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How Often Should You Change & Wash Your Towels?

Let’s be honest — most of us probably don’t wash our household linens quite as often as the experts recommend. Whether we’re talking about bedsheets, pillowcases or bath towels, the temptation is always to say, “They’re still pretty clean. I’ll just leave them for one more day.” This approach might be the easiest one to take, but it isn’t the safest or the most hygienic. In the case of towels, in particular, there’s plenty of research to back up the fact that you need to wash your towels much more frequently than you might think.

But it’s one thing to know you should wash your towels often, and another thing to understand the specifics. Exactly how many times can you use a towel before throwing it into the wash? Is the number of recommended uses for a bath towel different than for a hand towel? What circumstances contribute to towels that might need more frequent washings than other towels?

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These are all terrific questions, and today, we want to answer them for you. We’ll walk you through the different families of towels and how often you should watch each set. By following tips like these, you’ll be well on your way to a healthier and more hygienic lifestyle in no time.

Why Is It Important to Wash Your Towels?

While most of us realize that we need to wash our towels every so often, fewer of us know why. The science is clear, however, and easy to understand once we take time to look at the facts.

When you dry your hands with a kitchen towel or rub yourself down after a shower, the wetness from your body transfers onto the towel. The towel will dry over time, but for a short period, it will remain damp. This period of dampness is just the right environment for microbes to grow and reproduce. A few of the different types of microbes you might find on the most innocent-looking bath towels include mold, yeast and even E. coli. These tiny colonies are invisible to the naked eye, but they’re there all the same. If left unchecked, they will continue to grow until they become large and numerous enough to become unhealthy.

The best and most efficient way to put a stop to the growth of bacteria on your towels is to send them on regular trips through the washing machine. The hot water and soap kill the germs, leaving you with a clean and disinfected towel.

Should I Wash My Towel After Every Use?

Upon learning that your towels might be playing host to microscopic bacteria colonies, many of us might wonder if it's ever safe to reuse our towels. Shouldn’t we wash them after every single use to prevent these germs from spreading in the first place? You certainly could wash them after every use, if that's what you prefer, but most experts agree that this isn’t necessary.

While germs and bacteria will begin to grow on damp towels, this is a slow process. In most cases, it takes several uses before these microbes start to build up, and the towel is damp enough to encourage these germs. At this point, it’s necessary to wash your towels. Before then, however, there’s no harm in reusing them.

It’s also important to note that different types of towels have different rules. You’ll need to wash your hand towels more often than your bath towels. This is because you’ll likely use a hand towel much more often than you’ll use a bath towel, since you wash your hands many times a day and typically only shower once. Therefore, it only makes sense your towels will need to follow different washing schedules based on their differing applications.

What About When People Are Sick?

Always note that when you or anyone in your home is sick, the rules change. Because you don’t want to spread germs between sick and healthy family members, you’ll want to be more careful about how often you change the towels. Make sure the sick person’s bath towel changes daily and be sure to swap out hand towels at the end of the day as well.

Let’s Talk About Material

While all towels need frequent washes, you may want to treat towels made from different materials with different levels of care. Each material retains water differently and thus, will react differently to the spread of germs. Consider this quick breakdown as you create a washing cycle for your towels.

Microfiber: Microfiber tends to dry quickly, so while we still recommend frequent washes, you may be able to get away with reusing these for an extra day.

Cotton: There’s nothing better than a fluffy cotton towel, but if you want your towels to stay fluffy instead of becoming waterlogged and damp, you’ll want to keep to a strict washing schedule.

While there may be some slight variation between materials regarding appropriate cleaning schedules, there is no material in existence that will allow you to endlessly reuse your towels without cleaning them. Because of this, it’s a good idea to get into the habit of keeping to a pre-planned schedule.

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Let’s Talk About Towel Usage

The primary factor that will dictate how often you should watch each towel in your house is the purpose for which you use that towel. In other words, you’ll likely wash all your bath towels after the same number of uses, and you’ll probably wash all your kitchen towels after the same number of uses, but you won’t wash your bath towels and kitchen towels on the same schedule. This is because you’re using them for different things, and as a result, their cleaning needs will also differ.

Let’s break down the guidelines for each type of towel separately.

1. How Many Times Should You Use a Washcloth Before Washing It?

Only use your washcloth once, twice or at most three times before sending it through the wash. It will depend on how often you use this cloth, of course, but we recommend washing it two or three times every week. If you’re using this cloth to scrub your face and neck every day in the shower, then you won’t want to go much longer than this without giving it a good clean.

how many times should you use a washcloth before washing it

Your face is home to plenty of natural oils and sweat. While these are normal, you don’t want to accumulate too many days of these natural oils on your washcloth before you wash it. Similarly, many of us use our washcloths to clean the remnants of makeup off our face in the shower. While you may rinse the cloth off before hanging it back up to dry, it just isn’t a good idea to do this for too many days in a row, or else you’ll risk just rubbing makeup residue back onto your skin.

