Terry Cloth vs. Microfiber Towels: Key Differences & Best Uses

Terry cloth and microfiber towels both have legitimate uses in many business applications. Terry cloth is highly absorbent, affordable and luxuriantly soft. Microfiber is hypoallergenic and can be an excellent material for use on sensitive surfaces such as glass. Both materials also come in many varieties, so a company can target the qualities it most wants in a towel.

The Basics of Terry Cloth Towels

The term terry cloth refers to a broad group of fabrics that can be made of a variety of materials at several weights, making it sometimes difficult to discuss because one type of terry cloth can have different properties than another. One universal trait of different types of terry cloth is the tiny loops that cover the material, helping make the cloth feel soft and keeping it absorbent. It is a common material for use in towels.


Terry cloth tends to be durable. It is generally made from cotton and sometimes also infused with silk, linen or polyester fibers. This material is highly absorbent, generally able to soak up over 20 times its weight in water; therefore, it frequently serves as the primary towel material in towels for washing or drying surfaces or keeping a user dry, such as a baby’s bib.


Terry cloth is made of cotton. Although cotton can be grown sustainably, it generally isn’t. Typical cotton production processes involve significant amounts of water, fertilizers and pesticides, causing major soil erosion and pollution problems worldwide. However, it’s possible to greatly reduce the environmental impact of cotton if it’s properly sourced using green practices, reducing its environmental impact. 

One way a company can confirm whether a source is using green practices is to inquire as to whether the source is part of the Better Cotton Initiative. This is a program that focuses on companies producing cotton under the Better Cotton Standard, a set of guidelines that make cotton production more ethical and sustainable. 

The Basics of Microfiber Towels

Microfiber towels are made of synthetic fibers. Microfibers are thin, measuring about one-fifth the width of a human hair. Typically, these fibers are made of polyester, but they may also be mixed with nylon to make them more water-repellent and strengthen the material. Less commonly, these fibers can be made from rayon, which gives them a silky quality. 


Microfiber towels can have a variety of qualities similar to terry cloth in variety of material, depending on the specific substances and methods used to create it. It can be especially strong, soft, water-absorbent or water-repellent. One major benefit of microfiber towels is that they are lint-free and tend to be effective at removing dirt from surfaces.

Microfiber towels can dry quickly and are less mildew-prone than traditional cotton towels. Microfiber is also hypoallergenic and unlikely to damage sensitive surfaces such as glass or some electronic devices.


Microfiber needs to dry with some care because high temperatures can cause it to melt. If this occurs, the damage is typically permanent, locking in wrinkles and potentially making the towel unusable. 

As with any material using polyester, microfiber production and use raises some significant environmental concerns, including potentially introducing microplastics into nearby water sources — the exact cost of which still isn’t understood. Polyester also involves the use of nonrenewable materials, notably petroleum. Although it’s possible to produce biodegradable polyester, this isn’t typical. 

Choosing the Right Option for Your Company

Whether microfiber or terry cloth towels might best serve your company’s needs is a question with no single right answer. Complicating the question further is the diversity of materials. To find an option that works for your needs, you will need to identify what you’re looking for in your towels. Terry cloth towels are potentially highly absorbent, but so are microfiber towels. One unique advantage of microfiber towels is their hypoallergenic quality, but this is arguably offset by the significant environmental concerns regarding their production. 

If you’re interested in this topic, we’ve written more broadly on the differences between microfiber and cotton towels in the past. If you’re debating whether to choose microfiber or terry cloth towels, our article will also help you decide whether other types of cotton towels might also serve your needs.

Rent Towels From Alsco

Both terry cloth and microfiber towels can serve a business well. Many businesses benefit from having a mix of both types of towels, allowing them to best use the benefits of both materials. At the very least, a business will want to have a hypoallergenic option available for clients or employees who cannot use cotton-based towels.

If you’d like help equipping your company with towels, consider using Alsco. Through our rental services, your company can obtain towels, washcloths, napkins and more. 

With over 130 years of experience, we at Alsco deliver high-quality items to customers quickly and efficiently while staying green, with a sophisticated laundering system that cleans better with less chemical waste and water usage. We’re happy to discuss how we can best fulfill your company’s needs. Contact us today to learn more.


Cotton. WWF.

Our Manifesto. Better Cotton.

What Is Microfiber? (July 2023). The Spruce.

What is Terry Cloth? (Materials, Colors & Projects). (August 2019). Shannon Fabrics.

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