Fingertip towels are a small yet versatile type of towel that can serve both functional and decorative purposes. With their petite size, these towels are perfect for a variety of uses around the home, business, restaurant or spa.
What is a Fingertip Towel?
A fingertip towel is a small, rectangular towel that is bigger than a washcloth but smaller than a hand towel. These towels get their name based on their initial use – drying just the fingertips after using a finger bowl at fancy dinners.
Fingertip towels typically measure around 11 inches wide by 18 inches long. They can be made from materials like cotton, cotton blends, bamboo and microfiber. Terry cloth and velour are common weave types.
These dainty towels often feature decorative elements like embroidery, monograms or patterns. Fingertip towels can match bath towels and accessories as part of a coordinated look.
Key Takeaway: A fingertip towel is a small decorative towel, typically 11″ x 18″, originally used with finger bowls.
Brief History of the Fingertip Towel
The origins of the fingertip towel size date back to the early 20th century practice of using finger bowls. In upscale restaurants of the time, patrons were offered small bowls filled with water at the end of a meal to rinse fingers with. Diners would dip just their fingertips in the bowls before drying them on small finger towels provided for this purpose.
The practice emerged during an era where proper etiquette and manners reigned. Using finger bowls allowed diners a way to neatly wash hands after eating without having to leave the table. Fingertip towels were the ideal size for this purpose.
By the 1920s, the finger bowl ritual was common both in high-end restaurants as well as formal dinners in affluent homes. However, the practice diminished by World War II when excess was frowned upon. But even without finger bowls, the tiny fingertip towel lives on.
Bold Today, these petite towels continue to play both functional and decorative roles in homes and businesses. The history of the fingertip towel is a fascinating glimpse into changing cultures and etiquette over the decades.
Standard Fingertip Towel Size
When evaluating fingertip towels dimensions compared to other towel sizes, they fit right between washcloths and standard hand towels. Here is a look at common fingertip towel measurements:
- Fingertip Towel: 11″ x 18″
- Washcloth: 12″ x 12″
- Hand Towel: 16″ x 30″
- Bath Towel: 27″ x 52″
The actual size can vary a bit by manufacturer, but should be close to 11 by 18 inches. While finger towels may resemble hand towels, they are more than 5 inches shorter in length. This reduced size allows them to serve different functions than larger towels.
Fingertip Towel vs Hand Towel
With similar rectangular shapes, fingertip towels and hand towels can seem almost interchangeable at first glance. But the size difference of a few inches results in some distinct variations:
- Hand towels are better for drying hands, washing faces, and general cleaning. Their larger size provides more surface area for wiping and absorption.
- Fingertip towels are intended for lighter jobs like drying just fingers or hands. Their small size allows for easy storage and carrying.
- Fingertip towels more often have decorative details, while hand towels focus on utility.
- Hand towels cost a bit less than the more intricate fingertip towels.
For most everyday towel needs, standard hand towels are the practical choice. But fingertip towels can add style and luxury for guests or serve specialized purposes.
Common Uses for Fingertip Towels
Thanks to their petite dimensions, fingertip towels have a variety of possible uses:
Fingertip towels make excellent small guest towels to provide visitors. They are the perfect size to neatly fold and display in a bathroom. Guests can use their own fresh fingertip towel rather than a shared towel that may spread bacteria. Roll or fold them to place in a decorative basket.
Bring back the historic origins of fingertip towels by using them at formal home dinners or parties. Set them at place settings for guests to use to wash hands during meals in lieu of paper napkins.
Keep fingertip towels handy in the kitchen for quick clean-up jobs. Their small size allows you to hold them without covering your whole hand, perfect for wiping counters or drying hands when cooking.
Gym & Sports
The fingertip towel’s compact size makes it ideal for workouts. Gym-goers often carry one to wipe sweat and clean equipment. Sports players tuck them in pockets to use on the court or field.
Salon & Spa
Salons and spas frequently use fingertip towels for manicures, massages and facials instead of bulkier hand towels. They also work well for decorative display in treatment rooms.
Use dainty fingertip towels for light cleaning like dusting, wiping sinks or mirrors. You can easily maneuver them into tight spaces.
Keep fingertip towels handy for all sorts of utility purposes like car washing, garage clean-up, taking on picnics or using while traveling.
