Washing towels is simple, right? You just put them in the washing machine and let it do its thing. While doing this isn’t exactly wrong and will, at the very least, result in clean towels, it’s not the ideal way to care for them. If you want to get the best out of your towels for longer, a little care in washing them will go a very long way. However, seeking out the right method can lead to confusion as conflicting advice abounds on how to wash them. We’ve sorted through the best tips to find the perfect method.
From the start
Wash your towels before you use them for the first time. New towels will have a silicone finish that makes them less absorbent. You’ll also want to set the colour so that it doesn’t run or fade. To do this, use half the normal amount of detergent and add a half cup of white vinegar to your rinse cycle for the first few washes.
When to wash
How often should you wash your towels? In the interests of hygiene, roughly once a week or every three to five washes. If in doubt, the smell test will do the trick.
All by myself?
A key question is “can you wash towels with clothes?” Some people insist that towels should be washed with other items of clothing in order to keep the drum of your machine balanced. A load of wet towels will throw the machine’s drum off balance, resulting in a thumping noise when it spins. Others say to wash towels by themselves for hygiene reasons and because they produce a lot of lint. Both are correct, but we advise washing towels separately and not overloading the machine.
Hot or not?
There are differing opinions on what temperature to wash towels at. Some people advise 30˚C, saying anything hotter will make towels stiffen. Others cite the bacterial load in towels as a reason to wash them at hotter temperatures, ranging from 40˚C to a balmy 75˚C. Coloured towels definitely prefer lower temperatures, as the dye in the fibres can cause them to become faded and scratchy when washed in hot water. Wash coloured towels at 40˚C and white towels between 60˚C and 75˚C.
What detergent works best for towels? Scientifically, the majority of the dirt on towels comes from the oils and sweat on our skin. To properly remove these, you need emulsifiers, which are contained in most decent laundry detergents. Use half the amount you would for a normal clothes wash and make sure to set the wash to an extra-long rinse cycle as residue from detergent will leave your towels feeling stiff. For white towels, we suggest using a brightening agent or a whitening detergent. Never use fabric softener on towels as it lessens their absorbency.
The final step is getting your towels dry. The secret is heat but not too much heat. It’s not good for your towels to dry them the whole way in the tumble dryer and worse still to put them on the radiator. The former will ruin the fibres and the latter will leave them stiff and unpleasant to use. Air-drying works well, especially outside on the line as the sun will bleach white towels to keep them white and the UV rays kill any remaining bacteria. If you’re air-drying them inside, open windows or use a dehumidifier to prevent a build-up of moisture in the air.
The best method we’ve found is to take the towels out and shake them once the wash cycle is finished, then put them in the tumble dryer with some clean tennis ball and dry for around 20 minutes on a high heat. The tennis balls will fluff up the towels and the heat will kill any remaining bacteria. Then dry the towels the rest of the way on the line. Make sure they are totally dry before putting them away and always air-dry them flat after use.
If you’ve found our suggestions useful and want some more, read Mira's tips on how to deep clean your bathroom. Or if you have some of your own tips to share, let us know on our Facebook page or tweet us @mirashowers.