What is a Fingertip Towel Used For?

Fingertip towels are small rectangular towels, typically around 11 by 18 inches in size. They are larger than a washcloth but smaller than a standard hand towel. These dainty linens may seem insignificant, but fingertip towels serve many purposes beyond drying just fingertips.

What is a Fingertip Towel Used For

A fingertip towel’s diminutive size belies its versatile functionality. This discreet towel discreetly improves decor, hygiene, and convenience in bathrooms, kitchens, and beyond.

Fingertip towels have a long history of enhancing hospitality and providing utility in refined settings. Their design suits a variety of applications, from the ornamental to the practical.

A Brief History of the Fingertip Towel

The origins of the fingertip towel trace back to 19th century formal dinners. After dining, guests at upscale establishments would be presented with a small bowl of water and a fingertip towel to cleanse their hands. This elegant custom displayed the host’s hospitality and refinement.

Though less common today, some upscale restaurants still practice this tradition. Fingertip towels retain their consummate suitability for special occasions and refined decor.

Beyond the dining room, fingertip towels found utility as guest towels in powder rooms. Their petite proportions were perfect for facilities with limited space. As guest towels, fingertip towels enable hosts to provide visitors private hand-drying linens. This thoughtfulness and hygiene further capture the towel’s enduring spirit of hospitality.

The makeup of historical fingertip towels also contributed to their popularity. Luxurious materials like linen gave fingertip towels soft strength ideal for hands, faces, and more delicate tasks.

Over time, the fingertip towel secured its reputation as an exemplar of form and function. Next, we’ll survey the many purposes this diminutive towel serves so well.

The Many Uses of Fingertip Towels

Thanks to their practical dimensions and fabric, fingertip towels facilitate several applications. Here are some popular uses that showcase the versatility of this compact towel:

As Hand Towels

The fingertip towel’s intended purpose is evident in its name. The towel’s size makes it easy to dry one’s hands after washing up. The thin towel also dries hands quickly, promoting hygiene in high-traffic bathrooms. This usefulness explains the fingertip towel’s ubiquity near sinks and faucets.

As Guest Towels

Fingertip towels are commonly placed in powder rooms and guest baths. The small towel allows visitors a dedicated hand-drying cloth, separate from larger shared bath towels. This prevents wet shared towels and conveys hospitality through the guest’s private towel.

For Face Care

The soft, gentle fabric of many fingertip towels makes them ideal for delicate facial drying. The towel absorbs moisture without irritation, making it perfect for skincare routines.

For Easy Cleaning

Fingertip towels facilitate quick cleanups of small spills and surfaces. Their compact size allows them to wipe down sinks, mirrors, counters and other bathroom or kitchen surfaces.

For Added Decoration

The pleasing forms and patterns of some fingertip towels make them ideal decorative accents. Their small scale allows creative presentation in bathrooms, on towels racks, or lined up on counters.

As Utility Towels

The shape and absorbency of fingertip towels adapt them for general utility use. They come in handy for tasks from drying dishes to wiping fingertips free of sticky barbecue sauce.

As Thoughtful Gifts

Monogrammed or embellished fingertip towels in premium materials make distinctive gifts. Their practicality, touch of luxury, and potential for personalization make fingertip towels suitable for housewarmings, weddings, holidays and more.

For Travel

Fingertip towels pack easily for traveling. They take up little suitcase space while providing handy washcloths on trips where hygiene is harder to maintain.

Clearly, the modest dimensions of the fingertip towel lend themselves to an abundance of uses. The next section explains how fingertip towels differ from their ubiquitous bathroom counterparts, hand towels.

Distinguishing Details: Fingertip Towels vs. Hand Towels

With so many towels lining bathroom counters and racks, it’s easy to confuse fingertip and hand towels. But several key differences set these two towels apart:

  • Size: Fingertip towels measure around 11″ x 18″, while hand towels range from 16″ to 20″ square. The smaller fingertip towels allow greater precision when wiping hands and faces.
  • Purpose: Hand towels primarily dry hands after washing. Fingertip towels can also decorate, serve as guest towels, apply makeup, and more. Their smaller size adapts them for more delicate tasks.
  • Presentation: Hand towels typically hang from bars or rods. Fingertip towels often sit folded near sinks or elegantly drape larger towels.
  • Luxury: With fine materials like linen, embroidery and ornamental designs, many fingertip towels convey a sense of comfort and refinement.
  • Absorption: The thinner fabric of fingertip towels allows them to dry hands faster. Their delicacy also suits gentle patting of faces.
  • Frequency of Use: Hand towels have durability for constant bathroom use. More decorative fingertip towels may be protected for special occasions and lighter use.

