What is a Hand Towel?

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

A hand towel is a smaller towel used specifically to dry the hands and face. As with bath towels, these small towels are often made of cotton-based terrycloth for extra absorbency. Hand towels are also sometimes used as decorative accents in the bathroom.

Colored hand towels.
Colored hand towels.

Among the various types of towels, the hand towel is probably the second most commonly used towel around the home. Second only to the bath towel, the hand towel is often positioned near the sink in the bathroom. This makes it possible for people to quickly dry their hands after washing them in the basin. The towel is also often a favorite item for men, as the small size makes it easy to use while shaving.

Hand towels are intended specifically to dry the hands and face.
Hand towels are intended specifically to dry the hands and face.

Just like the larger bath towel, the hand towel is available in a wide range of colors, textures, and designs. It is possible to purchase solid colored towels that contain a high thread count. These versions are normally highly absorbent and thick to the touch. Sculpted towels add a bit of visual interest to the towel while still serving a practical purpose. For people who like a lot of color, it is possible to buy hand towels that are striped or utilize several colors in some type of pattern.

In addition to the hand towel intended for everyday use, there are also special towels that are referred to as guest towels. These small towels are often embroidered or otherwise adorned in some manner to enhance appearance. While the name implies that these towels are intended for use by guests to the home, they are more commonly thought of as a decorative touch. Since this can sometimes be confusing for guests, people who display these towels as part of the décor usually place a solid color hand towel on the lavatory next to the basin as a hint of which towel to use.

Finding practical or decorative hand towels is not a difficult task. Generally, the prices will range from inexpensive and relatively thin towel selections to thicker and more absorbent towels that cost a great deal more. Most discount retail stores with a home goods section will carry a wide range of colors and textures to choose from. Textile outlets often sell towel sets that include a matching bath towel and hand towel. High end decorating boutiques will often provide several styles for the more decorative guest towels, although anyone with sewing skills can save money by purchasing plain towels and adding their own personal touches to create a unique guest towel.

Malcolm Tatum
Malcolm Tatum

After many years in the teleconferencing industry, Michael decided to embrace his passion for trivia, research, and writing by becoming a full-time freelance writer. Since then, he has contributed articles to a variety of print and online publications, including wiseGEEK, and his work has also appeared in poetry collections, devotional anthologies, and several newspapers. Malcolm’s other interests include collecting vinyl records, minor league baseball, and cycling.

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Discussion Comments


I used to have all white hand towels before but after realizing that they get stained easily and are difficult to clean, I've been getting colored ones.

They even have black ones for removing makeup and oil or dirt from hands. Technically, hand towels should be washed very frequently, but not after a single use right? I certainly don't have enough of them to wash them that frequently. I will usually use one for at least five days before I get a new one out.


@turkay1-- Of course, people do that all the time. A bathroom hand towel is actually very good for exfoliation because of its texture. It's soft but it still manages to exfoliate and clean skin. My mom uses a hand towel to exfoliate in the shower.

I don't exfoliate with a hand towel but I do use one to open my pores before cleaning my face. I wet a hand towel with hot water and keep it on my face for a while. It opens up the pores to get the dirt out.


Is it okay to use a cotton hand towel to exfoliate my face?

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