Hand Towel Vs. Face Towel

Hand towels and face towels are two indispensable but very different types of towels. While they may seem the same at first glance, they have distinct sizes, materials, care requirements, and intended uses.

Hand Towel Vs. Face Towel

Understanding the key differences between hand towels versus face towels ensures you stock the right towels to meet your household needs.

Key Differences Between Hand Towels and Face Towels

Hand towels and face towels are two types of towels that are essential to have in any home. While they may seem interchangeable, there are some key differences between them.

Sizes of Hand Towels vs. Face Towels

The most noticeable difference between hand towels and face towels is their size. Hand towels are typically around 16-18 inches wide and 28-30 inches long. This rectangular size makes them perfect for hanging on a towel bar or rack.

Face towels, on the other hand, are much smaller at around 13 x 13 inches square. Their compact size takes up less space and allows more of them to fit into a load of laundry. The small size also makes them easy to use for a quick face wash.

So if you’re looking for a towel to hang in your bathroom or kitchen, a hand towel is your best bet. For a towel dedicated to facial cleansing and makeup removal, a face towel is the way to go.

Intended Uses for Each Type of Towel

As their names suggest, hand towels and face towels have very different intended uses. Hand towels are designed for drying your hands after washing them. They are ideal for use in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas where hands are frequently cleaned.

Face towels have the specific purpose of cleaning, washing, and drying your face. Their delicate, plush fabrics make them perfect for use on sensitive facial skin. You’ll find face towels in bedrooms and master bathrooms rather than in common areas.

Using the right towel for each task helps maintain hygiene. When guests visit, they’ll also know to use hand towels for their hands and avoid contaminating the face towels.

Materials Typically Used for Each Towel Type

The materials used in hand and face towels also differ significantly:

  • Hand towels need to be durable and absorbent. Cotton, microfiber, and terry cloth are common hand towel materials. They can withstand frequent use and machine washing.
  • Face towels call for gentler, softer fabrics like Turkish cotton or bamboo. These smooth fabrics are non-irritating against facial skin.
  • Face towels can also be made of microfiber for its softness and antibacterial properties.

Consider the towel’s use when choosing materials. Hand towels handle heavy use, while face towels require gentle fabrics.

Quantity Needed for Household Use

Determining how many hand and face towels you need for household use depends on several factors:

  • Household size – Larger families need more towels
  • Frequency of use – Those who use fresh towels daily need more
  • Laundry schedule – Less frequent washing requires more towels
  • Guest habits – Having guests over regularly necessitates extra towels

A good rule of thumb is to stock:

  • hand towels per household member per week
  • 1-2 face towels per person daily

So for a family of four, aim for 10-12 hand towels and 30-40 face towels at any time. Adjust amounts based on your household’s unique habits.

Caring for Hand and Face Towels

To maximize the life of hand and face towels, follow these care tips:

  • Wash before first use – Remove manufacturing residues.
  • Wash frequently – Every 3-4 uses to avoid bacteria buildup.
  • Use mild detergent – Harsh chemicals damage fibers.
  • Wash in cold water – Hot water can shrink or fade.
  • Air dry towels – Prevent reduced absorbency from dryer heat.
  • Avoid fabric softener – Leaves coating that impedes moisture absorption.
  • Add vinegar occasionally – Removes residues and prevents musty smells.
  • Store properly – Fold neatly in a cabinet or closet.

Following the washing instructions for the towel material is also recommended. With proper care, hand and face towels will last for years.

When to Replace Hand and Face Towels

With frequent use and washing, hand and face towels eventually, wear out. Signs that they need a replacement include:

  • Holes, tears, fraying or thinning fabric
  • Permanently stained or discolored
  • Loss of absorbency and moisture drying power
  • Coarse or rough texture instead of soft fluffiness
  • The musty, mildewy smell, even after washing
  • The visible buildup of soap scum, makeup, or dirt

For maintenance between replacements, try vinegar soaks. But once towels show these severe signs of wear, it’s time to swap in fresh ones.

Optimal Materials for Durability and Performance

When shopping for new hand and face towels, choose materials known for durability:

  • Egyptian cotton – Stronger and softer than regular cotton
  • Turkish cotton – Absorbent, dries quickly, softens over time
  • Bamboo – Absorbent, antimicrobial, and eco-friendly
  • Organic cotton – Grown sustainably without chemicals
  • Microfiber – Very absorbent and fast drying

While pricier than basic cotton, these materials resist staining, maintain softness, and greatly extend the towel’s lifespan.

Key Takeaways

  • Hand towels are larger and tougher, while face towels are smaller with gentler fabrics.
  • Each style serves specific purposes like drying hands or washing faces.
  • Stock adequate quantities based on household size and towel use frequency.
  • Follow material-specific care instructions to maximize longevity.
  • Replace when towels become threadbare, stained, or smelly.
  • Choose durable materials like Egyptian cotton for the best results.

Understanding the differences between hand towels and face towels ensures you have the right towels to meet your household needs!


What are the recommended sizes for hand towels and face towels?

Hand towels are typically 16-18 inches wide and 28-30 inches long – the perfect rectangular size to hang on a bar or rack. Face towels are much smaller, around 13 x 13 inches square. The compact size allows more face towels to fit in a laundry load.

Should hand and face towels be made from different materials?

Yes, hand towels and face towels call for different materials based on their use. Hand towels need durable, absorbent fabrics like cotton, microfiber, or terry cloth to withstand frequent use and washing. Face towels require gentler materials like Turkish cotton or bamboo that are smooth on delicate facial skin.

How often should you replace kitchen hand towels?

It’s recommended to replace kitchen hand towels every 3-4 days since they harbor germs easily. Washing kitchen hand towels frequently in hot water is also important. Have plenty on hand, so you can swap in fresh ones often.

What temperature water should you wash face towels in?

Delicate face towels should be washed in cold water to avoid shrinking or fading. Hot water can damage the fibers. Use a mild detergent and air-dry face towels to prolong their softness.


While hand towels and face towels may seem interchangeable, there are significant differences in their size, fabric, quantity needed, care, and purpose.

Following the proper practices for your hand towels versus face towels ensures both types remain soft, absorbent, and germ-free for all your household needs.

Understanding their unique distinctions allows you to stock up on the right towels.

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.