2. How Often Should You Wash Your Bathroom Hand Towels?

Wash your hand towels once every day or two. The reason we recommend washing these towels so often is because we use them so frequently. Think back over the past day and ask yourself how often you washed your hands in that time. The number of washes will vary for everyone, but it will likely be significant. Remember that after each of those washes, you probably dried your hands on the hand towel. This is a lot of opportunities for these towels to become dirty and damp.

If you’re rarely home or if you live alone, you can perhaps get away with stretching this time-frame a small amount, but we don’t recommend going much longer than a day or two without swapping out your hand towels for new ones. This is especially true when you consider that sometimes when we touch a hand towel, our hands aren’t even clean. Most of the time, we dry off with a hand towel after washing our hands, but not always. In cases like these, your towels may find themselves in need of a wash even more often.

It’s also important to consider that while your bath towel or your washcloth is exclusive to you, hand towels are different. Everyone in your home uses the same hand towel, meaning they get dirty faster and need washing more frequently.

3. How Often Should You Wash Your Kitchen Towels?

The answer to how often you should be washing your kitchen towels depends a great deal on what you use those towels for and how often you use them. Are your towels almost purely decorative? Do you rarely if ever use them? In this case, you probably will be fine if you only swap them out once a month. If, on the other hand, you use them as just another hand towel — with the only difference being their home in the kitchen — then you should put them on the same regular schedule as the rest of your hand towels.

However, if you’re using your kitchen towel for a variety of purposes, such as drying dishes, wiping down countertops, drying your hands after working with food and using it as a potholder to grasp hot dishes, then your towel is going to accumulate dirt and germs much faster than an ordinary hand towel. Beyond simple germs that any towel will naturally gather over time, it’ll also likely collect food particles and traces of cooking grease. Because of these added hygiene concerns, we recommend throwing your used kitchen towel into the laundry bin at the end of every day and replacing it with a fresh one.

Another helpful point to realize is that it will likely be very easy to remember to wash your kitchen towels. If you use them heavily, by the end of the day, they’ll probably be so damp or stained with food particles that simple logic will remind you to throw them in the wash even if you didn’t have a set schedule.

4. How Many Times Should You Use Your Bath Towels Before Washing Them?

After every three uses, you’ll need to throw your bath towel into the laundry basket for a wash. They can last a little longer than hand towels, typically because you don’t use them as many times a day. However, they still warrant more frequent cleanings that something like a mostly decorative kitchen towel, simply because they’ll become dirty much more quickly.

Because bath towels tend to be heavy and take a long while to dry out thoroughly, the chances are good that they may begin to develop a slight smell after about three uses. This means that even if you don’t have a specific washing schedule in place, you’ll likely notice when it’s time to wash your bath towels.

How to Safely Reuse Your Towels Between Washes

tips to keep your towel clean

In almost every case here, we’ve mentioned how many times you can reuse your towel before you should send it through the washing machine. However, not every situation is equal. If you aren’t caring for your towel properly, it may not even be hygienic to reuse it once. On the other hand, if you’re abiding by all the best practices, you may be able to stretch your towel out for an additional use.

To keep your towel as clean as possible between and before washes, follow these quick tips:

  • Hang up your towel: After using your towel, don’t just throw it on the floor in a heap until the next use. It will have a more difficult time drying like this and will be more prone to collecting germs. Instead, hang it up neatly for next time.
  • Don’t bunch your towel: For the best results, hang your towel up neatly on a towel bar or hook. Try not to leave the towel bunched up in places, as these sections will have trouble drying.
  • Turn on the fan: When you hang your towel up after your shower, try turning on the bathroom fan and letting it run for a few minutes. This helps clear moisture out of the air, helping your towel dry faster.
  • Don’t leave your damp towel in the hamper: Your towel is past its prime, so you throw it in the hamper in anticipation of the next laundry day. But over the next few days, you eventually throw more towels and clothes on top of it, effectively burying it for days before laundry day comes. This is unhealthy and promotes the growth of bacteria in your laundry basket, as the towel can't dry properly. Instead, avoid throwing the towel in the hamper until you’re ready to do laundry.

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No matter how well you care for your towels and how often you wash them, no towel is built to last forever. When your towels start to look like their best days are behind them, it’s time to get busy buying replacements. For all your towel needs, we invite you to browse our selection here at Towel Supercenter. To make things convenient for you, we sell our towels in bulk so that you can be sure you’re getting products that match perfectly, without worrying that your local department store might not have the exact number you need.

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Shop our towels today and get busy restocking your home or business.


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