How to wash towels

How to wash towels

We use them every day and they provide a valuable service, but do you really know the best way to wash and care for your towels? Your bath towels need to be properly maintained so they can help keep you clean and healthy, as well as keeping them soft, fluffy and absorbent.

At Spotlight we have a huge range of towels for you to choose from, but do you know how to wash towels in a way that keeps them in great condition? Washing towels doesn't have to be a headache - let us walk you through the best way to wash towels, as well as extra tips and tricks on keeping them clean, dry and safe!

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How often should you wash your towels?

If you ask around, you'll be surprised at the differing answers you'll receive to this simple question: "how often should you wash your towels?". Some people will swear by every other day, while others will chuck theirs in the wash once or twice a month. The answer depends on you.

Given that you step out of the shower nice clean, how is it that your towel can get dirty? Well, dirty isn't really the correct word to use here. When you dry yourself, dead skin cells and bacteria from your skin will be transferred from your body to your towel.

'But wait, I just scrubbed all that off!' you might cry. Well, unless you are vigorously scrubbing (ouch!) every inch of your body with a quality loofah or wash towel, you're going to step out of the shower with some microbes still on you - and that's how they can get onto your towel. Once you have dried off, this bacteria will have a lovely time growing in the dampness of your towel and feeding off your dead skin cells.

Here are our guidelines for washing towels:

  • The towels you use to dry your body should generally be washed once a week. This is if you have no skin conditions or illness and your towel is drying completely between washes.
  • If you have sensitive or irritated skin, washing them twice a week may help your condition. This is because rubbing a germy towel on sensitive skin can cause it to become aggravated.
  • If you are sharing your bathroom with someone who is sick, wash your towel every day to help prevent their illness from spreading to you.
  • For your bath mat you can be a little more lenient, but that depends on how you store it between washes. Does your bath mat live on the floor and get a lot of traffic from people in the bathroom? Wash it twice a week. Does your bath mat get hung up and away immediately after each use? You can probably hold on for two weeks before a wash.
  • Hand towels as well can be washed differently depending on their usage. Are you living in a family of thorough hand washers who use the hand towel to exclusively dry their hands? Once every other week will suffice. Or have you caught someone wiping their mouth on the hand towel, or does your pet like to have a sniff because it's at their eye height? Give it a wash twice a week.
  • If you have a gym towel that gets used and chucked into a gym bag, wash it after every use. Not only will it stink from the sweat, but any stray germs from the gym may accumulate on them, either from wiping down equipment or just from the copious amounts of air and sweat being exerted by the others in the gym.
  • Finally, your rough and tough beach towel should be washed after each use. It may not technically be germy, but it will definitely be salty and sandy - not the kinds of things you want in your linen closet!

Why do I need to keep my towels so clean?

Does cleaning your bath towel once a week sound like too much work? Think you can stretch it out to a month between washes? Think again! Here are three reasons why you should keep your bath towels clean:

  • Damp towels are breeding grounds for bacteria, germs and other nasties - everything needs water to live, including these guys! Even if you are hanging your towel out to dry perfectly, the period of time when it's damp will cause bacteria to grow due to what your towel picks up from your body.
  • A dirty towel can cause pimples, rashes and other skin irritations - when you dry yourself with a towel, you are stripping away skin and maybe even opening up small lesions in your skin. When the bacteria from your towel gets into these lesions all sorts of skin problems can occur, like pimples, sores and rashes.
  • It just feels nicer - come on, don't you just love the feeling of a clean towel? Much like fresh pyjamas and new sheets, a clean towel feels fantastic on clean skin! But the best sensation is when your towel is soft and fluffy, which can be hard to achieve if you don't wash your towels correctly. Let's ensure you can always enjoy that clean-towel feeling by learning how to wash towels properly.