So in essence, the compact fingertip towel presents a more ornate, versatile alternative to workhorse hand towels. The next section explores materials that allow fingertip towels to play their many roles.

Materials: Tailored for Multi-Purpose Use

Fingertip towels come in a spectrum of fabrics selected for aesthetics, durability, and absorbency. Here are some top options:

  • Cotton: Highly absorbent and soft on skin, cotton is a favored fingertip towel material. Long-staple Egyptian or American Pima cotton offer exceptional softness.
  • Linen: Valued for its elegant drape and sheen, linen’s natural fibers make strong, lint-free towels that absorb quickly. The fiber’s durability suits frequent use.
  • Bamboo: Bamboo rayon makes plush, sustainable towels. The material resists odors and cleans easily. Its softness suits sensitive skin.
  • Hemp: Like bamboo, hemp fabric is eco-friendly and made for durability. Its dense, absorbent texture works well for hand drying.
  • Silk: Rare but opulent, silk provides extremely fine, lightweight towels. Silk best suits ornamental fingertip towels.
  • Cotton-linen blends: These combine the absorbency of cotton with the quick-drying luxury of linen. The blends offer a balance suitable for daily use.

With plenty of choices, hosts can select fingertip towels with the right properties for the setting and purpose. The next section provides tips for choosing towels based on your needs.

Tips for Choosing the Best Fingertip Towels

With the variety of materials, designs, and prices available, follow these tips to select optimal fingertip towels:

  • Consider the primary purpose – decorative, display, utility, or guest towel – and pick materials and designs suited to that use.
  • Choose plush cottons like Egyptian or American Pima for maximum softness and daily hand drying.
  • Select lint-free, quick-drying linen for glass and dish drying utility towels.
  • Pick thinner, finer fabrics like silk or hemp for ornamental accents.
  • Look for monogram or embellishment options to make decorative guest and gift towels more distinctive.
  • Find patterns and colors that coordinate with your bath or kitchen decor.
  • Choose darker colors to conceal staining for heavily used utility towels.
  • Feel samples of materials like bamboo, hemp, and blends to judge softness and absorbency.
  • Compare pricing to find the right balance of quality and value.

Taking time to evaluate your needs will ensure you select fingertip towels with the perfect fit and function.

Caring for Fingertip Towels

To keep fingertip towels looking and feeling their best:

  • Wash new towels first to maximize softness and remove manufacturing residues.
  • Use mild detergent to help colors remain vibrant.
  • Wash in cool water and avoid hot temperatures to prevent shrinkage.
  • Hang to air dry to maintain softness. High heat can damage delicate fabrics.
  • Avoid using fabric softener as it reduces absorbency.
  • Wash darks separately to prevent lighter color transfer.
  • Blot stains quickly and avoid harsh bleach.
  • Wash when slightly soiled to prevent stains setting in.

With proper care, fingertip towels will deliver lasting beauty and utility.


What are the standard dimensions of a fingertip towel?

The typical dimensions of a fingertip towel are around 11 inches x 18 inches. This compact rectangular size distinguishes them from the larger square hand towels.

Where would you place a decorative fingertip towel?

Folded ornamental fingertip towels make excellent decorative accents layered artfully on bathroom counters. They can also adorn towel racks or be displayed in coordinating stacks on shelves.

What types of materials work best for everyday use fingertip towels?

Plush cottons like Egyptian cotton, American Pima, and bamboo blends are ideal everyday use fingertip towels. The softness and absorbency make them perfect for repeated hand drying and utility use.

Are fingertip towels a good gift?

Yes, embroidered and monogrammed fingertip towels in luxe materials make wonderful gifts. Options like linen and hemp with ornamental details upgrade the small towel into a memorable, useful gift.

Should you use fabric softener when washing fingertip towels?

Avoid using fabric softener on fingertip towels, as it can coat the fibers and reduce the towel’s absorbency. Softener is unnecessary for cotton, bamboo, and other soft fabrics.


While humble in size, the fingertip towel’s legacy of enhancing hospitality and practicality continues today. Fingertip towels lend convenience to hand washing, provide guests personalized linens, and add ornamental flair.

With the variety of fabrics available, hosts can select towels optimized for utility, luxury, display, or gifting. Taking note of the distinctions, uses, and care guidelines illuminates the outsized value of this petite towel.

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.