Men don’t get towels. We just don’t.
As we’ve discussed previously, guys generally have one towel, or at most two. There’s the bath towel, i.e., the one we use to dry off after the shower and mop our hair, arms, legs, butts, balls, faces and every other square inch of our bodies with little regard for cross contamination. And for fancy dudes, there may also be a hand towel, which, as you may have gathered, is for drying our hands after we wash them (assuming we wash them at all).
This is why we’re so confused by the towel habits of new girlfriends, and why we end up making so many mistakes in regards to their towels — especially when we move in together. For me personally, I’ve been messing up my wife’s towel situation for 12 years now, and I’m no closer to figuring things out. But in the name of personal growth, and for the sake of my fellow man, I recently embarked on a journey to understand all these towels.
Here’s what I learned…
Hand Towel: For hand-wipin’.
Bath Towel(s): Usually there’s two of these for women — one for the body and one for the hair, but sometimes there’s just one and they let their hair air-dry. Sometimes these two are the exact same kind of towel, and sometimes the hair towel is a little smaller and more plush.
Floor Towel: It seems most people use bath mats in the home, but some use a floor towel like you’d find in a hotel — their material is a bit rougher.
Washcloth: Those little square ones. Sometimes they’re for washing in the shower and sometimes they’re for the face for like, makeup removal purposes, etc.
Guest Towels: For guests, even if they never have guests.
Decorative Towels: Not all women have these, but for those that do, there are two different kinds: Decorative towels you can use, and decorative towels you definitely can’t use, ever. Determining the difference without asking is nearly impossible.
But of course it’s not that simple. Each woman has their own system: Some have more towels than this, some have less. In an attempt to understand the true intricacies of these towel situations, I asked a whole bunch of (presumably very clean) women to help me understand their towels.
Yolanda, 55: In the master bathroom I have three towels that I use — one bath towel to dry my body, another one for my hair and a hand towel to dry my hands. In the other bathroom, I have just the one decorative towel and two smaller hand towels for when I have guests and they want to dry their hands. I replace those when they leave, but I also have paper towels if they prefer those.
For the decorative one, you can tell it’s decorative because there’s a pop of color and the material isn’t that absorbent, but it looks nice. Around Christmas, it may have Santa Claus on it. Females always know when it’s a decorative towel, but if it’s a male coming over, they’ll end up using it and I know to wash it afterward. Girls always know when someone has used their decorative towel, and you know how we know? Because it’s moved. Because I know how I placed it, and if it’s a male that comes over, it always ends up crooked.
Nikki, 32: I have a bathroom hand towel, then there’s a shower towel for my body and another shower towel for my hair. Also, depending on whether or not it’s rained, I’ll have one for the dog so that he can be dried off and nothing else smells like wet dog. If guests are coming over, I put out other towels for them. They’re nicer than the ones I use; just something a little more plush and cushy, but still useable. I don’t do decorative towels — I think they’re pointless to have if you don’t use them.
Stacey, 39: Whenever I take a shower I usually use two bath towels, one to dry myself and wrap myself in, then another to wrap my hair in. I have a hand towel on one of those towel rings to dry your hands with, and I have a thing of paper towels for people who prefer not to use a hand towel in the ring. Sometimes when I have a barbecue or a lot of people over, I get a second towel and drape it over the sink and fold it up. That way they have the one on the ring, the paper towels and the extra towel to choose from, because if you have a lot of people over, those towels get wet pretty quickly, so I like to have lots of options.
I also have extra towels for guests. They’re different than the towels I use every day, which are a bit worn. The guest towels are just for when I have people over. Along with those I will give my guests a washcloth to shower with, however I don’t use washcloths on a regular basis myself.
Then I have decorative towels hanging on a rack. They’re layered, and there are five in all. There’s also a decorative towel draped over the back of the toilet with a candle holder on top of it. You don’t ever touch the decorative ones, they’re just for decoration. Some even have sequins on them so you literally can’t use them or they’ll cut your hands.[Fun fact: Stacey is my cousin, and she spent the rest of the phone call reminding me of the time I used her decorative towels, about a decade ago. I’ll let her take it from here.] You used one when you stayed over here one time. Whenever people stay over I let them know there are towels under the sink, but you didn’t listen to me that time, and you used my decorative towels to dry yourself off. Now I know that I have to set towels out for you on the sink if you ever stay over again.
