Sweat it Out: How to Choose a Workout Towel

The fitness industry continues to grow every year because people understand that working out is vital to their health.

As of 2018, 20% of all adults in the U.S. had a gym membership. Other people get their exercise via a myriad of sports, 

The Center for Disease Prevention and Health recommends that adults get 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity each week as well as muscle strength training twice a week.

While it may seem like it plays a small part in your quest to be healthier, having a workout towel that works with you as your ally is important. No one wants to work out just to end up sick.

Read on to learn more. 

What to Look for in a Workout Towel

The best gym towel needs to do more than just a normal bath towel since it won’t simply be drying you off. You won’t be using it after a shower when you’re clean. You’ll be using it when you’re hot and sweaty around other people who are hot and sweaty.

A sports towel is used again and again while you’re working out. It’s constantly being picked up and put down. So you need one that is built for that kind of use.

Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping.

Absorbency and Fast Drying

When you’re at the gym, your towel will be performing double-duty. Not only will you be using it to wipe your face, hands or other body parts, but you’ll also need it to wipe down any moisture left behind by the person who last used the machine or equipment.

You need a towel that is very absorbent but also made of materials that dry quickly. Because a wet towel is the perfect environment for germs or bacteria to grow on, which can make your towel smell or make you sick, or both.

Finding the right balance between absorbency and dry time can be tricky.

Heavier towels tend to absorb better, but they cost more and don’t dry quickly enough. 

Towels that are too thin dry quicker, but they are not as durable and don’t stand up well to their use at the gym and repeated trips through the washer and dryer.

Pro tips: Fabric softeners can make your towel less absorbent, but vinegar added to your rinse cycle every few weeks can restore some absorbency.


Closely related to the issue above, choosing a towel that is not too big or too small will play a part in whether it will provide enough absorbency and dry time.

You’ll want a towel long enough to keep your skin and hair off a bench when you need to lie down on a bench press.

Also, keep in mind that your gym towel will need to be washed after each use. So by keeping your towel size down, it will fit easier into your gym bag and take up less space in your washer. Because of this, 16 inches by 27 or 28 inches is a common size for workout towels.  


While color itself can be more of a personal choice when selecting your gym towel, there are some options that may make particular colors a better selection. 

White towels have the advantage of being able to be bleached and washed in hotter temperatures without fear of fading the color. Both bleach and heat will help kill germs and odors. But white towels do not hide dirt picked up off skin and equipment, which can be unsightly to you and those around you.

Black towels have the advantage of hiding dirt and wetness in general, but they will fade quickly after repeated washings, especially in hot water or bleach.

Another option is finding a towel that is a different color on each side. This will allow you to use one color for putting against your own skin and the other color for other things, like wiping down equipment and machines.

According to the Center for Disease Control, some germs such as MRSA can survive on gym equipment for hours. Information like this makes it even more important to know which side of your towel has come into more direct contact with other people’s residue.


When you’re working out, the decision on where to put your towel down is always a tough decision. Sure, you can drape it over the same bar or spot everyone else does, but when you do that, you also pick up any germs and sweat left behind. 

By choosing a towel that includes a powerful magnet in a corner, you can then stick your towel on a less-used spot on the machines. Check out this towel to see a visual demonstration.

Further, by hanging your towel up by just the corner rather than draping it over a bar or piling it up somewhere, your towel will be exposed to more air, allowing it to release more moisture and odors in between each use.

Make Your Towel Your Workout Ally

No matter what workout towel you end up buying and taking with you to work out, be sure to do the following to make your towel your ally, not your foe:

  • Wash your towel after each trip to the gym to rid it of bacteria, odors, fungi, and mold
  • Occasionally dry your towel outside and let the sun’s UV rays perform their germ-killing magic
  • Pay attention to where you place your towel on the way to the gym, at the gym, and on the way home to avoid cross-contamination

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