Fluffy clean towels
Knowing how to wash towels properly is the gift that keeps on giving. After all, nothing beats the feeling of wrapping yourself up in a soft, luxurious towel when you get out of the shower. Not only does proper towel-washing help keep them clean and stink-free, but it will also extend the life of your towels, keeping them in tip-top shape instead of letting them become raggedy, limp and scratchy with age.
While you might already know a lot about how to do laundry, figuring out how to wash towels is a whole different ball game. After all, it’s all too easy to end up with smelly towels – and a larger but invisible problem like bacteria build-up. Read on for everything you need to know about keeping your towels clean and fluffy for the long haul, from how often you should wash them to what you should be washing them with.
How often should you wash your towels?
You should wash your towels every two to three days, according to both Philip Tierno, PhD, clinical professor of pathology and microbiology, and Chuck Gerba, PhD, a microbiology professor. Hold out longer than that and bacteria will start to build up on your towel, leaving it dirty and possibly even smelly.
However, if you’re acne-prone, you might want to wash your towel every time you use it, says Tierno, rather than waiting a day or two between washes. As you rub your skin – especially open pustules – with a dirty towel, bacteria from your used towel could get on your skin and give you zits.
One caveat: If you have a heated towel rack that speeds up dry time, you might get away with washing it after four uses – but that’s “pushing it,” says Tierno.
Why it’s important to wash your towel regularly
Beyond leaving your towels smelling so fresh and clean, experts say washing them regularly is important for a number of reasons.
It reduces the growth and build-up of bacteria. You only use your towel after scrubbing off in the shower, so it can’t get all that dirty, right? Not so fast. “When you say you wash off bacteria, you’re partially correct – you wash off some bacteria,” says Tierno, PhD. But some bacteria sticks around, and it gets on your towel during your post-shower rubdown. Once that bacteria is on there, it will start to multiply. “It keeps building up as you use the towel again day after day,” says Gerba. In fact, a study led by Gerba found that used hand towels have 1,000 times more coliform bacteria than newly bought ones.
It reduces the risk of infection and acne. “When you use a towel vigorously, you scratch your skin,” says Gerba. Those tiny breaks in the surface of your skin – which are too small to notice – give bacteria an entryway to get in your body, which could result in pimples or, worse, an infection.
It reduces musty odours. When bacteria builds up on your towel, it can start smelling musty or mildewy, and there’s nothing pleasant about that!
It keeps them fluffy and absorbent. Freshly laundered towels work better at absorbing liquid – which, of course, is the whole purpose of a towel! – since the towel fibres have more air between them and aren’t matted down.