The Best Ways to Dry Bath Towels

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towels hung to dry

From washing to drying, proper care is crucial when it comes to protecting your investment in high-quality bath towels and other bath linens. Poorly dried towels are prone to mildew and musty odors—and even bacteria growth—and are more likely to stiffen, show wear and tear, and become less absorbent. Explore our towel drying guide to learn the best ways to dry bath towels, and find extra tips to keep your towels soft and odor-free for years to come.

Tips for Tumble-Drying Bath Towels

Tumble drying is the quickest and most convenient way to dry bath towels. To keep your towels fluffy and soft, follow these tips for drying towels:

  • After washing towels, remove them from the machine one by one and shake each towel before putting it into dryer. This reduces tangling and helps them dry faster.
  • Dry towels only with other towels to minimize snags and pilling.
  • Always use a low heat setting when drying bath towels to prolong their life—high heat can damage the fibers.
  • Take towels out as soon as they’re dry, but not sooner. Taking them out too early can contribute to mildew or musty smell, but excess heat from drying towels too long can damage their delicate fibers.
  • Don’t iron your towels. It’s often unnecessary, and the heat damages the fibers, reduces absorbency, and causes stiffness.

Should You Use Dryer Sheets With Towels?

The chemicals used in dryer sheets are the same as those found in fabric softeners, which can accumulate on towel fibers—reducing absorbency and causing them to feel stiff. Instead of dryer sheets, use wool dryer balls or clean tennis balls to help dry towels faster and keep them fluffy.

towels air drying

How to Dry Towels Without a Dryer

If you don’t own a dryer or prefer an eco-friendly alternative, follow these tips for drying towels without a dryer. The first step to adequately air-dried towels is to remove them from the washer one by one, giving each towel a good shake as you go.

  • How to Hang Towels on a Clothesline:

    Hang bath towels by the short edge, with each corner attached to the line by a clothespin. Do not drape or fold towels on a clothesline, as this will increase the drying time.
  • How to Hang Towels on a Drying Rack:

    Drape towels over the rods on a drying rack so that they fold at the middle, and leave space between towels to allow adequate airflow for efficient drying.

Benefits of Air-Drying Towels

Air-drying towels may take more work, but it boasts plenty of benefits, whether you dry towels outdoors on a clothesline or inside on a drying rack.

  • Air-drying is an eco-friendly option for drying towels, saving you energy—and money—in the long run.
  • Because air-drying towels causes less wear and tear on the material than tumble-drying, it can help towels last longer.
  • Air-drying towels outdoors in bright sunlight can help bleach white towels. Keep in mind that dark or colored towels should be air-dried in the shade to avoid fading.
  • Drying towels and other laundry outside in the open air imparts a fresh, pleasant scent.

Why Are My Towels Stiff After Air-Drying?

When you tumble dry towels, the constant agitation against the fibers keeps them from stiffening as the water evaporates—but this friction doesn’t occur when air-drying towels individually on a line or rack. To avoid stiff air-dried towels, try hanging your laundry outside on days with a breeze. You can also soften stiff towels by tossing them in the dryer on a brief air-fluff cycle after you bring them in from the clothesline.

stack of dry towels

How to Hang Wet Towels for Faster Drying

Hang your wet towels properly to ensure they dry completely between uses. Hanging too many, too close together can lead to mildewed, stinky towels. Wet towels need plenty of space to breathe. For best results, hang them individually, with as much surface area exposed to the air as possible.

Do Towels Dry Better on Hooks or Bars?

For the shortest drying time, opt for a towel bar instead of hooks, and hang one towel spread out across the length of the bar. The more surface area exposed to the air, the faster a towel will dry—and the less likely it is to mildew or smell. If you must use a robe hook, hang only one towel per hook.

Benefits of Quick-Drying Towels

For the fastest drying towels, choose bath towels with a GSM (grams per square meter) of 400 to 500; these lightweight towels dry more quickly than their heavier counterparts. Quick-drying towels are less likely to mildew when hung to dry between uses, and use less energy to dry on laundry day. Lighter weight towels are usually less bulky, so they take up less space in your cabinet or linen closet.

Whether you’re trying to avoid wet towels when you get out of the shower or want to know how to keep your towels soft and smelling good, these towel-drying tips will help. For more bath and bedding advice, explore our Inspiration Guide.