How to wash towels

The best way to wash towels will depend on the colour of your towels, as well as how many towels you are washing at once. You can wash towels in a washing machine or by hand - here are our top tips for both:

How to wash towels in a washing machine

  • Wash like colours with like. This means whites with whites and colours with colours. Mixing your white towels with your coloured ones can cause your white towel to take on the colours of the other towels.
  • Wash white towels in hot water and coloured towels in warm water. Hot water provides a stronger clean and will help keep your whites bright, while a cooler wash will help prevent the colours from your other towels from leeching out. Read the settings on your washing machine carefully so you can change each cycle to the best temperature.
  • Don't overload your washing machine. You want your towels to have enough space for the water to move through and around your towels - if it's packed tight, your towels won't get a thorough clean.
  • Don't leave your towels inside the machine once the cycle has finished - unload them, shake them out and either pop them in the dryer or hang them up on a line. Leaving your towels will cause them to crease and perhaps even become damp again if left in the washing machine.
  • Use less detergent than you would with other clothing. Excess can cause your towels to have a build-up of detergent, which then makes them less able to absorb water off your body.

How to wash towels by hand

If you only have one or two towels to wash or your washing machine isn't working, it's worth washing towels by hand in your sink or bathtub. Hand washing towels allows you to focus on a stubborn spot or stain, plus it's faster than waiting for a whole washing machine cycle to complete! Here are our tips for hand-washing towels -

  • If you have a small stain, run it under the tap and scrub away with a spot-based detergent before washing completely. Use cold water for protein-based stains like blood, meat sauce, dairy and egg stains, while hot water can be used for oil, coffee, wine and water-based ink stains. We use cold water for protein-based stains because hot water can 'cook' the protein and cause it to set!
  • Once you have attended to any stubborn trains needing cold water, fill your tub with water as hot as you can handle - the hotter the water, the more germs will be killed.
  • Add your detergent of choice to the water, then add the towels and stir them around to loosen off any dirt.
  • Leave your towels to soak if you think they need it.
  • Drain the water and wring out your towels. If they need it, fill up your tub again with cold water and add a cup of white vinegar if you think the towels need some extra freshening up.
  • Drain the water, wring out your towels and then shake them out before hanging them out to dry.
How to make towels soft again

How to make towels soft again

Sad to find that your favourite fluffy towel has become stiff and scratchy? There are ways to prevent this, but if your towel has already lost its fluff, don't worry - there are ways to bring it back!

Keep your towel soft:

  • Wash them with less detergent than other clothes, as too much can build up a residue of excess soap.
  • Avoid regularly using fabric softener, as it can build up on the fibres of your towels and decrease their absorbency. You can substitute softener with vinegar once every six weeks.
  • Wash white towels in hot water and coloured towels in warm water to help maintain their fluffiness.

Make your towel soft again:

  • Add some white vinegar to the fabric softening compartment in your washing machine. Don't use detergent for this load! If you want to use both, wash the towels first with detergent, then start another load with only vinegar.
  • If you have a dryer, line dry your towels until mostly dry, then toss them in the dryer on a quick dry setting with no heat. This will save you energy but also give your towels the benefit of a dryer tumble.

Follow these tips when drying and washing towels to keep them in the best condition.

How to strip wash towels

Strip washing is taking the world by storm, and for good reason! This hardcore cleaning technique reveals just how 'clean' your towels really are, even straight from the washing machine. Laundry stripping can take a while, but it will remove any leftover oils, dirt, detergent and minerals from your washing and water supply.

Because strip washing utilises hot water, the dyes in your coloured towels may run if they haven't been washed too much before. Make sure to strip wash towels of similar colours together to avoid any colours leeching onto the wrong towel.

If you want to know how to strip wash towels, follow the steps below:

  1. Fill a large sink, bucket or tub with hot water. In a 1:1:2 ratio, add borax, washing soda (not baking soda!)and laundry detergent. If you are using a traditional bathtub, it will be ¼ cup of borax, ¼ cup of soda and ½ cup of laundry detergent.
  2. Choose a few towels that have been recently cleaned. Submerge your towels completely in the water until the water has completely cooled - usually 4-5 hours. Every hour, use a stick or spoon to agitate the towels and release the build-up of grime on them.
  3. Drain the dirty water, wring out your sheets and then pop them in your washing machine on a regular cycle without any detergent or other cleaning chemicals.
  4. Dry your towels as normal.

