Answered: How Often Should You Wash Your Towels?

Nothing can beat a relaxing bath or shower. You lather up, rinse off, and feel clean, rejuvenated, and energised when you leave. Then you reach for a towel to enjoy that fluffy sensation. But, the thing is when was the last time that you actually washed that towel?

Basket with clean towels in the bathroom

The fact is that the longer towels are moist and damp, the more alive and active yeasts, bacteria, and other microorganisms are. Yes, your towels need to be washed as well, but how often? And how can you properly do that? Read on to learn why you should clean your towels, how often they should be washed, and when it’s the right time to replace them.

How often should you wash towels?

Almost all of the damp towels in the bathroom are often contaminated with bacteria. Doesn’t this alone sound gross? The frequency with which a personal towel is washed, though, is determined by the person who uses it. There is no one-size-fits-all solution.

If someone is particularly adept at cleaning themselves and leaves the towel looking clean, they can probably get away with using it multiple times. However, if the towel gets soaking wet after each usage, they will want to wash it immediately. 

Sharing towels is never a good idea, especially if you have some kind of skin-related issue. Similarly, people who are sick should wash their towels more regularly, possibly daily. Make sure to air dry your towel after each use to avoid bacteria and mould formation, as well as to keep it smelling fresh. Try using a rotary washing line!

Dirty towels on floor

As a general rule of thumb, bath towels should be washed once a week, primarily for aesthetic reasons. Tea towels should be washed after every two or three uses, at the very least. 

Change the hand towel in your bathroom on a daily basis if you have a busy family or a lot of visitors. If not, you can generally get away with less frequent washing. Your gym hand towels, on the other hand, should be washed after every single use. Why? Just think about the bacteria and grime that accumulate on the gym machines.

What if you don’t wash your towels?

Dirty towels, unfortunately, can spread fungus and bacteria. So, using a dirty and moist towel can cause irritation to the skin as well as the spread of illnesses. For instance, MRSA, the bacteria that causes staph infections, has been found on towels and linens too. 

Bacteria prefer to multiply, particularly in hot, dark, and damp environments. This means you could be smearing germs back onto your clean skin the next time you go for a towel to dry yourself.

This can cause itching, inflammation, fungal infections, and patches on the skin. If you don’t wash your towels on a regular basis, they’ll not only harbour bacteria but will also lose their efficacy in drying you.

Dead skin cells stick to your towel and stay there every time you use it to scrub your body. Surely it’s not the end of the world if you reuse your towel between washes. Nevertheless, the more often you wash them, the healthier you and your skin will be. 

Factors that warrant more frequent washing

The purpose of a fresh towel is to assist you to dry off as quickly as possible, and it can do so by absorbing a lot of water. However, while clean towels are excellent at drying your body, they are not so good at drying themselves. 

Laundry basket on the background of the laundry.

Damp towels can stay damp for hours, providing a perfect breeding ground for microbes. Some situations necessitate washing your bath towels more frequently than twice a week, such as:

  • Any towel that has come into contact with bodily fluids should be laundered straight away.
  • Wash sweaty gym towels or towels that have been moist in your exercise bag for a few hours after each usage.
  • Towels in bathrooms that are frequently damp and don’t dry completely due to lack of ventilation should be cleaned at least three times a week.
  • To avoid further discomfort if you have eczema or sensitive skin, wash all of your towels after each usage.

Tips on washing your towels

Towels should ideally be washed with other towels rather than with clothes. This will allow you to precisely control the towel washing temperature (more on that later), and it will also keep towels and clothes separate, which is more hygienic.

Towels can also be harsh to more delicate textiles. When doing laundry, try not to overcrowd the washing machine so that it has sufficient water to soak and wash the clothes. Consider the following tips:

Microfibre towels

Washing these quick-drying bathroom towels differs from washing, let’s say, regular cotton terry cloth towels. Never wash them with terry towels in the machine since the terry cloth can cause fluff and lint to attach to your microfibre ones.

When washing microfibre, we recommend skipping the fabric softener. You should also never wash towels at a very high temperature and hot water, as this can permanently damage them. 

Another useful tip is to avoid using a tumble dryer as high heat can disintegrate and harden the synthetic fabric and ruin your towels. Instead, you can simply air-dry them.

White towels on a table

White towels

To avoid yellowing over time, white towels should be cleaned separately. But how do you spruce up the ones that have become dingy? Optical brighteners are good for white towels, but avoid using them on coloured washes and keep them separate to avoid colour bleeding.

For more effective stain removal, you can use oxygen-based stain removers to deal with stains as soon as they occur.

Towels with mildew smell

Have you ever wondered why your towels have a musty odour? Towels are supposed to get wet but not stay wet, so throwing a wet towel in the hamper or, even worse, on the bathroom floor will not dry it.

Germs and mould will happily grow and thrive in the fibres as a result of this. Even in the hottest of washes, your towels can still have an odour, so here’s how to get rid of it and prevent it from happening again:

  • Wash your towels in a regular cycle using extremely hot water, your regular laundry detergent, and a cup of vinegar.
  • After that, run your towels through a standard cycle once more, but this time you should only use half a cup of baking soda and don’t add anything else.
  • To fluff up the towels, hang them to dry.

Washing detergent 

To protect the fibres and ensure optimal colour retention, use a eucalyptus-based washing detergent. If you’re content with your current laundry detergent, though, you might want to reconsider how much you use. 

For instance, do you ever wonder why your towels are stiff even after you wash them? It’s because you’re using too much washing detergent, which isn’t being rinsed out. So, use half as much the next time you wash them.

Fluffy towels with vinegar and washing detergent on wooden background

Vinegar

Now, did you know that you can wash your towels with vinegar? It helps set their colours and remove unwanted detergent residue. Fabric softeners are frequently applied to new towels to make them feel lovely and velvety for most people. However, these softeners inhibit towels from absorbing water. 

Add half a cup of white vinegar to the rinse cycle during the initial wash to get rid of the buildup. Group similar-coloured towels together and cut the washing detergent in half. The vinegar scent will be gone during the rinse cycle, so the towels will not need to be washed again.

Fabric conditioner

Fabric conditioners and softeners containing silicone should be avoided. Water will be repelled, and the absorbency of the fluffy towels will be reduced. If you really like the aroma of your fabric softener and want to use it in the washing machine, only do so every three or four times when washing towels to avoid the buildup.

How often should you replace your towels?

Towels’ lifespan is determined by their quality and how well they are cared for. Inexpensive towels may unravel more quickly, and using water that is too hot may cause the fibres to break down more easily. 

To get the most out of yours, read the product tag and follow the cleaning instructions. A bath towel should last a long time with good care. When we say “long,” we mean 2 to 3 years maximum. 

Towels rip and shred after a few years since they are used daily and washed regularly. Around the two-year point, they lose their absorbency, which is a solid indicator that it’s time to replace them.

The bottom line, reusing a bath towel two or three times between washes is not the end of the world. However, wet towels may quickly become breeding grounds for a wide range of microorganisms. To eradicate germs and rejuvenate your towels, regular laundry washes are a must. Always let them dry between usages to keep them clean!

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