Jul 12, 2023

Should You Wash Your Towels Separately?

Sometimes, the easy way out is not always the smartest route. That includes washing your towels with the rest of your laundry. Believe it or not, washing and drying your towels with your other clothing and linens could do a lot more damage to your laundry than you might think. Below, we’ve asked two cleaning experts for their take on whether you should wash your towels separately, their best tips for washing towels, what to avoid, and more.

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According to Taylor Matthews, owner of Sparkling Queens in Savannah, Georgia, you definitely want to wash towels separately from clothing and other linens. “For one, your other clothes and sheets will get lint and fibers on them from being washed with towels,” she explains. “Towels should be washed on a heavier cycle, without fabric softener, in hot water. Towels also take significantly longer to dry, which could cause clothing and other items to shrink.”

Towels can do some damage to your clothing while in the wash. “Towels are a heavier fabric, and when washed with lightweight, more delicate fabrics, the heaviness of the towels can pull on or twist around those fabrics, tearing or stretching them out of shape,” explains Stephanie Booth, a home cleaning and organization influencer based just outside of Atlanta, Georgia.

Finally, it’s not a good idea to wash your towels with your bedding and clothing because they are pretty dirty. Towels also don’t fit into a one-size-fits-all use category—there are kitchen towels, bath towels, and cleaning towels. “You don’t want to wash towels that have been used to clean up food, pets, or other dirty job messes with your clothing or bed linens,” explains Booth. “You run the risk of transferring bacteria or stains onto your other wash items.”

Wash towels together that serve the same purpose. For example, only wash kitchen towels with kitchen towels, cleaning towels with cleaning towels, and bath towels with bath towels. Separate light colors from dark to prevent color transfer. “Wash white or very light fabrics in hot water, and mid-tone, bright and dark colors in warm water,” suggests Booth. “If you have hard water, add 1/2 cup of baking soda directly to the drum to soften the water and help the detergent work better.”

Make sure you don’t overfill the washing machine. Booth recommends filling the drum no more than half full because of how heavy towels become once they’re wet. “Residential washing machines are not built to withstand heavy loads like commercial machines,” she explains. “Overloading the machine will not give your towels the room they need to freely move around.”

This causes insufficient cleaning—the seams could unravel and wear out faster, and your machine may not be able to fully spin out all the moisture, causing your dryer to work harder. Dry your towels in your dryer with three dryer balls to fluff the towels, reducing drying time and static.

Always be sure to wash new towels before using them, possibly even a couple of times to get them prepped and to make sure they are absorbent. “Separate any colored towels from your white towels in your washing machine,” suggests Matthew. “A small amount of white vinegar added to a hot wash cycle can help enhance color brightness, reduce musty smells, and remove excess buildup.”

When washing towels, avoid putting every towel you own in the washing machine at once. Your machine will become unbalanced, and nothing will properly be cleaned. “Make sure you know the capacity of your machine and how much detergent to use,” says Matthews. “Using too much detergent will not get your towels cleaner and will only leave buildup. Also, avoid laundering your car-washing towels, kitchen towels, dish rags and bath towels all in the same load.”

Booth highly recommends avoiding traditional fabric softener. “They contain fiber lubricating silicones which makes everything it comes in contact with basically waterproof and more flammable, even after going through your washing machine rinse cycle,” she says. “If you have a hard time breaking up with your favorite fabric softener, avoid using it on kitchen towels and microfiber towels.”