Shoshanna, 30: For me personally, it’s going to be five towels I use regularly. Three of them are regular, bath-size towels; I use two to wrap around myself because one is not big enough. So I wrap one like a dress under my arms and the other like a skirt around my waist. I guess I wouldn’t have two if I had a robe, but I don’t have a robe. The third bath towel is for my hair, and then there’s a smaller one just for my face. I use a washcloth in the shower to bathe with. I don’t use loofahs because I feel like you can never get all the soap out of them.
I do have guest towels, but I don’t leave a hand towel out for everyone to use because it kind of gets gross, so I just leave paper towels in my bathroom for guests. I use the end of my bath towels for my own hands. That’s also how I grew up — the only hand towels my mom had in the bathroom were decorative, so they weren’t to be used. I don’t do decorative towels, though. I’m a millennial, I can’t afford that luxury.
Unique, 28: I have two that I use. One is a washcloth, and the other is for drying off. I let my hair air dry. I don’t use hand towels; instead I just use regular paper towels. If I have a guest, I’ll give them a bathroom towel and a hand towel, also their own washcloth to shower with.
Donna, 65: In my main bathroom I have two bath towels, a hand towel, and I also have holiday hand towels, like I have Easter hand towels and Christmas hand towels, depending on the time of year. They’re all usable, though — it’s fine if people use them. I have washcloths that I use for my face to take off my makeup at night. I also have the floor towel that you put down after you have a shower, like in a hotel. I don’t like bath rugs because they’re a pain in the neck. I also have beach towels and pool towels in my bathroom if we go swimming at the neighbor’s house.
When I have guests over, I put out all new towels because normally I just use plain white ones, and my husband goes in and out of the house all day and in the garden and he’s always messing up my towels. So when people come over, I put out clean towels because I never know where I’m going to find another towel that he’s used.
Kathy, 42: I have my two bath towels, one for my hair and one for my body, my washcloth that I use and I have one hand towel for normal use. My fiancé has his own bath towel; then there are what I call “display” or “guest” towels, which he isn’t allowed to use.
I have two display-or-guest bath towels, two display-or-guest hand towels, and two display-or-guest washcloths. They’re the pretty, more decorative ones that are color coordinated with the bathroom. I guess the guest towels are more decorative than anything else, though. If I had a guest, I’d say that those are your towels, but I’ve never had a guest use them because I’ve never really had a guest. So they’re really just decorative.
Jessica, 35: I’m not a fancy towel person at all. I have two towels — a shower towel for my body and then a towel for my hands. I’m more like a single man.
Sonja, 56: In my master bathroom, I have two hand towels to use for your hands and face, they’re on either side of the sink. I prefer the larger ones because I find that what people generally call hand towels to be so ridiculously small that they’re of no use whatsoever. I also use a face cloth every night so I have that on the rack on the sink. I use several of them every week so there’s a stack of them on the back of our soaking tub. My husband also uses those as like a handkerchief, so he’ll take one to bed at night to sneeze into or whatever, which I’ve never seen anyone else do before in my entire life, but okay.
For my body, I like the extra large bath towels, and I don’t mean just regular bath towels, I mean like the extra long ones you can get at Costco because they actually wrap around you. I also have a special hair towel that I use made of a fabric that will really absorb a lot of water — you wrap it around your head like a turban. This one is a bit smaller than a traditional bath towel, like between the size of a hand towel and a regular bath towel. I also have the towel that I lay on the floor to step on when I exit the shower. Then there’s my terrycloth bathrobe, which is like one huge towel.
I have decorative towels in the guest bath in the powder room on the ground floor. They’re slightly larger hand towels; they’re a bit more plush and they’re sometimes seasonal, so they may have a holiday wreath or a candy cane on them at Christmas time. I also have some that are monogrammed. I have a rotation of four or five sets of these that I use throughout the year. They’re intended to be used, though — I’m into what I call “functional art.”
But really, all of this is just the tip of the iceberg. We haven’t even gotten into all the kitchen towels I have.
Veronica, 43 (aka my wife): There’s a hand towel for my family to share, as well as paper towels in the bathroom. I also use a washcloth to exfoliate my face. Then there are two bath towels that are intended to be for me — one for my hair and one for my body — though I constantly find them with filthy toothpaste marks from my husband.
On the holidays I used to put out decorative towels and I was going to put them out this year, but I didn’t bother because they don’t stay decorative. They’re very pretty, but my husband ends up wiping his face on them and then they get wadded up and crammed in the bar rather than spread back out nicely. It’s not hard to just lay it back out nicely — my daughter does it and she’s four — but my husband just wads it up and crams it in there and then it’s a wrinkled, wet, mildewy mess. Which is why I just said “screw it” this past Christmas.