What is a Fingertip Towel?

A fingertip towel is a small towel designed for quickly and conveniently drying hands and fingers after washing up.

What is a Fingertip Towel

Slightly larger than a washcloth yet smaller than a hand towel, fingertip towels measure approximately 11 by 18 inches.

With their compact size and absorbent fabric, they can serve both decorative and functional purposes in bathrooms, kitchens, and dining areas.

A Brief History of the Fingertip Towel

Fingertip towels date back to the Victorian era, when upper class homes embraced more refined dining rituals. One such practice involved finger bowls, small bowls filled with warm water that were set out at formal dinners. After eating, guests would dip fingertips into the bowls to rinse fingers, then dry hands using small linen towels provided for this purpose.

While the use of finger bowls has become rare, the fingertip towel lives on. Their petite size and ability to add a touch of luxury made them a mainstay in upscale hotels and restaurants. When guests checked in, they were often greeted with a warm fingertip towel to freshen up with.

Today, fingertip towels continue bringing gracious hospitality into modern homes and businesses. Let’s look at why they remain popular after all these years.

Key Features of Fingertip Towels

Two key attributes set fingertip towels apart from standard washcloths or hand towels:

  • Size – At around 11 x 18 inches, fingertip towels are larger than washcloths but smaller than hand towels. This compact size makes them perfect for quick hand and finger drying.
  • Fabric – Fingertip towels are often made of highly absorbent linen or cotton. Linen doesn’t leave lint behind, making it ideal for drying delicate surfaces.

With the right fabric and size, a fingertip towel can both dry hands efficiently and add a decorative flair. Now let’s explore some of their many uses.

Common Uses for Fingertip Towels

From hospitality to the home, fingertip towels play a surprising number of roles:

Gracious Guest Towels

In guest bathrooms, fingertip towels make the perfect dedicated hand drying towel. They can be:

  • Folded neatly near the sink
  • Hung from a small towel rack
  • Laid out in a decorative basket

Providing fingertip towels for each guest prevents sharing damp towels that may harbor germs. It’s a thoughtful way to pamper visitors.

Elevating Dining Experiences

For formal dinners or holidays, lay embroidered linen fingertip towels at each place setting. Guests can use them to gently dry hands between courses. It’s an elegant alternative to paper napkins.

Absorbent Utility Towels

The absorbency and durability of fingertip towels make them ideal utility towels for:

  • Drying hands in the kitchen
  • Wiping up spills
  • Polishing glassware or silverware

Linen fingertip towels are especially good for drying crystal, china, and other delicate items without scratching them.

Sports and Gym Towels

Take fingertip towels to the gym or games for a compact towel that’s easy to stash in a bag and quick to grab on the go.

Thoughtful Gifts

Monogrammed fingertip towels in beautiful fabrics like linen make lovely:

  • Housewarming presents
  • Wedding or shower gifts
  • Hostess gifts

Their versatility also makes them great for stocking stuffers.

With so many uses, it’s easy to see why fingertip towels have staying power. Now let’s go over care tips to make them last.

Caring for Fingertip Towels

Fingertip towels made of quality materials like linen and cotton will hold up well over time with proper care:

  • Pre-wash new towels – This prevents shrinkage and removes manufacturing residues
  • Wash in cold water – Hot water can fade colors prematurely
  • Air dry – Line drying fingertip towels infuses them with freshness
  • Avoid fabric softener – It leaves behind film that reduces absorbency
  • Use vinegar – An occasional vinegar rinse removes soap residue and brightens towels

With basic care, fingertip towels will retain their beauty and functionality for years of gracious hospitality.

Why Fingertip Towels Make Thoughtful Gifts

Beyond being multi-use towels, here are some reasons fingertip towels make memorable gifts:

  • Unique – Most people don’t think to give towels as gifts. A monogrammed fingertip towel set makes a creative, unexpected present.
  • Useful – Nearly everyone can use more small utility towels, so fingertip towels are sure to get used.
  • Personalizable – Monogramming and custom embroidery adds a meaningful personal touch.
  • Eco-friendly – Reusable towels help cut down on paper waste.
  • Budget-friendly – Inexpensive fingertip towels can be given in sets for creative, affordable gifts.

With so many pluses, it’s easy to see why fingertip towels are great for gift-giving.

Key Differences Between Fingertip and Hand Towels

With similar size and shape, fingertip towels are often confused with hand towels. But there are a few key points of difference:

  • Size – Fingertip towels are more compact at 11″ x 18″ versus hand towels that range from 16″ x 28″ to 18″ x 30″.
  • Purpose – Hand towels are everyday multi-use towels while fingertip towels serve more specialized functions like guest towels.
  • Fabric – Fingertip towels tend to use more formal fabrics like linen. Hand towels may be basic terrycloth.
  • Decoration – Fingertip towels frequently incorporate unique colors, embroidery, and monograms as part of their ornamental role.

Keep these differences in mind when deciding which towel suits your needs.

Choosing the Best Fingertip Towels

With so many fabrics, sizes, and designs available, here are tips for picking the perfect fingertip towels:

  • Consider the use – Will they be decorative guest towels or heavy-duty utility towels? This affects the ideal fabric and quality.
  • Choose absorbent fabrics – For drying hands, 100% cotton, linen and microfiber perform best.
  • Get the right size – Standard is 11″ x 18″, but larger 12″ x 16″ or smaller 10″ x 16″ sizes are also available.
  • Add ornamentation – Monograms, embroidery and colored borders elevate decorative fingertip towels.
  • Buy sets – Having multiple fingertip towels on hand is useful for households and hospitality businesses.

No matter your needs, the right fingertip towels are available. This versatile little towel still has a place enhancing modern homes and businesses.


What are fingertip towels used for?

Fingertip towels have many uses, including drying hands as guest towels in bathrooms, lining breadbaskets and drying silverware and crystal in dining rooms, for utility cleaning tasks, at gyms, and as gifts.

What is the difference between a fingertip towel and a hand towel?

A hand towel is an everyday multi-use towel while a fingertip towel serves more specialized functions and tends to be decorative. Fingertip towels are also more compact in size compared to larger hand towels.

Where can I buy fingertip towels?

Many major retailers like Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, and Walmart sell fingertip towels both in stores and online. You can also find a wide selection from online specialty linen and towel stores.

How do you display fingertip towels?

For decorative effect, fingertip towels can be folded on countertops, hung from small towel racks, incorporated into towel displays, or artfully arranged in baskets.

How do you wash and care for fingertip towels?

Fingertip towels can go in the washing machine but should be washed in cold water and air dried to protect colors and fabrics. Avoid using fabric softener, and occasionally wash them with vinegar to brighten colors and increase absorbency.


From Victorian era dining to today’s guest bathrooms, the fingertip towel has long served an important role in gracious hospitality.

The compact size makes fingertip towels ideal for quickly drying hands and fingers.

When made from absorbent fabrics like linen, they can also dry delicate surfaces like fine china and crystal without scratching.

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.