Microfiber Towel vs. T-Shirt For Drying Hair

When it comes to drying your hair, you have a few options for towels or fabrics to use.

Microfiber Towel vs T-Shirt

Two popular choices are microfiber towels and regular cotton t-shirts.

But which one is better for your hair?

How Wet Hair Can Get Damaged

Before getting into the specifics of microfiber and t-shirts, it’s helpful to understand why wet hair is so vulnerable to damage.

When your hair gets wet, the outer layer absorbs water and swells up. This causes the cuticle (the protective outside layer) to lift up, leaving the inner structures exposed.

Wet hair is very elastic and stretchy since water enters the hair shaft and allows the proteins to slide over each other more easily. All this stretching puts tension on your hair and makes it easier to tangle and break.

That’s why it’s so important to handle wet hair gently and blot or pat it dry rather than rubbing it vigorously with a towel. Choosing a smooth, gentle fabric can help prevent extra damage while drying.

Why Regular Towels Are Too Harsh

You’ve probably heard that you shouldn’t dry your hair with a regular cotton bath towel. But why not?

The reason is that the cotton terry cloth loops are large and abrasive. When you rub the towel over your hair, these loops easily snag onto your hair strands. This tugging causes friction damage, tangling, and breakage.

Key Takeaway: Standard bath towels have a rough texture from large cotton terry cloth loops. These loops tangle wet hair, causing damage and breakage.

Microfiber Towels for Hair

Microfiber towels provide that smooth, gentle fabric that is ideal for drying hair without damage. Microfiber consists of extremely fine synthetic fibers that are woven very compactly.

The main advantages of microfiber for hair are:

  • Ultra-fine fibers won’t snag or pull hair
  • Super smooth surface glides over hair
  • Highly absorbent to soak up water

Despite the tiny fibers, microfiber towels can absorb up to 7 times their weight in water! So they rapidly wick moisture from your hair without the need for vigorous rubbing.

Using a Cotton T-Shirt to Dry Hair

You might be surprised to hear that an old cotton t-shirt can also work nicely for drying delicate wet hair. Although cotton sheets and pillowcases are rougher on hair, a well-worn, soft cotton t-shirt is perfectly smooth and gentle.

The advantages of using a t-shirt include:

  • Readily available – Most people already have old t-shirts on hand
  • Very soft fabric won’t snag or pull hair
  • Absorbs moisture well without over-drying

The concern with standard bath towels is the coarse terry cloth loops that tangle wet hair. But t-shirts have a smooth, tight-knit fabric that glides over the hair just like microfiber.

Microfiber vs. T-shirt: Comparison of Key Factors

Now that you know the benefits of both microfiber towels and cotton t-shirts for drying hair, how do you decide which is best for your needs? Here is a breakdown of how these two options compare:

FactorMicrofiber TowelCotton T-shirt
GentlenessVery gentle, finest fibersGentle if high-quality, soft
AbsorbencyExtremely highModerate
ConvenienceMust purchaseUsually already available
CostCan be $10-$30+Free (old t-shirts)
Ease of useTies to secure on headMust carefully tie sleeves

As you can see, microfiber probably has a slight edge when it comes to both gentleness and water absorption ability. But cotton t-shirts have the advantage for availability and cost.

In terms of ease of use, microfiber hair towels usually have a built-in loop or tie to wrap and secure them on your head. Using a t-shirt takes a bit more finesse to carefully tie up the sleeves.

So you can decide which qualities are most important and choose between microfiber or cotton accordingly. Both will be gentler on wet hair than a standard bath towel.

Which is Better by Hair Type?

You can also consider your hair type and texture when deciding on microfiber or cotton t-shirts for drying your hair.

Curly or Textured Hair

Microfiber may have a slight edge for very curly or coily hair types. The ultra-fine fibers seem to cause less disruption to the curl pattern compared to cotton. Microfiber also rapidly removes more moisture so you can start styling sooner.

The smooth surface creates less frizz since there is less friction while patting your hair dry. If you “plop” your curls into a microfiber hair wrap, this technique really enhances definition as your hair air dries.

Fine, Thin Hair

People with very fine or thin hair may also benefit more from microfiber. The incredibly tiny loops are less likely to tug out fragile hairs when gently blotting dry. And the super absorbent properties mean you probably won’t need to rub as vigorously to remove moisture.

Again, less disturbance to the hair cuticle means less chances of inducing frizz in fine hair. So microfiber helps keep the strands smooth.

Straight Hair

Those with straight hair types can use either microfiber or cotton t-shirts effectively. Straight hair is typically a little heartier than very curly or fine hair when wet.

So for strong, straight hair, the choice comes down more to personal preference and convenience. T-shirts tend to be easier to find and tie over your head to let hair dry hands-free. But microfiber removes moisture most rapidly to cut down on drying time.

Tips for Safely Drying Hair

Whether you use microfiber towels or cotton t-shirts, follow these tips to safely dry your hair and prevent excess damage:

  • Always gently blot or pat wet hair – no rubbing back and forth!
  • Carefully squeeze out dripping wetness before gentle patting with towel
  • Don’t wring or twist hair to get out water
  • Blot in sections for even drying
  • Let hair air dry remainder of way whenever possible
  • Be extra cautious with fragile, damaged hair


What are the two options for gently drying hair?

The two options discussed are microfiber hair towels and cotton t-shirts. Both provide a smooth, gentle fabric to blot wet hair without damage compared to regular towels.

Why are regular cotton towels bad for drying hair?

The terry cloth loops in standard bath towels are large and abrasive. They snag onto wet hair, causing tugging, friction damage, tangling, and breakage.

What makes microfiber towels good for hair?

Microfiber towels have ultra-fine synthetic fibers woven very compactly to create an exceptionally smooth surface. This prevents pulling on wet hair. The tiny fibers also absorb up to 7 times their weight in water.

What’s the advantage of using a cotton t-shirt?

Old, well-worn cotton t-shirts provide a tight-knit and soft fabric that glides smoothly over hair like microfiber. T-shirts are likely already available in your home and are free to use.

Which option is better for curly or fine hair?

Microfiber may have an advantage for delicate curly or fine hair. The ultra gentle fibers minimize disruption to curls and reduce tugging out fragile strands when patting hair dry.

How should you gently dry hair with either option?

Always blot hair gently instead of rubbing back and forth. Carefully squeeze out excess wetness before patting hair with the towel in sections. Let hair finish air drying whenever possible.


Ultimately, both microfiber towels and cotton t-shirts are gentler alternatives to terry cloth cotton towels to dry your hair while minimizing friction and breakage.

Microfiber offers supreme smoothness and absorbency to rapidly wick moisture while preserving your hair’s integrity. It conveniently ties onto your head as well.

Towels Edition
Towels Edition