A Comprehensive Guide to Towel Types

Towels are an essential household item with a wide variety of uses. From bathing and grooming to cleaning and drying, having the right towel makes daily life more convenient. With so many different types of towels available, it can be tricky determining which towels are best suited for specific needs.

This article will explore the different types of towels, towel materials, considerations for choosing towels, care and maintenance, and provide tips to improve your use of towels!

An Introduction to Towels

Towels are typically made of highly absorbent fabric and used for drying and wiping. They come in various sizes for different uses. Towels are most commonly used after bathing or swimming to dry the body, but also have many other purposes:

  • Kitchen – Used for drying hands and dishes, and wiping counters
  • Gym – For wiping sweat and moisture during or after exercise
  • Spa – Provide comfort and absorbs oils during massages or facials
  • Garage/workshop – Useful for wiping oily tools or auto parts
  • Cleaning – Help with dusting and wiping surfaces

Different Types of Towels

There are many different types of towels, each with their own characteristics and best uses.

Various towels neatly folded showcasing their different sizes and colors.

Bath Towels

The classic bath towel is typically used after bathing or swimming. They are large towels made to wrap around the body and absorb moisture.

  • Made of very absorbent materials like cotton or microfiber.
  • Standard size is 28″ x 54″.
  • Often sold in sets with hand towels and washcloths.

Hand Towels

Hand towels are medium-sized towels designed for drying hands and face. They are common in bathrooms.

  • Typically measure around 15″x25″ to 18″x30″.
  • Made of cotton, microfiber, or linen.
  • They are soft and very absorbent.

Face Towels

Washcloths, also called face towels, are small towels used for washing and gently scrub the face.

  • Usually around 12” x 12” in size.
  • Often made of thick terry cotton.
  • Used with warm water and facial cleansers.

Gym Towels

Gym towels or sweat towels are designed for intense workouts and are good at absorbing a lot of sweat.

  • Made of ultra-absorbent, fast-drying materials.
  • Often antimicrobial to inhibit bacteria growth.
  • Compact size, usually around 16” x 30”.

Foot Towels

Specialized foot towels help dry and clean feet after showering, swimming, or when entering the house.

  • Smaller towels that drape over top of feet.
  • Made from Cotton.
  • Help keep floors clean.

Paper Towels

Disposable paper towels have many uses for cleaning, drying, and wiping in kitchens or garages.

  • Made from absorbent paper or recycled materials.
  • Disposable and designed for heavy messes.
  • Not as soft, best for occasional use.

Quick Dry Towels

A quick-dry towel is designed to absorb water quickly and dry faster than traditional towels, preventing dampness and odor.

  • Made from microfiber or cotton.
  • Size varies from 20″ x 10″ to 71″ x 35″.
  • More absorbent than ordinary towels and can be air dried and reused in a short time.

Beach Towels

Large, lightweight beach towels provide comfort and drying on sand.

  • Typically thin cotton or microfiber.
  • Range from 30” x 60” to oversized.
  • Sand-resistant and quick-drying.

Kitchen Towels

Multipurpose kitchen towels are perfect for drying dishes, hands, and wiping counters.

  • Made of absorbent but quick-drying materials.
  • Often have hanging loops for convenience.
  • Kitchen towels soak up spills and provide padding from hot pans in the kitchen.

Common Towel Materials

Towels come in a variety of materials, each with their own characteristics.


Cotton is a very popular towel material known for its softness and absorbency. The fibers soak up a lot of moisture. Types include:

  • Turkish cotton – Extra long cotton fibers, very absorbent.
  • Egyptian cotton – Luxuriously soft combed cotton.
  • Bamboo cotton – Cotton blended with bamboo viscose for softness.

Cotton/Polyester Blends

By blending fabrics, towels gain useful qualities of both materials. Polyester adds durability and wrinkle resistance to absorbent cotton.


Synthetic microfiber towels have ultra fine fibers that absorb huge amounts of water. They are also very lightweight.


Bamboo rayon towels have antimicrobial properties and a silky soft texture. They absorb moisture well but dry faster than cotton.


Linen is made from the flax plant and known for strength, softness, and faster drying than cotton. Linen towels are very absorbent but thinner than cotton.

