10 uses for the humble face cloth: life hacks in old age

Photo of terrycloth facecloths in a basket. Well worn, random colours. Useful.
Domestic comfort: I know at least 10 uses for these face cloths. (And I love this photo.)

When my children clear out my home one day, they will roll their eyes and ask, “Why did she have so many face cloths?” Old ones, new ones, ragged ones, hard ones, soft ones. In the bathroom, kitchen and linen cupboard. By face cloths I mean terry towelling squares about 13 inches or 33cm square. There’s a reason, of course. Indeed, I know at least 10 ways to use the humble face cloth.

Face cloths remind me of my childhood. Having my face wiped clean of jam or ice-cream by a careful parent. Being looked after.

Face cloths are both cuddly and tough. It’s a good relationship.

10 ways to use the humble face cloth

  1. for washing the face, obviously
  2. for warming eyelids before massaging them
  3. for drying the face
  4. for drying the entire body after a shower
  5. as bath towels when travelling or swimming or whatever
  6. as table napkins: visitors often avoid using table napkins to spare me the trouble of ironing them
  7. as cleaning rags: old face cloths live on for years
  8. for cooling the head in hot weather: drape a damp face cloth over your head, and it cools by evaporation
  9. for wiping hands before dinner: a damp rolled up face cloth
  10. for covering your cell phone when you’re trying to sleep

And one more—as a soap stand: put soap on a folded face cloth instead of a dish.

O thou face cloth, so ubiquitous, so cheap

I can’t resist a face cloth sale. Stores sell more towels than face cloths, I presume, so there’s often a bin of one dollar face cloths. Random colours, end-of-line items. Just the ticket.

Similarly, I often stock up on hand towels. The usual size in Aotearoa is around 15″x 27″ or 38cm x 70cm.

Hotels ask us to save the environment by re-using yesterday’s big, thick, soggy towel. I use a small hand towel or even a face cloth. Nobody’s looking at my dear old body in the bathroom, so modesty is a non-issue. And I like the economy, the achievement of this practice.

Made in Japan: tiny towels and tidy habits

I acquired these efficient habits when I lived in Japan. Every laundry stand on every balcony featured multiple narrow, thin white terry towels. My friends used the same type of towels for everything—drying themselves after a bath or shower, cleaning windows, drying dishes, wiping the bench and cleaning floors. One small towel does the job then goes straight into the wash. This made me think how unnecessarily complicated my Western attitude to towels was. Why did I need a huge fluffy warm towel to dab drops of water off my skin? Because? Marketing and consumerism at work?

Naturally I still give my guests a bath towel, but personally, I’m over it.

The glorious Japanese exfoliating back washer

A long, vivid blue woven nylon cloth hanging from a bath tap.
In the bath or shower nothing beats the feeling of a Japanese or Korean exfoliating wash cloth

Ahhhh… Grab both ends and stretch one of these ingenious cloths and rub it over your skin from top to toe. Their texture ranges from soft to scouring, and I prefer the hardcore “men’s” version. The shape means you can give yourself an amazing back rub. The cloth is usually a semi-sadistic mix of nylon and polyester. For me, one of these exfoliating scrubbers transforms a bathroom into a spa.

I first saw women using them in public baths in Kyoto, 1991. “What are they? Why are they?” I asked my friends. Soon I was kitted out with the first of many, and baths and showers have never been the same since.

I couldn’t care less about exfoliating my skin: but I sure love that delicious feeling.

I suspect you have more than 10 uses for face cloths. What are they? Please tell us by commenting below.

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Psst. I’d love a $5 cup of coffee?

15 thoughts on “10 uses for the humble face cloth: life hacks in old age

  1. You forgot one extra use…. it’s the perfect mobile hand-towel in your hand-bag, when there’s no paper towels or working blow-drier in the ‘powder room’.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Sure is, in my big yellow bag or useful day pack. But a bit bulky for my tiny shoulder bags.

  2. Good list! I’m not a big bath towel person, either. They take forever to dry. I’d add to your list: Stick one under the dish you put on the floor for your dog to lick clean. It keeps the dish from scooching all around the room (hmm, I admit that would depend on the type of floor you have).

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s clever! If I had a dog.

  3. I have failed this post. I never use face cloths.

    I always lived in very humid places, with never enough room for a face cloth to dry. After a day, or maybe two, the cloth would smell stale. In another few hours mildew would appear.

  4. Irene Olson says:

    I lived in Hawaii for many years and always used the exfoliating scrubber. I purchase same from my local retail outfit and use it daily. Love your take on the lowly face cloth!!!

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      That’s one job where the face cloth does not shine.

  5. haoyando says:

    Hahaha, I do #4 with the humble face cloth. It’s wonderful. I am going to go get a “exfoliating wash cloth” this weekend. I think I saw one of them in TJ Maxx before.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Enjoy! How did I survive for 50+ years without one?

  6. A dry steam of the face, or a wet steam to open up the pores and cleanse. Bliss!
    Perfect window and mirror cleaners.
    Dusting behind radiators.
    There is no end to their uses.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Thanks for topping up my list.

  7. Cathy Cade says:

    I discovered – more years ago than I care to admit to – that babies’ nappies (not disposable then – yes THAT old!) were great for cleaning windows. Since I ran out of those some decades ago, the nearest thing I’ve found since is those old, frayed face cloths.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      I’m glad to know they are still being valued in their old age

  8. I use face cloths for laying newly washed brushes and combs on to dry, and for drying spectacles lenses too.

    1. Rachel McAlpine says:

      Spot on. So versatile.

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