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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 them 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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Why Is It Important to Wash Your Towels?

While most of us realize that we need to wash our towels every so often, few of us know why or how often. Many believe that the towel will remain pristine for multiple uses since your hands or body is clean when you are drying off. This isn't entirely the case. Towels host a variety of microorganisms that you probably don't want to welcome into your hygiene routine. The science behind this is clear and easy to understand once we take the time to look at the facts.

The wetness from your body and hands transfers onto the towel as you dry. Towels can absorb large quantities of water, but drying takes hours. This period of dampness is just the right environment for microbes to grow and reproduce. When you dry your hands with a kitchen or hand towel or rub yourself down after a shower, dead skin cells, oils and other particles transfer to the towel. Various germs and microorganisms will stay on the towel until you wash or use it again.  

A few of the different microbes you might find on bath towels include mold, yeast, bacteria, skin cells and dirt. These tiny colonies are invisible to the naked eye but are there all the same. If left unchecked, they will continue to grow until they become large and numerous enough to possibly increase your risk for skin infections, such as athlete's foot and acne.

The best and most efficient way to stop 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. When washing your towels, you can use these tips to remove any mildew or bacteria

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. You want to know how often to wash and change towels. You may feel that you now need to wash them after every single use to prevent these germs from spreading in the first place. While you can wash them after every use, if that's what you prefer, 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 wet 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. 

However, there are some exceptions to reusing towels. In some cases, you can only use towels once. These cases include: 

  • When someone is sick: Always note that the rules change when you or anyone in your home is sick. Because you don't want to spread germs between ill and healthy family members, reexpose the sick person to the infection or risk you or other household members catching the bacteria or virus, you'll want to be more careful about how often you change the towels. Make sure to change the sick person's bath towel and hand towels daily.
  • Gym towels: When you're at the gym, your towel absorbs a lot of sweat and dirt. Once your workout is complete, you probably put it in your gym bag. Gym bags are sweaty and smelly and carry funguses, bacteria and germs. By placing your towel in your gym bag, you are exposing it to all of this. For this reason, you should wash your gym towel daily instead of reusing it. 
  • Any towel with body fluid: If the towel has body fluid, you must wash it after use. Exposing yourself to bodily fluid is unhygienic and risky, even if it's yours. This could spread bacteria and viruses. 
  • Sensitive skin or eczema: Someone with eczema or sensitive skin should wash their towels daily to minimize breakouts. 
  • Towels that don't dry: Towels kept in a damp bathroom that cannot dry need to be washed after use to prevent mildew, mold and bacteria from festering. 

It's also important to note that different types of towels have different rules. How often you should wash hand towels is different from how often you should wash bath towels. You need to wash hand towels more often than your bath towels because you will likely use a hand towel more frequently than a bath towel. You wash your hands many times but only shower once daily. Therefore, it only makes sense that your towels must 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, so it 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 get away with reusing these for an extra day unless you use the microfiber towel for the gym. 
  • Cotton: There's nothing better than a fluffy cotton towel, but if you want your towels to stay fluffy instead of becoming soggy and damp, you'll want to keep to a strict washing schedule.
  • Cotton-polyester blend: These towels are almost as soft as cotton. Polyester makes them more durable and increases their performance. You need to wash cotton-polyester blend towels as frequently as cotton towels. 
  • Bamboo: Bamboo towels are naturally antibacterial and mildew resistant. Due to this, you can reuse bamboo towels a few times before washing them. 

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 change your towel in your house is the purpose for which you use that towel. In other words, you'll wash all your bath and kitchen towels after the same number of uses, but you won't wash them on the same schedule. Because you're using them for different things, their cleaning needs will differ.

Here is a breakdown of the guidelines for each type of towel.

1. How Often Should You Wash Your Bath Towels?

how many times should you use a washcloth before washing it

How often you should change your bath towel depends on how often you use it and whether you share it. It is alright to share a bath towel with a partner, but it is not recommended. Bath towels still trap the same particles as hand towels, so you would be sharing germs. Whether you share a bath towel or not, it still needs to be washed after three uses. 

Bath towels can last a little longer than hand towels because you don't use them as often a day. However, they still warrant more frequent cleanings than 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. Even if you don't have a specific washing schedule, you'll likely notice when it's time to wash your bath towels. To learn more about bath towels and decide which one is right for you, check out our guide

Always make sure you hang your bath towel on a drying rack, so it can adequately dry if you plan to reuse it. 

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

You should wash your hand towels once every day or every two days. The reason we recommend washing these towels so often is that you 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 you probably dried your hands on the hand towel after each of those washes. This invites numerous opportunities for these towels to become dirty and damp.

If you're rarely home or 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. When you consider that sometimes our hands aren't even clean when we touch a hand towel, you probably won't want to go more than two days. We often 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 hand towels are different. Your bath towel or washcloth is exclusive to you, but everyone in your home uses the same hand towel. Therefore, hand towels trap more skin cells and oils, causing them to get dirty faster and need washing more frequently.

3. How Often Should You Wash Your Kitchen Towels?

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

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 faces. 

While you may rinse the cloth off before hanging it back up to dry, it isn't a good idea to do this for too many days in a row, or else you'll risk rubbing makeup residue back onto your skin, which can result in skin conditions like acne or clogged pores.

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

The answer to how often you should be washing your kitchen towels depends on what you use those towels for and how often you use them. If your kitchen towels are primarily decorative or rarely used, 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 is in the kitchen — then you should put them on the same regular washing schedule as the rest of your hand towels — daily or every other day.

Kitchen towels have a variety of purposes, such as drying dishes, wiping down countertops, drying your hands after working with food or using it as a potholder to grasp hot dishes. Your towel will accumulate dirt and germs much faster than an ordinary hand towel if you use it for any of these purposes. 

Beyond the 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 and replacing it with a fresh one at the end of the day.

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. 

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, mold and mildew. 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. Do not leave the towel bunched up in places, as these sections will have trouble drying.
  • Turn on the fan: When you hang your towel 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, burying it for days before laundry day. 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.

How Often Should You Replace Your Towels? 

The lifecycle of towels will depend on their quality and how well you care for them. Cheap towels may unravel faster, and using the wrong water temperature could cause the towel fibers to break down. If a towel smells moldy or musty, try sanitizing it in your washing machine, soaking it in vinegar or hanging it out in the sun to dry. With good care, towels can last for many years. Some basic tips for towel washing are: 

  • Check the label: The label on towels includes washing and drying instructions, such as wash temperature and recommended drying methods. Following these directions will keep your towel from becoming damaged. 
  • Separate white and colored towels: There is always a risk that the dyes used in colored towels will bleed onto white towels. This risk increases when the colored towels are new because they can easily transfer their dye. 
  • Wash towels as a separate load: The dyes could transfer onto other laundry. It is also easy to overload a dryer when you mix linens and clothes, preventing the towels from drying properly. 
  • Use vinegar: Washing towels with vinegar for the first few washes will help the colors set. After the first few washes, using vinegar will keep your towels soft. Don't worry; they won't smell like vinegar. 
  • Warm water: It is usually best to wash towels using warm water. Check the label to see what water temperature the fabric or material requires. 

Shop High-Quality Towels Today

 

No towel is made to last forever, no matter how well you care for your towels or how often you wash them. When your towels look like their best days are behind them, it's time to get busy buying replacements. We invite you to browse our selection here at Towel Supercenter for all your towel needs. 

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.

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

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

 

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