7 Simple Steps to Properly Clean Towels

Bath towels are a perfect breeding ground for germs and bacteria. Here's how to properly clean towels to eliminate germs.
Colorful folded towels stack on table empty copy space.

Most of us like to keep a clean home. Having a space that feels fresh and clean is important to your mental health, and how much you enjoy being in the space you call home. 

However, one thing many people don’t think about is the fact that keeping your home clean is also important to your physical health. There are opportunities for germs all around the house, and as you age, paying attention to them becomes more and more critical. Why? Because as you get older, your immune system weakens and makes you more susceptible to germs and the illnesses they cause. 

One of the biggest unexpected carriers when it comes to germs is towels. They seem clean enough, right? You use them after you’ve showered, so they can’t be too dirty, can they? Think again. 

Let’s discuss the best ways to clean and sanitize towels properly, so you don’t risk getting sick. 

How Towels Get so Dirty

Shot of an unrecognizable woman doing her laundry at home

It seems as if towels are harmless enough, especially the ones you only use to rinse off post-shower or bath. However, if they’re not hung, cleaned, and sanitized correctly, these towels can harbor harmful germs that can cause you to get sick. 

Let’s go over the best way to clean your towels to keep them free of germs to keep you safe. 

How to clean towels

Step 1: Sort the towels

Sorting may seem like a silly waste of time, but trust us—it’s not. Before you even think about washing your towels, you want to sort them according to their color and use. White towels can be washed with other white towels; anything colored should go into a separate load. 

On top of that, towels you use on your body should be washed separately from those you use on your hands. Hands see far more germs than any other part of your body, so you want to keep cross-contamination out of the picture.

Step 2: Clean towels in hot water

Washing your clothes in cold water is a good idea to maintain their color and ensure they don’t shrink. We’ve all been there and shrunk something we loved that scarred us enough to swear we’d never wash our clothes in hot water again. 

However, when it comes to your towels, washing them in cold water is a big no. To properly clean them and remove any potential germs, they need to be washed in very hot water. Ideally, you want to aim for water that’s around 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If your washing machine doesn’t get that specific with temperatures, wash your towels using the hottest setting. This is the only sure way to get them clean. 

Step 3: Use a quality detergent

The right detergent goes a long way when it comes to washing clothes. Most people don’t even think about the quality of their detergent or how it’s performing. We just pick up the same detergent we’ve used for years and don’t think about it beyond adding it to the grocery list. 

However, a high-quality detergent plays a significant role in properly cleaning and sanitizing your towels. Organic detergents are ideal, so you don’t use potentially harmful chemicals on fabrics that touch your skin. If you wash your clothes and towels with chemicals and then use them on your body, your body suffers the consequences. 

Step 4: Use the right amount of detergent

Cropped shot of an unrecognizable woman folding up clean towels at home

There is such a thing as the right amount of laundry detergent. Use too little, and your clothes and towels won’t get clean enough. Use too much, and your clothes and towels will have a residue on them that not only feels gross but will also make it harder for your towels to absorb water. 

Step 5: Steer clear of fabric softeners

This one is tough, we know. Fabric softeners and dryer sheets make your clothes and towels smell so good. However, similar to using too much detergent, fabric softeners, and dryer sheets also leave behind a residue on the towels that acts like a magnet for dirt and potential germs. So what should you do instead? Use white vinegar during your towels’ rinse cycle to give them a softer feel that leaves them smelling clean.

Step 6: Sanitize every few washes

You don’t need to do this every time you wash your towels, but you want to sanitize them every few washes. While washing them following the steps does a good job of cutting back on the risk of germs, you want to ensure the germs are completely eliminated once in a while. How do you do this? Add bleach or hydrogen peroxide to your rinse cycle. Hydrogen peroxide is preferable because bleach can be toxic and dangerous to the system. Once that sanitization cycle is complete, you can wash them as usual. 

Step 7: Clean towels regularly

clean towels folded in linen closet

We understand that doing laundry may not be your favorite activity, but washing your towels regularly is important to reduce any risk of germs and bacteria. It’s hard to say exactly how often you should wash your towels because it depends on how often you use them. 

If it’s your bath towel you use after the shower every day, then you want to wash that every 3 to 4 uses. Once a week works just fine for something you don’t use often. 

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