Housekeeping Laundry & Linens Linens Are You Washing Your Bathroom Hand Towels Enough? You may just use them for hand-drying, but those bathroom hand towels still need to be cleaned regularly—and probably more frequently than you think. By Amanda Lauren Amanda Lauren Amanda Lauren is a contributor to Forbes, Forbes Global Properties, Real Simple, Reader's Digest, Simply Recipes, Bob Vila, and A Sweat Life, among other publications, writing about interior design and lifestyle. Learn about BHG's Editorial Process Published on March 7, 2023 Share Tweet Pin Email While bathroom hand towels are a great way to add a pop of color or a hint of pattern to bathroom decor, they’re also practical essentials. After all, you want to make sure your guests and family members have an easy and accessible place to dry their hands after washing them that isn’t a bath towel. Always keeping a spare hand towel in your bathroom—particularly a half bath—might seem like the perfect solution to making sure everyone has a spot to dry their hands, until it doesn’t. Werner Segarra We all know that bathrooms—especially ones used frequently by multiple people—can become incredibly dirty and unsanitary very quickly. That’s because warm, damp environments are the perfect place for bacteria to thrive. Left in that bathroom too long, a dirty hand towel—even a fancy one—can end up defeating the purpose of handwashing altogether. Here’s what experts have to say about keeping your bathroom hand towels clean and sanitary. Dr. Haley Goldbach, MD is a board-certified dermatologist and Assistant Professor of Dermatology at Brown University. Liz Eichholz is the co-founder and creative director of Weezie Towels, a luxury bathroom linen brand. The 10 Best Bath Towels for Plushness, Absorbency, and Durability, According to Testing Stacy Goldberg How Dirty Do Bathroom Hand Towels Actually Get? According to Dr. Haley Goldbach, MD, bathroom towels can get pretty dirty: “Hand and bath towels can harbor multiple types of bacteria—everything from acne-causing bacteria to staph aureus or even fecal bacteria like E. Coli,” she says. Taking steps to reduce the bioaerosols in your bathroom by flushing with the toilet seat down, among other actions, can help reduce the grime that your hand towels come into contact with, but there’s no cure-all besides frequent washings. Still, there isn’t a hard and fast rule about how often to wash and replace your bathroom hand towels, because bacteria are likely to show up after just a few uses. Dr. Goldbach’s rule of thumb is to wash hand towels every two to three days. “If someone in your house is dealing with a skin infection, you have highly sensitive or acne-prone skin or a compromised immune system—you may consider washing even more frequently,” she says. Carson Downing What’s the Best Way to Wash Hand Towels? While Dr. Goldbach washes her towels in hot water with unscented detergent, according to one towel manufacturer, that may be unnecessary. Liz Eichholz of Weezie Towels says, “To put it short—wash on cold, tumble dry on low. Contrary to popular belief, cold water will still kill germs and will leave your towels fresher than ever! Continued exposure to heat can actually damage the fibers and leave the towel feeling rough and stiff.” If someone is sick—particularly with a stomach bug, or something else that passes easily through surfaces—washing your towels in hot water on occasion is fine. Just be aware that doing it regularly will likely shorten the towels’ shelf life. If you’re truly concerned, you can always add white vinegar to the wash to reduce bacteria. It can also make your towels fluffier without using fabric softener. This is also more eco-friendly than laundry sanitizing products, which Dr. Goldbach does not recommend using. How Often Should You Wash Kitchen Towels, Really? Jason Donnelly When Should You Replace Bathroom Hand Towels? Keep in mind that bathroom hand towels aren’t meant to last a lifetime. “Our telltale sign a towel needs to be replaced is that musty smell or when it has lost its fluffy, absorbent qualities. High-quality towels should last one to two years, depending on usage and proper care,” says Eichholz. So, if your hand towels are starting to look and feel a bit dingy, it’s probably time to start shopping for a replacement—you’ll reap aesthetic and cleanliness benefits. 28 Bathroom Towel Storage Ideas That Are Pretty and Practical Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Better Homes & Gardens is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources—including peer-reviewed studies—to support the facts in our articles. Read about our editorial policies and standards to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. “What conditions encourage bacteria to grow?” Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services. Smith, J. A., et al. “Effect of water temperature on bacterial killing in laundry.” Infection control : IC. doi:10.1017/s0195941700065954 American Chemical Society. “Cotton Fabrics Damaged By High Dryer Temperatures.” ScienceDaily.