Best Cooling Towels

Updated October 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

18 Models Considered
5 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
139 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best cooling towels

Last Updated October 2019

It’s an age-old trick for beating the heat: soak a towel in cold water and put it around your neck before your workout, hike, or epic lawn-mowing chore. The only trouble is that the heat usually dries the fabric before your session is complete. For those who want to stay comfortable in the sun for long stretches of time, a cooling towel is the easiest solution.

Cooling towels are made from advanced fabrics that hold onto their moisture and cool feel much longer than traditional linens. You simply wet them, snap them in the air to activate, and they release a small cloud of cool for you to enjoy. Some manufacturers claim their products register 20º to 30º cooler than body temperature thanks to the process of evaporative cooling. Essentially, you feel cooler because liquid is evaporating near your body, removing some of the heat from your skin. Since these specially made towels stay wet longer, they keep the cooling process going, reducing your number of trips back to the sink.

Cooling towels are practical for athletes, landscapers, and just about anyone who lives where temperatures spike in the summer. They come in many different fabrics, colors, shapes, and sizes. To learn more, keep reading. If you’re ready to buy, consider one of our top recommendations.

The evaporative cooling process that makes cooling towels work actually uses the same principles and processes your body employs to cool itself when you sweat.

Key considerations

Materials

The biggest difference in cooling towels comes from the materials used to make them. Some are made to deliver a soft texture; others are manufactured with staying power in mind. The one that’s right for you depends on your intended use.

PVA

Cooling towels are most often made from polyvinyl acetate or PVA. This thick synthetic material is extremely absorbent and stays damp longer than other fabrics, so it’s preferable if you need to stay cool for several hours at a time. And if it does dry, you can simply wet it again, wave it, and start the process all over again.

Unless it’s completely soaked, PVA is dry to the touch and won’t get your clothes wet. Like most cooling towel fabrics, it’s machine washable. Unlike other fabrics, it has an unusual leathery feel when it’s wet and is very stiff when it’s dry. So it’s not the first choice for those who also want a soft texture for wiping sweat or cleaning their glasses.

Microfiber

If you are looking for a cooling towel with a soft, comfortable feel, you should look at microfiber towels. Microfiber towels are usually made from a polyester blend and feel more like bathroom towels than those made from PVA. They won’t get stiff when they dry, and they can be used for other functions besides cooling. Microfiber towels are machine washable, and, just like PVA towels, you can just wet them again when they get dry, provided you have access to water.

However, cooling towels made from microfiber won’t stay cool as long as those made from PVA. They’re better for short-term events where you need more versatility than a PVA towel may provide. They’re also more likely to transfer moisture to your clothing.

Cotton

A few manufacturers infuse terry cloth cotton towels with special oils or aloe to help them retain moisture longer. Other than that, they dry in a similar amount of time to a standard bath towel. These towels often ship premoistened in resealable bags and can be resoaked when they dry. This style is not as common as PVA and microfiber.

Combos

Some manufacturers try to give you the best of both worlds by combining PVA with microfiber or terry into a single towel. It’s challenging to weave these materials together, so these towels usually mix patches of PVA with patches of other materials. Some sections of the towel can be used to stay cool longer, while other portions can be used to wipe your brow or your phone screen.

DID YOU KNOW?

Since cooling towels use scientific principles, not chemicals, to cool you, you can wash them over and over and they will not wear out or lose their effectiveness.

Features

UV protection

Since heat and sun exposure often go hand in hand, some manufacturers make their cooling towels with UV-resistant material. This feature won’t mean much for the person who uses his towel at the gym, but it’s vitally important for those buying them for soccer games, mowing the lawn, or braving theme parks.

Storage case

Some towels come with their own storage case or bag. This can help prevent your cooling towel from getting mixed in with your other linens or getting lost in the back of a closet. If you use your case, though, make sure your towel is fully dry before storing it or it may mold.

Size

  • Extra-small towels are usually 15 to 20 inches long. They are best for children, pets, or wearing around your neck if you are small or slim.

  • Small towels often measure 30 to 35 inches long. These are great for adult necks, because you can move their placement for comfort as the towel dries and warms. This size can also be worn as a full head covering.

  • Medium towels are around 40 inches long. This size may be awkward for hanging around your neck but very convenient for tying around your waist.

  • Large (around 47 inches) and extra-large towels (around 60 inches) rival bath towels in size and can be used to drape your whole body if necessary. They may feel heavy, especially if they are made from PVA.

