Many hotels in Europe do not provide washcloths in the rooms. Bath towels and hand towels are always available, but do not count on having a washcloth.
I have stayed at many hotels through Europe and never noticed an absentee washcloth before, but recently had a shared experience with several female travelers at a hotel in Scotland. We all arrived at the breakfast table in our hotel’s restaurant and immediately asked each other “Did your room have a washcloth?” “No, did yours?” No one wanted to admit that they had to really think about another way to wash their face!
Since there wasn’t one white washcloth amongst the four of us females, we knew that it wasn’t a maid oversight but rather intended that way. We did not want to go through a second night of not properly washing our faces!
First stop on our trip: A visit to the local department store to pick up a pack of washcloths for each of us!
After this experience, I learned we weren’t the first to go washcloth-less. In France they use what is called a ‘gant,’ which translates to ‘glove.’ It is made of terrycloth like a washcloth, but is sewn together on the front and sides, and it slips over your hand like a mitten but with no thumb.
A traveler from Belgium said that people scrub down with mittens made of thick bath towel fabric that is treated as a personal item rather than a common item such as a washcloth in the United States. In fact, they are pretty close to underwear in how personal they are. You wouldn’t offer one of yours to someone else.
Many Europeans wash up the old fashioned way by using a bar of soap in their hand. They view the washcloth-wielding and lathering-up by Americans as obsessive.
For hotels that cater to American needs, you will probably find washcloths. But don’t expect them in every hotel, as we found out (even though all of us thought we were very experienced global travelers). Be ready to suds up your palms in Eastern European hotels, or smaller private hotels on the continent. Better yet, bring your own washcloth and shower pouf.