Quick and Easy Guide to Washing Towels

Believe it or not, there is a right way to wash bath towels. Using the proper approach will not only keep your towels soft, fluffy, and fresh, it will also extend the life of your bath linens. Explore our washing instructions and towel care tips to keep them looking—and feeling—as good as new.

How to Wash Bath Towels in the Washing Machine

Let bath towels dry completely before putting them in the hamper, then follow our step-by-step instructions for the best way to launder towels:

Separate Your Towels from Other Laundry

Washing towels with other towels minimizes the risk of snags, pulls, and other damage to the looped material. Save clothing and bedding for a different load.

Separate White and Colored Towels

The exceptional absorbency for which high-quality towels are favored also means they’re likely to soak up any bleeding dyes. Avoid splotchy colors or dingy whites by washing similarly colored towels together.

Don't Overfill the Washer

Too many towels washed at once won’t get clean, but too few means greater agitation for quicker wear and tear. Most front-loading washing machines can fit seven standard-size bath towels; top-loading washers can fit around nine or ten.

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Wash Towels in Cold Water

High temperatures can damage the fibers, cause shrinkage, and fade colored towels. 

Don't Let Towels Sit

After the wash cycle concludes, immediately shake out each towel and move it to the dryer. Letting wet towels linger in the washer may contribute to mildew or odor.

How Often Should You Wash Your Towels?

Bath towels are a breeding ground for germs and bacteria, but washing them too frequently can damage the fibers and cause them to wear out more quickly. For best results, we recommend washing bath towels every three to four uses; hand towels should be washed every one to two days.

Do You Need to Wash New Towels?

Yes, always wash new bath linens before you use them. Washing new towels removes lingering chemicals and lint from the manufacturing process. It also releases the fabric’s fibers, allowing them to better absorb water.

Towel Care Tips: How to Keep Towels Soft

Follow these additional tips for laundering towels and learn how to keep your bath linens soft—and make sure they last.

  • Avoid fabric softener. It may seem counterintuitive, but one of the best ways to keep towels soft is to skip the fabric softener. Both liquid fabric softener and dryer sheets contain oils that coat the fabric’s fibers, making them stiff and less absorbent.
  • Use the right amount of detergent. Like fabric softener, excess detergent can accumulate on the towel’s fibers, limiting absorbency. If your towels start to feel stiff, add an extra rinse cycle when you wash to ensure all of the extra soap is removed.
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  • Do not bleach bath towels. Using harsh bleach on white or colored towels will weaken the fibers, ultimately reducing absorbency, diminishing softness, and resulting in tears or holes.
  • Consider special fabrics. Some towels—such as those blended with wool, linen, or rayon made from bamboo—may have different specifications than standard cotton towels when it comes to washing. Always check a product’s care instructions before laundering.
  • Dry towels properly. Washing towels is only half the battle when it comes to taking proper care. Follow our towel drying tips—from using a low-heat setting to using dryer balls instead of dryer sheets—to ensure your linens last.

When you choose high-quality bath linens, you want to be able to use them for years—and washing them properly is the first step in making sure you can. Whether you’re laundering towels, bath mats, or robes, follow these same principles to keep the fabric soft, fluffy, and absorbent. Explore our other Guides for more bath and bedding tips and tricks.