwashing.
  • For Frequent Guests: Supply guest suites with guest towels for a polished presentation. Provide hand towels in shared main bathrooms.
  • For Gyms: Pack a guest towel in your gym bag to wipe equipment and soak up sweat.

As you arrange bathrooms, choose towel sizes suiting each areas’ needs. For example, prioritize absorbency in master and common baths with hand towels and decorative flair in powder rooms with guest towels.

Mix textures, colors, and materials like waffle and organic cotton to make the space welcoming. Having the right assortment of towels encourages proper use while preventing drying issues or wasted money on sizes offering no benefits.

SpaceRecommended TowelsReason
Powder RoomGuest TowelsProvides pops of color without taking up space
Master BathroomHand TowelsMaximizes absorbency for after bathing
Ensuite BathroomHand TowelsGives his & hers towels for showering & styling hair
Gym BagGuest TowelPortable for wiping equipment with color options
Guest BedroomsGuest TowelsLower cost option still looks polished
Kids BathroomHand TowelsDurability to withstand frequent use
Main Floor BathHand TowelsFamily members can dry hands after washing

Key Takeaway: Use decorative guest towels in powder rooms and affordable hand towels in high-traffic family baths. Supply guest rooms with guest towels and master baths with larger hand towels.


What are fingertip towels?

Fingertip towels are very similar to guest towels, typically measuring slightly smaller, around 11 x 18 inches. Some people use “guest” and “fingertip” towels interchangeably.

What size should towels be for a bathroom?

For the main bath areas used most frequently, hand towels around 50 x 100 cm work best for hand drying and hair wrapping. Pair them with bath towels measuring 70 x 140 cm to complete the set.

What towels do hotels use?

Most hotels utilize hand towels (50 x 100cm) or similar sized fingertip towels (40 x 65cm) in rooms. These efficiently dry hands after washing without taking up too much space.

How many towels should you own?

A good rule of thumb is to own at least two bath towels per family member. Include hand towels based on the number of sinks. Allow for at least one set of replacement towels in case others are dirty.

How often should you replace towels?

Aim to replace bath towels every two to three years. Hand towels and washcloths may need annual replacement depending on use frequency. Higher quality towels like waffle cotton can last over five years with proper care.


When designing your dream bathroom, choosing the right linens is key.

Guest towels and hand towels both have excellent yet distinct applications.

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.