Key Considerations When Selecting Towels

When shopping for towels, keep these key considerations in mind:

1. Absorbency

Good towels absorb water well, making them effective for drying. Materials such as cotton, microfiber, and bamboo are great at soaking up water naturally.

2. Durability

Look for towels made of quality materials that avoid excessive pilling or fraying over repeated use and washes. Materials like cotton-poly blends and microfiber are very durable.

A women checking which towel is best

3. Softness

Soft towels feel gentle on skin when patting dry. Opt for materials like cotton and linen for a soft and plush feel.

4. Size and Weight

Consider the primary use case when choosing towel size and weight. Larger bath sheets or beach towels provide full coverage while gym and hand towels are more compact.

5. Aesthetics

Choose colors, patterns, monogramming or accessories like borders that fit your personal style. Decorative towels can enhance the look of your bathroom.

6. Cost

Find the right balance of quality and price when selecting towels. Compare costs of various materials and features.

Keep these factors in mind as you evaluate towels to find the right fit. Prioritize the elements most important to you.

Caring for Towels to Extend Their Lifespan

Proper care and maintenance helps towels last longer and retain their softness and absorbency. Here are useful care tips:


  • Wash in cold water to preserve color and fabric integrity. Use cold water washes for delicate towels and fabrics like linen, bamboo, and brightly colored towels. Cold water is gentler on fibers and helps dyes stay vibrant.
  • Do occasional hot water wash cycles for heavily used towels to sanitize them. Hot water helps remove body oil, bacteria, and residue that can build up on towels over time.
  • Use a mild detergent and avoid fabric softener which can reduce absorbency.
  • Wash similar colors together since dye may bleed initially.


  • Dry towels completely to prevent mildew growth.
  • Use low heat to avoid shrinking or damaging the fibers.
  • Hang towels on a clothesline or drying rack in a well-ventilated area.
  • Shake towels occasionally to help them dry faster.
white towel hanging on a drying rack


  • Store towels in a cool, dry place. Heat and humidity can damage fibers over time.
  • If possible, store towels in a linen closet or cabinet rather than piled in the open. This protects from dust and debris.
  • Regularly wash and replace hand towels to minimize bacterial growth.


  • Periodically wash towels in hot water to kill bacteria.
  • Replace frequently used kitchen and hand towels every 6-12 months.
  • Wash gym and bath towels weekly to prevent odors and growth of germs.
  • Use white vinegar in the rinse cycle to naturally disinfect towels.

With the proper washing, drying, storage and sanitizing practices, you can extend the lifespan of your towels and maintain their quality.

Tips for Choosing the Best Towels

Follow these tips when selecting towels for your home:

  • For bath and beach towels, chose soft, absorbent options like Egyptian or Turkish cotton.
  • Look for durable, lint-free microfiber for gym and cleaning towels.
  • Pick quick-drying, blended material kitchen towels that withstand messes.
  • Select the right towel sizes and weights for their intended purpose.
  • Consider aesthetics like colors and patterns that match your decor.
  • Care for towels properly by washing, drying, and storing them with best practices.


Choosing the right towel for different purposes is crucial due to the wide range of options in terms of types, materials, and uses. When picking a towel, the most important factor is how well it absorbs moisture. Other things to consider include how durable, soft, and aesthetically pleasing the towel is, as well as its size.

Taking good care of your towels also ensures they last longer and remain effective.

Additional Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

How many types of towels are there?

There are several types of towels, each serving different purposes. Common types include bath towels, hand towels, face towels (washcloths), gym towels, foot towels, paper towels, beach towels, and kitchen towels.

What type of towel is best for drying?

The best towel for drying depends on the purpose. For general use after bathing or swimming, opt for large and absorbent bath towels made of materials like cotton or microfiber. For intense workouts, gym towels with fast-drying materials work well.

How do I choose a towel?

Consider factors like absorbency, durability, softness, size, weight, aesthetics, and cost when choosing a towel. Select materials such as cotton, microfiber, or bamboo based on your preferences and intended use. Pay attention to care instructions for longevity.

What is GSM in a towel?

GSM stands for “grams per square meter” and it measures the density of the towel. Higher GSM indicates a thicker and more absorbent towel. For example, bath towels typically have a higher GSM than gym towels. Choose the GSM based on your desired level of thickness.


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