a person’s hands submerging a fluffy, light blue towel into a basin filled with frothy, bubbly water, indicating the use of detergent. Next to the basin, there's a bottle of eco-friendly detergent and a clean, white towel waiting to be washed.

How to Wash a Towel

When it comes to household chores, knowing how to wash a towel properly might not be the first thing that springs to mind. But, truth be told, this simple task is more important than we often give it credit for. After all, towels are essential to our daily hygiene routines, and if not cleaned correctly, they can become a breeding ground for bacteria. In this article, we will walk you through the step-by-step process of how to wash a towel, ensuring it comes out of the laundry fresh, clean, and ready to use.

You might think that tossing your towels into the washing machine with some detergent is all it takes, but there’s actually a bit more to it than that. From sorting your towels by color to selecting the right washing machine settings, each step plays a crucial role in achieving the best results. We will also cover the options you have when it comes to drying your towels, as well as some handy storage tips to keep them in top condition. So, let’s dive in and get those towels sparkling clean!

Preparation Before Washing

Washing towels may seem like a straightforward task, but preparing correctly can make a significant difference in the outcome. Proper preparation not only ensures your towels come out fresh and clean but also extends their lifespan. So, before you rush to toss those towels into the washing machine, take a few minutes to get everything set for the best results. Here’s what you need to know about “how to wash a towel” in the preparation phase.

Gathering Materials

It’s a good rule of thumb to have everything you need within arm’s reach. This makes the washing process smoother and reduces the chances of forgetting a step.

Towels: First and foremost, gather all the towels you want to wash. This might include bath towels, hand towels, and even those used in the kitchen.

Laundry Detergent: A quality laundry detergent is essential. It’s the primary agent responsible for cleaning and removing dirt.

Fabric Softener (optional): While not a must, fabric softeners can make your towels feel softer and more pleasant against your skin. If you’re sensitive to fragrances, opt for a fragrance-free version.

Vinegar: If your towels have lost their luster and feel stiff, white vinegar can help bring them back to life. It acts as a natural softener and is excellent for deep cleaning.

Baking Soda: Got some smelly towels? Baking soda to the rescue! This household staple is fantastic at removing unpleasant odors.

Checking the Care Label

Even though most towels might seem similar, they can have different care requirements.

Understanding the Recommended Wash Temperature and Settings: Towels, especially colored ones, have recommended wash temperatures to ensure they don’t fade or get damaged. Make sure you’re clued in on these details.

Identifying Special Care Instructions: Some towels may come with unique care instructions, perhaps due to their fabric blend or design features. Always give the label a quick glance to ensure you’re treating your towel the best way possible.

In the next sections, we’ll dive deeper into the washing process itself. But remember, the key to “how to wash a towel” starts with the right preparation!

Sorting and Pre-Treating Towels

Getting the most out of your towel-washing experience isn’t just about tossing them into the machine and pressing ‘start’. It’s the little things, like sorting and pre-treating, that can make a world of difference in the end results. Let’s dive into this next crucial phase of “how to wash a towel”.


When it comes to washing towels, organization is key. Sorting prevents colors from bleeding and ensures each towel gets the care it deserves.

Separate by Color: This one’s a classic laundry tip and holds true for towels as well. Group towels into three categories:

  • Whites: Pure white towels that can withstand bleach if necessary.
  • Lights: Pastel shades or lighter colored towels.
  • Darks: Deep colors like navy, black, or burgundy which might bleed color.

Keep Heavily Soiled Towels Separate: If you’ve got towels that are particularly dirty or stained, it’s a good idea to wash them separately. This way, they won’t transfer dirt or grime onto cleaner towels.


Sometimes, towels need a bit of extra care before the main wash, especially if they have stains or persistent odors.

Identifying and Treating Stains: Before washing, inspect your towels for any noticeable stains. Pre-treat them using a dab of laundry detergent or a stain remover. This gives your towels a fighting chance against those stubborn spots.

Using Vinegar: Remember our friend, white vinegar, from the preparation phase? It’s back! If your towels feel a bit rough or you want a deeper clean, pre-soak them in a solution of water and vinegar. This helps in breaking down residues and softening the fabric.

Adding Baking Soda for Odors: If your towels have a musty smell, baking soda is your go-to solution. Sprinkle some on your towels before starting the wash. It works wonders in absorbing and neutralizing those pesky odors.