Cooling towel prices

Cooling towels vary a bit in price, depending upon the size and material. Many come in two-packs and some include as many as six in a set, which may affect the per-towel price point.

Inexpensive: You can find smaller microfiber cooling towels in multipacks for $3 to $4 per towel or sold individually for $7 to $8 per towel. At this price point, individual towels should come with a carrying bag but large multipacks may not. In a few cases, you may find multipacks of larger towels in this price range.

Mid-range: You can find towels made from either microfiber or PVA for around $10 per towel. At this price, towels will be small to medium in size and should come in some type of carrying bag with a carabiner clip. All towels in this price range should offer some sun protection as well.

Expensive: Prices for the most expensive cooling towels start at $15 per towel and sometimes climb higher, depending upon features and proprietary materials. Towels in this price range should be sized large or extra large and made from PVA. At this price, cooling towels should come with a bag, carabiner clip, and offer sun protection. Keep in mind that PVA towels this large may be a bit heavy for some.

EXPERT TIP

If you have a large household, buy a multipack of towels in several colors. That way, you’ll always know which towel belongs to which person.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

Many cooling towels bleed dye, so wash it by itself before using it. You may even want to wash it after you use it if it’s a dark color.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Do not put PVA towels in the freezer; the stiffer material can become brittle and break relatively easily.

  • If you sweat a lot while using your towel, rinse it frequently. The salt in your sweat can interfere with the evaporative cooling process.

  • Even if your towel arrived “damp,” make sure it’s dry before storing to avoid mold and mildew problems. Consider laying it flat to dry, especially if it’s made from thicker PVA, which tends to get stiff as it loses moisture.

  • Don’t fold or try to pull apart wrinkles in PVA towels when they’re dry — you risk damaging the towel.

  • Some cooling towels  — or their storage bags — are outfitted with carabiner clips, so they’re easier to carry.

  • Most cooling towels can be machine washed, but many can’t take the heat of the dryer. Check your directions carefully before laundering.

  • Some cooling towels are made from a mesh weave, which means they are more breathable and easier to pack. This extra airflow may cause them to dry more quickly.

Other products we considered

They’re more expensive than others on our shortlist, but many swear by the Mission Enduracool Techknit Cooling Towel. Made with a microfiber blend, Enduracool claims to plummet 30º below body temperature when it’s wet for up to two hours. It’s designed specifically for athletes, and users advise that keeping it damp is key. For a lower-priced alternative, we like the looks of Vancle’s Two-Pack of Cooling Towels. They come in a wide variety of colors, so they’ll reduce squabbling over which towel belongs to whom. Users say these 40-inch towels stay cool for around an hour and are easily refreshed with a soak and snap.

Cooling towels are more effective in drier climates than in humid environments. In places where the air is sticky, there’s already a lot of moisture — albeit warm moisture — permeating the air around you.

FAQ

Q. Why does my cooling towel recommend waving it or snapping it to start it cooling?

A. Nearly all cooling towels recommend a process of soaking, wringing, and then snapping or waving the fabric in the air. It sounds strange, but it works. Moving the towel vigorously gets the towel’s airflow going, which starts the moisture circulation and evaporative cooling processes that keep you comfortable.

Q. How long will a towel keep me cool?

A. Most cooling towels claim they will keep cooling for between two and five hours. This depends heavily upon air temperature and local weather conditions. Towels will dry more quickly in environments where the humidity is low and temperature is high. Conversely, in hot, muggy climates, some may stay damp so long that they warm with your body heat. Either issue is a quick fix, though, as long as you have access to water. If your towel is too dry or has become too warm, simply saturate it with cold water, wring it, and snap it to start the process over again.

Q. Can I use my cooling towel under my shirt during the daytime or under pajamas at night?

A. It won’t hurt you, but it’s not a good idea. Cooling towels work using principles of evaporative cooling, so they need air circulation to work. A towel that’s layered underneath a shirt or sandwiched between your body and sheets probably won’t get the air exposure it needs to work effectively.

Q. Water isn’t convenient where I’m going. When should I wet my towel?

A. If you’re headed to a remote area, you might not have reliable access to water and won’t want to waste the precious liquid you’re carrying. Leaving a wet towel laying around overnight could lead to mold or mildew, but a few hours in the car shouldn’t hurt it. You can wet it at home and store it in a sealable bag. If you have a significant trip ahead, plan to pack your towel where it’s easy to access and wet it at a rest stop, gas station, or other available bathroom later on in your journey.

The team that worked on this review
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