Towels: Microfiber or Cotton?

 We recommend microfiber towels over cotton for one big reason.


These are made of plastic derivatives, polyester nylon: this means it’s a bit more durable. They are highly manufactured tiny fibers (hence the “micro”): a lot of production goes into microfiber towels, from the production of the plastic to the creating the mini thread like structures. This means a big surface area to absorb moisture.

  • (+) Highly absorbent: Because of how it’s made, there are a lot of fibers to take in moisture. This is why microfiber cloths are used when wiping surfaces. On your skin, it will work better than cotton: often you can get almost completely dry with a microfiber.
  • (+) Easy to wring out and quick drying: Microfibers are moisture-wicking fabrics, which is a funny property, because how can something be so good at absorbing, while not retaining it? Apparently, the absorbency comes from the structure and shape of the material (think of how stems are thin tubes that can draw water up), drawing moisture into the spaces between the material. At the same time, the material itself is hydrophobic, so moisture isn’t drawn into the material itself. This means that by just wringing the material or drying it out with a source of heat, the towel will give up the moisture easily.
  • (-) Has a clingy feel to it: This is the negative to how highly absorbent it is: the same fibers will cling to your skin, and it’s not very breathable. This can feel very different cotton, and might be uncomfortable for some.
  • (-) Will gather a lot of lint: Another negative to being absorbent, when washed with other fabrics, it will likely come out with a lot of lint.
  • (-) Not environmentally friendly: A big consideration, but because you are creating a plastic derivative that is meant to be durable, this will likely stick around after its use.


It is a natural resource. As we all know, cotton is found in nature, and most of the production that goes into cotton towels is the weaving and the dyeing. Cotton as a material is known for its softness, and this is why it’s used for sheets and clothes.

  • (+) Soft: This is what it is known for, and really cotton feels comfortable to the skin.
  • (+) Breathable: It’s also very breathable, as opposed to the microfiber experience which can feel like a very “closed” fabric.
  • (-) Lower absorbency: One big downside however is that it has low absorbency. This is actually why some towels are so big: you need more fabric to absorb more water. You can feel as you saturate the towel with moisture, after which it won’t dry you as much.
  • (-) Gets heavy and hangs on to moisture: Continuing its low absorbency, it gets heavy, and when you have a towel that is woven thickly so it can absorb more, you’ll also experience how it’s difficult to wring out.


  • In general, microfiber is the way to go.
  • But go for cotton if comfort is big priority. I’ll be the first to admit that microfiber towels aren’t as soft as cotton.

However, if you consider that you only use your cotton to dry yourself (you’re not wearing it), microfiber is the way to go. Basta sa Bahay suggests this for one big reason: towels need to be changed quite often. Though I find it a bit extreme, the suggestion is for you to change your towels after 4 uses. This is because towels will always end up with dead skin, and because they will be moist, can be prone to yeasts, bacteria, molds and viruses. Because microfibers dry quicker, they’re slower to end up with these unwanted.

Towels will always need special care when laundered. You want to separate them from loads that use fabric softener (the softener puts ingredients on top of fabrics that counteract absorbency). To be transparent, microfibers have the extra care that they should not be washed with lint-producing fabrics and should not be washed in hot water. But, tipping in favor of microfibers, cotton towels are difficult to launder as they get heavy and retain water. Microfibers can be wrung easily and dry out quicker. Basta sa Bahay suggests to separate your towel loads so they can be cleaned more often. These loads will be easier with microfibers.

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