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Washcloth vs. Towel — What's the Difference?

Edited by Tayyaba Rehman — By Urooj Arif — Updated on March 7, 2024
A washcloth is a small, absorbent cloth used for washing the body, while a towel is larger and used for drying the body or objects. Washcloths are for cleansing, whereas towels serve to dry.
Washcloth vs. Towel — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Washcloth and Towel


Key Differences

Washcloths are designed for personal hygiene, effectively cleansing the skin by removing dirt and exfoliating. They are typically made from materials like cotton or microfiber, which are gentle on the skin. In contrast, towels are made for drying and come in various sizes, including bath, hand, and beach towels, made from materials like cotton, linen, or bamboo fibers, known for their absorbency and softness.
The size of a washcloth is usually around 12x12 inches, making it perfect for targeted cleaning and easy manipulation with one hand. Towels, on the other hand, vary greatly in size depending on their purpose, with bath towels being significantly larger to wrap around the body, hand towels smaller for drying hands, and beach towels even larger to lie on or wrap around the body.
Washcloths can be used with soap or body wash to create a lather for effective cleansing, offering a gentle exfoliation process during use. Towels do not typically come into contact with soap directly; their primary function is to pat or rub the skin dry after washing, without the need for additional cleansing agents.
In terms of maintenance, washcloths require more frequent washing due to their direct use in cleansing and potential to harbor bacteria and skin cells. Towels, while also needing regular laundering, can often be used several times before washing, especially if they are hung up to dry between uses and do not become soiled.
While both are essential in daily hygiene routines, washcloths offer a more thorough cleansing by allowing for gentle scrubbing and exfoliation, whereas towels provide comfort and efficiency in drying, highlighting their complementary roles in personal care.

Comparison Chart


Small (typically around 12x12 inches)
Varies (larger, depending on type)


Cotton, microfiber
Cotton, linen, bamboo fibers

Primary Use

Cleansing and exfoliating the skin
Drying the body or objects

Frequency of Washing

After each use or daily
Can be used several times before washing


Often textured for better scrubbing
Soft, designed for absorbency and comfort

Compare with Definitions


Designed for personal hygiene, often used in the shower or bath.
He packed a washcloth for his gym shower.


A piece of absorbent fabric used for drying the body or hands.
She wrapped herself in a towel after her bath.


A small cloth used for washing the face and body.
She used a soft washcloth to gently cleanse her face.


Can be decorative, matching bathroom decor or personal style.
The towels were embroidered with a floral design for a personal touch.


Requires frequent laundering due to direct contact with skin.
She laundered her washcloths after each use to keep them clean.


Comes in various sizes, including bath, hand, and beach towels.
He hung the hand towels next to the sink.


Commonly made from absorbent materials like cotton.
The cotton washcloth absorbed the soap well for a rich lather.


Essential for drying off after washing or swimming.
They brought extra towels for the beach day.


Suitable for gentle exfoliation of the skin.
Using a washcloth helps remove skin cells.


Typically made from materials like cotton or bamboo fibers.
The bamboo fiber towel was incredibly soft and absorbent.


A small, usually square cloth of absorbent material used for washing the face or body. Also called facecloth, washrag.


A towel is a piece of absorbent fabric or paper used for drying or wiping a body or a surface. It draws moisture through direct contact.


A small cloth used to wash the face and body.


A piece of thick absorbent cloth or paper used for drying oneself or wiping things dry
A paper towel
A bath towel


Bath linen consisting of a piece of cloth used to wash the face and body


A sanitary towel.


Wipe or dry with a towel
She towelled her hair dry


Thrash or beat (someone)
They've dragged her off the bus and towelled her up


A piece of absorbent cloth or paper used for wiping or drying.


To wipe or rub dry with a towel.


To dry oneself with a towel.


A cloth used for wiping, especially one used for drying anything wet, such as a person after a bath.


To hit with a towel.


To dry by using a towel.
He got out of the shower and toweled himself dry.


(transitive) To block up (a door, etc.) with a towel, to conceal the fumes of a recreational drug.


To beat with a stick, or "oaken towel".


A cloth used for wiping, especially one used for drying anything wet, as the person after a bath.


To beat with a stick.


A rectangular piece of absorbent cloth (or paper) for drying or wiping


Wipe with a towel;
Towel your hair dry

Common Curiosities

Can washcloths be used to remove makeup?

Yes, washcloths can effectively remove makeup, especially when used with a suitable cleanser.

Can washcloths be used in the kitchen?

Yes, but it's best to keep separate washcloths for the kitchen and bathroom for hygiene reasons.

Can towels be used as bath mats?

In a pinch, yes, but bath mats are designed to be more absorbent and have a non-slip backing for safety.

Can I use a towel to exfoliate my skin?

While towels can provide mild exfoliation, washcloths are better suited for targeted skin exfoliation.

How can I prevent my towels from smelling musty?

Ensure towels are fully dried between uses and launder them regularly.

Are there eco-friendly options for towels and washcloths?

Yes, look for products made from organic cotton, bamboo, or recycled materials.

How often should towels be washed?

Towels should be washed every 3-4 uses, or more frequently if they remain damp or develop an odor.

Are there specific washcloths for the face?

Yes, facial washcloths are softer and often made from materials like microfiber for gentle cleansing.

Is it better to air-dry or use a towel after a shower?

Towel-drying is more efficient, but air-drying can be gentler on the skin for those with sensitive skin.

Why do some washcloths have different textures on each side?

One side is for gentle cleansing, while the textured side is for exfoliating.

Can I bleach my towels and washcloths?

White ones can be bleached to remove stains and kill bacteria, but avoid bleaching colored fabrics.

Are bamboo towels more absorbent than cotton?

Bamboo towels are highly absorbent and quick-drying, making them a great alternative to cotton.

How can I make my towels softer?

Use vinegar in the wash cycle or tumble dry with dryer balls to maintain softness.

Is it necessary to use fabric softener on towels?

It's not recommended, as fabric softener can reduce a towel's absorbency over time.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Urooj Arif
Urooj is a skilled content writer at Ask Difference, known for her exceptional ability to simplify complex topics into engaging and informative content. With a passion for research and a flair for clear, concise writing, she consistently delivers articles that resonate with our diverse audience.
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.

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