clean towels folded in a bathroom

How often should you wash your towels?

After a long, relaxing bath or steamy shower, there’s not much that matches up to the feeling of swathing yourself in a freshly washed, fluffy towel that feels brand new. It can be the difference between starting or ending, your day well.

So, how often should you replace your towels? Read on to understand more about why you should be cleaning your towels, how often they need washing, and when it’s time to replace them for good.

Why is cleaning towels important?

A towel’s function is to help you dry off as quickly as possible, and with this, they have the ability to absorb a lot of water. But whilst towels are good at drying your body, they’re not that adept at drying themselves.

A towel can remain damp for hours, and during this time it can become an excellent breeding ground for bacteria.1 And bacteria loves to multiply; especially in hot, dark and steamy conditions. This means, the next time you reach out to towel yourself dry, you could be rubbing bugs and germs back onto your clean skin. This can lead to unpleasant skin complaints and irritation, fungal infections, and spots.

If you’re not regularly washing your towels, not only could they be harbouring bacteria but they’ll also lose their effectiveness at getting you dry – which could be argued is their main purpose.

How often should I be washing towels?

The best care for your towels is to let them dry completely after each use. The Cleaning Institute states that bath towels should always be hung to dry between uses. If you’re following this instruction and allowing your towel to completely dry before use again, then it’s advised to wash your towels between every three to five uses.2 There are certain factors for towels that will warrant more frequent cleaning. The following should be washed after single use:3

  • Everyday washcloths that are used to lather and scrub.

  • Any towel with bodily fluids, including gym towels that have been stowed away in a bag, or used to mop up sweat.

  • Towels that have been unable to completely dry after the last use.

  • Towels used on skin complaints, such as eczema, to avoid further irritation on future use.

How frequently should I be replacing towels?

The use you get out of your towels will vary dependent on quality and the level of care since purchase. Towels should last for at least two years4 with good care but there are certain things you need to look out for if you’re wondering whether you should be replacing your towels. Although not top of the list of household essentials, towels should take priority and be replaced if they are showing any of the below signs:5

  • The towel has begun to fray or tear – Towel fibres are beginning to break down and the towel will begin to lose its absorbency, which is a good indicator that it needs replacing.

  • There is a damp, musty smell after washes – There are bacteria trapped within the towel fibres that is not being eliminated through washing. You can always soak towels in vinegar to kill smells as a first port of call.
Make sure you always read the washing instructions for your towels to get the best usage. Allowing your towels to dry completely after single use, and regular washing after three to five uses should be sufficient in removing any unwanted bacteria and keeping your towels fresh, fluffy and absorbent.6

Remember, it’s not just your towels that need regular maintenance. For a fresh bed time routine, it’s important to be regularly cleaning your bedding, duvet, pillows and mattress too.

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Last updated: 9 April 2020

Sources
  1. https://time.com/4918624/wash-towels-bacteria/
  2. https://www.cleaninginstitute.org/cleaning-tips/clothes/laundry-basics/do-i-need-wash
  3. https://www.popsugar.co.uk/home/How-Often-Should-You-Replace-Bath-Towels-45848361
  4. https://www.cleaninginstitute.org/cleaning-tips/clothes/laundry-basics/do-i-need-wash
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