How to Wash Towels to Make Them Last Longer

Learn how to wash towels the best ways, as well tips for drying and folding towels like a pro. These easy care tips will help keep your towels softer and last longer.

Believe it or not, there is actually a right technique for washing towels. If you want them to last, that is. While you can get a towel clean by simply tossing it into the washing machine, these helpful tips will keep your towels looking and feeling like new even after several washes. Learn how often you should wash your towels, if you can wash towels with clothes, and what settings to wash towels of different colors and materials. 

Related: Smart Laundry Tips

Wash Before Use

Before you learn how to wash new towels, note when you should be washing them. Always wash and dry bath towels before using them for the first time. Most towels have silicone or other finishes that block absorbancy. This coating gives them that extra-fluffy look and feel at the store. Washing the towels removes these finishes and permits maximum absorbency.

Related: 10 Genius Laundry Hacks You Have to See

Use Detergent and Vinegar

To set colors, wash colored towels with similar colors in warm water for the first several washings. Using about half the recommended amount of detergent while washing towels, adding 1/2 to 1 cup of white vinegar to the wash water. The vinegar helps set the colors and removes excess detergent residue.

Related: How to Remove Stains from Laundry

Wash Towels Often

Stop guessing how often should you wash your towels, and get in the habit of washing your towels every three to four days. The best way to wash towels is with warm water and color-safe bleach (if needed) for colored towels. Use hot water and nonchlorine bleach (if needed) for white towels. White towels should be washed separately or with other white items to avoid subtle discoloration over time.

Related: How to Solve Every Laundry Mishap

Give Them Their Own Load

Washing towels with clothes isn't ideal. We recommend washing bath towels separately from clothing for sanitary reasons. Putting towels in their own load also makes it easier to adjust what setting to wash towels based on color. It's also easier to dry towels in the same load since damp towels dry slower than most clothes. 

Use Softener Sparingly

Use fabric softener according to directions, but use only every three or four washes. Waxy buildup from softeners can deteriorate the towel fibers over time and reduce their absorbency. No one wants a towel that's not fluffy, so be careful when using fabric softener with towels. 

Shake Them Out

Give your towels a shake when taking them out of the washer. This will help fluff the terry loops that aid absorbency. Don't iron terry towels; this will reduce absorbency. Shaking your towels will also help prevent them from twisting into a ball in the dryer, shortening their drying time. 

Dry Towels Carefully

Ensure that towels are dry when you remove them from the dryer, keeping in mind that clothes dry quicker than towels. Even slightly damp towels can quickly mildew. The best dryer setting for towels is the regular or automatic setting that you use for other durable fabrics. This will use the highest heat and be most efficient in getting the job done. Avoid overdrying; it can destroy the integrity of the individual cotton fibers.

Avoid Decorative Edges On Bath Towels

Not all fabrics are made the same and that should be kept in mind while washing towels. Many high-quality towels feature decorative trims to add a soft design element amid the hard, shiny surfaces of the bathroom. If possible, use towels with specialty trims as accents only, so you can limit their laundering and reduce the wear on ribbon, rickrack, lace, or other decorative elements.

Towel Buying Tips

Match Your Style: Towels, face cloths, and bath mats are as much home fashion accessories as necessities. As with sheets, you can choose from the ever-popular classic white or an array of fashion colors, trims, and patterns. Fluffy white towels give a clean, spa-like feel to a master, guest, or shared family bath. White and ecru coordinate with virtually any bathroom color and have longevity. Colors tend to fade over time (so you might want to buy extras).

Materials Matter: Because of its absorbency and strength, cotton is the fabric of choice for most bath towels. The manufacturing process and the choice of material affect towel absorbency. Although sheared towels are the most absorbent, they aren't necessarily the best for drying. Towels don't dry simply by absorbing moisture; the fiber loops also brush water off the body. Bottom line: The number of loops per square inch is the most important indicator of towel performance.

Follow Care Instructions: Good-quality bath towels can last for 10 years with proper care. Always check the label on your towels for particular care instructions before proceeding with washing and drying. 

Towel Folding Tips

  • Fold bath towels and hand towels in thirds for best use of shelf space: Fold the towel in half, with open ends to the left, then fold in half again. Fold up the bottom third of the towel, then fold the top third down. When storing, face the outer edge of the towel to the front to make it easy to grab a single towels.
  • Linen hand towels for the bath can be safely ironed for a crisp finish. After ironing, fold linen towels in thirds like other towels.

Related: How to Organize Your Towels and Linens

The Towel Folding Tricks You Have to Know

Learn how to fold a bath towel -- for a fluffy stack or to be hung on a towel rack -- with these handy tips.

1 Comment

  1. I line dry my towels so how do you keep them fluffy?

    1. I use vinegar in the rinse water. Always shake them out really well before you put them on the line. If you dry them outside on a windy day, they will be fluffier than on a calm day. If they are still too stiff when they're dry, put them in the dryer on air dry for about 5-10 minutes. It helps to fluff them in the dryer that way before you put them on the line too.



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