Did the dirty water from your towels surprise you? While it's very effective, don't be tempted to strip wash your towels every week. It's quite a rough process on your towels and you don't want to wear them out or damage the fibres from overwashing. Strip wash towels twice a year to keep them clean and in good condition.

How to dry towels

Now that you've got your towels squeaky clean, let's discuss the best ways to dry them. Drying your towels immediately after washing is very important, as if they sit too long while damp they may begin to grow mouldy and smell. Here are the two best ways to dry your towels (and one way you shouldn't!)

  1. Line drying - drying your towels on the line has some great perks! You will save on your energy bills, and if you are hanging your towels outdoors they will also benefit from the fresh air. Hanging white towels in the sunlight can help keep them white and further kill remaining bacteria, but be careful with coloured towels, as they may fade in the sun.
  2. Tumble drying - popping your towels in the dryer after washing is an easy way to get them fluffy and warm, especially if you throw in some dryer or tennis balls to help stop them clumping. But can you put towels in the dryer after every wash? Technically yes, but be aware that constant tumble drying can cause your towels to thin out over time.

And how not to dry your towel? Don't drape them over a radiator or heating unit in your home, as not only is it a fire hazard, but all that moisture evaporating off your towels? It will stick to your walls, condense into water droplets and can even cause mould growth in your home.

It can also make your towels hard and scratchy. It will also up your power bill, as your heater will need to work harder to warm your home when it's covered by wet towels.

See all these negatives adding up? While it might seem like an easy solution, the bottom line is - don't dry your towels on your radiator! Your health, wallet and towels themselves will thank you for it later.

Extra towel care tips

Extra towel care tips

A good towel is an investment, and keeping your towels in good condition will extend their life and make them more pleasant to use. Here are some of our best towel tips to keep them in their best condition!

  • Wash your towels after you buy them - while your towel always feels the best right after you buy it, we recommend giving it a quick wash before using. While sitting in a store towels can accumulate dust, and who knows how many people have handled it before you? Some businesses also treat towels with a solution to make them feel lovely in store, but not very absorbent on your skin. So to help your towel do its job, give it a good wash first! How to wash new towels? Just a regular wash on your normal cycle will do! Don't worry about adding anything other than regular detergent at this stage.
  • Hang your towels on a rack, not a hook - while the look of a towel dangling from a hook is a nice one, it's not very good for the actual drying process. The folds and narrow hanging point mean the moisture in your towel won't evaporate as quickly. For a quick and even dry, hang them fully outstretched on a towel rack.
  • Best ways to fold towels - ever wondered how to fold a towel? There are heaps of interesting ways you can do it, but the most common is either a third fold or a roll.

To fold your towel:

  • Fold the towel in half lengthways and smooth it flat with your hands.
  • Fold your towel down in thirds, keeping each section even and flat. When storing this towel, place it so the folds are facing out.

To roll your towel:

  • Fold the towel in half lengthways and smooth it flat with your hands.
  • Fold one corner of the towel in so it makes a neat triangle and lines up with the rest of the towel
  • Flip the towel over and begin to roll tightly from the other end
  • Once you have rolled it all up, tuck the top cover of the triangle into the rolls of the towel.
  • Storing towels - once they have been folded up, storing towels is the next step. Store your towels somewhere dry and out of direct sunlight. A linen closet is always a safe option, but if you love the day spa-style look, try rolling them up and storing them in open racks in your bathroom.

Find amazing towels at Spotlight

Now that you know how to treat your towels, why not grab a towel set from Spotlight? We have an amazing range of beach towels, sheets, mats and washcloths, all made from quality materials and in a range of stunning colours and patterns.

Buy online and choose from a great range of payment options, as well as home delivery or click and collect for your order.

You can check out the range at your local Spotlight store, where our friendly staff can help you find the right towels for you and your family.

For great bathroom products, ideas and buying guides, check out our expansive bathroom section online.




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