Display fingertip towels folded or rolled up in bathrooms as part of a coordinated look with matching bath and hand towels.
Monogrammed fingertip towels make memorable gifts for weddings, hostess gifts, or housewarming presents.
Bold With so many possibilities, it’s easy to see why fingertip towels continue to be popular choices for homes and businesses even a century after their debut. Their versatility comes from their conveniently compact size of just 11 by 18 inches.
Fingertip Towel Materials
Fingertip towels can be constructed from various materials, all with their own characteristics:
- Cotton: The most popular towel fabric, cotton is very absorbent and soft but still durable. Types like Egyptian or Turkish cotton make luxury fingertip towels.
- Bamboo: Bamboo rayon makes very soft, sustainable towels. It is naturally antimicrobial and absorbent.
- Microfiber: Made from synthetic fibers, microfiber excels at absorbing water. It dries quickly and is durable.
- Linen: Made from flax fibers, linen is very strong, absorbent and fast-drying. It has a natural luster.
- Cotton blends: Many towels blend cotton with materials like polyester for durability and longevity.
For decorative fingertip towels, cotton and bamboo are good choices. For utility, microfiber and blends work well. Consider the towel’s purpose when choosing materials.
Caring for Fingertip Towels
Caring properly for your fingertip towels helps maintain softness and appearance. Follow these tips:
- Wash before use to remove manufacturing residues and maximize absorption.
- Wash in hot water to sanitize and kill germs, bacteria and odors.
- Use a gentle detergent and avoid fabric softeners to prevent buildup.
- Air dry or dry on a medium dryer setting to prevent over-drying the fibers.
- Wash similar colors together to prevent dye transfer.
- Add white vinegar to some wash cycles to increase softness and absorption.
With the right care, fingertip towels should last for years of stylish service.
Where to Buy Fingertip Towels
Many big box stores like Target and Walmart sell fingertip towels, often in multi-packs. For more selection, try:
- Online retailers like Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Wayfair
- Department stores like Macy’s, Dillard’s, Nordstrom
- Home goods stores like HomeGoods, Tuesday Morning, Cost Plus World Market
- Towel specialty sites like Towel Super Center, Towel Depot, Company Fold
When buying fingertip towels:
- Look for 100% cotton or other high-quality materials
- Match colors to existing towels or bath accessories
- Seek out monogram and embroidery options for a personal touch
- Buy sets or in bulk for savings
For the best selection, buying fingertip towels online provides limitless options for colors, patterns, monograms and quantity.
Key Takeaway: Purchase fingertip towels from department stores, home goods retailers, or online for the best selection and pricing.
Fingertip Towel FAQs
What is the difference between a fingertip towel and a hand towel?
A fingertip towel is smaller, typically used decoratively, and measures around 11″ x 18″. A hand towel is larger at 16″ x 30″, used functionally for drying hands and light cleaning tasks.
What are fingertip towels originally used for?
Fingertip towels were originally used in the early 1900s to dry fingers after using finger bowls at fancy dinners. The practice emerged from etiquette standards of the era.
Where should you use a fingertip towel in your home?
Use fingertip towels in guest bathrooms, at formal dinners, for light kitchen clean-up, and anywhere else you need a small towel for wiping, drying or decorative flair. They make great gifts as well.
What material is best for fingertip towels?
For everyday utility, a microfiber or cotton blend fingertip towel works well. For softness and luxury, choose 100% cotton, bamboo, or linen. Terry cloth and velour are top picks for plushness.
How do you wash and care for fingertip towels?
Caring properly for fingertip towels will prolong their lifespan. Wash them in hot water before first use, avoid fabric softeners, air dry when possible, and wash in cold water with like colors. Add vinegar occasionally to remove residues.
With their long history and variety of uses, it’s no wonder fingertip towels continue to be bathroom and kitchen staples. Understanding the standard fingertip towel size of 11 by 18 inches gives you a better grasp of how these petite towels differ from other sizes.
Choose high-quality materials like cotton and microfiber based on your intended use – utility, decorative or luxury. Fingertip towels can serve both functional needs as small clean-up towels, as well as provide elegant decorative touches as guest towels or gifts. With the right care, these little towels deliver big style and convenience wherever they are used.