Hand Towel vs. Washcloth: What Is the Difference?

sanitise towels

When it comes to personal hygiene and maintaining cleanliness, the right choice of towels can make a significant difference. Two common types of towels used for personal care are hand towels and washcloths.

While they may seem similar in purpose, they serve distinct functions and come with their unique characteristics. In this article, we’ll explore the differences between hand sanitation towels and washcloths and discuss their various uses.

What is a Hand Towel?

A hand towel is a relatively small and rectangular piece of fabric, typically made of cotton or a cotton blend. It’s designed to be used for drying your hands after washing them.

Hand towels come in various sizes, but they are generally larger than washcloths and smaller than bath towels.

Uses of Hand Towels:

  • Hand Drying: As the name suggests, the primary purpose of a hand towel is to dry your hands after washing them. They are often placed near sinks in bathrooms and kitchens for easy access.
  • Guest Towel: Hand towels are frequently used as guest towels in bathrooms. They provide a clean and convenient way for guests to dry their hands.
  • Kitchen Towel: In the kitchen, hand towels can serve as utility towels for wiping hands, drying dishes, or handling hot pots and pans.
  • Decorative: Hand towels can also be used for decorative purposes, adding a touch of color and style to your bathroom or kitchen. They come in a wide range of colors and patterns to complement your décor.
  • Travel Towel: Their compact size makes hand towels suitable for travel. You can use them in hotel rooms, at the gym, or while camping.

What is a Washcloth?

A washcloth, also known as a facecloth or flannel, is a smaller piece of fabric, usually square, and made of materials like cotton, terry cloth, or microfiber. Its purpose is primarily for personal hygiene and cleansing the body.

Uses of Washcloths:

  • Bathing: The most common use of a washcloth is during bathing or showering. It is used to apply soap or body wash to the skin, helping to cleanse and exfoliate. The texture of a washcloth can aid in removing dead skin cells and debris.
  • Facial Cleansing: A softer and gentler version of a washcloth, often made from microfiber or bamboo, is used for facial cleansing. It helps remove makeup, dirt, and impurities from the face without being too harsh on the skin.
  • Baby Care: Washcloths are widely used in baby care. They are gentle on a baby’s sensitive skin and can be used for bathing, wiping, or as burp cloths.
  • Makeup Removal: Many individuals use washcloths to remove makeup and cleanse their face at the end of the day. They are a sustainable alternative to disposable makeup wipes.
  • First Aid: In first aid situations, washcloths can be used to clean wounds or apply cold compresses to reduce swelling.

Hand Towel vs Washcloth – Differences between Hand Towels and Washcloths

Now that we’ve explored the uses of both hand towels and washcloths, let’s highlight the key differences between the two:

1. Size and Shape

  • Hand towels are typically larger and rectangular in shape. They are designed to comfortably dry your hands and can be folded neatly on towel bars or racks.
  • Washcloths are smaller and square or nearly square in shape. Their size is ideal for focused cleansing and scrubbing, such as during bathing or facial care.

2. Material and Texture

  • Hand towels are often made of absorbent cotton or cotton blends. They are designed to be soft and gentle on the skin, making them suitable for hand drying and general use.
  • Washcloths come in various materials, including cotton, terry cloth, microfiber, and bamboo. They can vary in texture, with some designed to be soft and others more textured for exfoliation.

3. Primary Use

  • The primary purpose of a hand towel is hand drying, though it has versatile applications, including kitchen use and as a guest towel.
  • The primary purpose of a washcloth is personal hygiene and cleansing, particularly during bathing or facial care. They are designed for direct contact with the skin.

4. Hygiene Considerations

  • Hand towels are used by multiple individuals for hand drying. Consequently, they may require more frequent washing to maintain cleanliness and hygiene.
  • Washcloths are typically used by one person for personal cleansing, making them a more hygienic choice. However, they should also be laundered regularly.

Choosing Between Hand Towel vs Washcloth

The choice between a hand towel vs washcloth depends on your specific needs and preferences:

  • For Hand Drying: If your primary need is for hand drying in bathrooms or kitchens, hand towels are the appropriate choice due to their larger size and absorbent properties.
  • For Personal Hygiene: For personal cleansing during baths, showers, or facial care, washcloths are essential. Their smaller size and textured surface make them effective for cleaning and exfoliating the skin.
  • For Multi-Purpose Use: If you’re looking for a versatile towel that can serve various purposes, consider having both hand towels and washcloths in your household. Hand towels can be used for hand drying, while washcloths are excellent for personal hygiene and other tasks.
  • For Decorative Purposes: Hand towels often come in decorative designs and colors, making them an attractive addition to bathrooms and kitchens. If you want to add a decorative touch, opt for hand towels.


In summary, hand towels and washcloths may appear similar at first glance, but they serve distinct purposes and have different characteristics. Hand towels are primarily used for hand drying and have a larger size, while washcloths are designed for personal hygiene, bathing, and facial care.

Both types of towels play essential roles in maintaining cleanliness and personal care, and the choice between them depends on your specific needs and preferences.

Whether you’re reaching for a hand towel after washing your hands or using a soft washcloth during your daily skincare routine, these humble towels are essential tools for daily hygiene and comfort.

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