Now that our towels are sorted and pre-treated, they’re all set for the main event—the washing! As we move forward in our “how to wash a towel” guide, you’ll see how these preparatory steps pave the way for fresher, cleaner towels.

Washing Process

Alright, we’ve prepared and pre-treated our towels. Now, it’s showtime—the actual washing process. This phase is where the magic happens, turning those dirty, smelly towels into fresh, fluffy ones ready to embrace you post-shower. Let’s navigate the ins and outs of “how to wash a towel” in this crucial stage.

Choosing the Right Detergent

The detergent you pick plays a starring role in how your towels turn out. It’s the main cleaning agent, after all.

Liquid vs. Powder:

  • Liquid Detergents: These are great for pre-treating stains and work well in both cold and hot water. They dissolve easily and are less likely to leave residue.
  • Powder Detergents: Effective in getting towels clean, especially in hot water. However, ensure it’s fully dissolved to avoid residue.

Fragrance-Free and Dye-Free Options: For those with sensitive skin or allergies, it’s essential to pick a detergent that’s gentle. Fragrance-free and dye-free options are usually hypoallergenic, ensuring your towels are both clean and kind to your skin.

Setting the Washing Machine

A washing machine isn’t just a ‘one-size-fits-all’ operation, especially when it comes to towels.

Load Size:

  • Avoiding Overloading: It might be tempting to cram in as many towels as possible, but resist! Towels need space to move around for thorough cleaning. Overloading can result in poorly washed towels and wear out your machine faster.

Temperature Setting:

  • Usually Warm or Cold: Warm water is great for ensuring a thorough clean, while cold water helps save energy and is gentler on fabrics.

Cycle Setting:

  • Regular or Heavy-Duty: The dirtier the towel, the more robust the cycle needed. For everyday washes, a regular cycle will do. But for those heavily soiled towels, a heavy-duty cycle might be in order.

Adding Fabric Softener (Optional)

Fabric softener can be a game-changer, but it’s not always necessary.

Pros and Cons:

  • Pros: It can make towels feel super soft and often adds a pleasant fragrance.
  • Cons: Overuse can lead to residue build-up, reducing a towel’s absorbency.


  • Using White Vinegar as a Natural Softener: If you’re not keen on commercial softeners, white vinegar is a great natural alternative. It softens towels and helps maintain their absorbency.

With the washing process completed, our towels are almost ready. But as we’ll see in our next section, drying and storing them correctly is just as important in our “how to wash a towel” journey. Stay tuned!

Drying Towels

We’re on the home stretch! Having successfully washed our towels, it’s time to get them dry and ready for use. The drying process is essential in our “how to wash a towel” guide. Proper drying ensures that towels remain fluffy, soft, and free from that dreaded musty smell. Let’s delve into the best methods to get those towels dry and comfy.

Using a Dryer

A clothes dryer can be a real time-saver, especially on those rainy days when air drying isn’t an option.

Setting the Right Temperature:

  • Usually Medium Heat: While it might be tempting to crank up the heat for quicker drying, medium heat is your best bet. It effectively dries towels without causing unnecessary wear or shrinkage.

Avoiding Over-Drying:

  • Maintain Towel’s Softness: Keep a close eye on the drying process. Over-drying can lead to stiff and scratchy towels. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and check them periodically.

Using Dryer Balls or Sheets:

  • For Additional Softness: Dryer balls, especially wool ones, can significantly reduce drying time and leave your towels feeling soft. On the other hand, dryer sheets add fragrance and reduce static. However, use these sparingly, as they can reduce a towel’s absorbency over time.

Air Drying

Sometimes, the old-fashioned way is the best way. Air drying towels can have several benefits, especially if done right.

Benefits of Air Drying:

  • Energy Efficient: No need for electricity means it’s a green way to dry your towels.
  • Gentle on Towels: Air drying reduces wear and tear, often resulting in longer-lasting towels.

Ensuring Proper Airflow:

  • Faster Drying and Preventing Mildew: Make sure towels are spread out and not folded or bunched up. This ensures they dry quickly and evenly, reducing the risk of that unpleasant mildewy smell.

Recommended Method for Certain Towel Materials:

  • Natural Fibers: Materials like bamboo or organic cotton benefit from air drying as it helps maintain their natural softness and integrity.

There you have it—the ins and outs of drying towels to perfection. As we continue our “how to wash a towel” adventure, remember that each step, from washing to drying, plays a crucial role in giving you that perfect towel experience. Onward to the final touches!

Storing Towels

We’ve washed, dried, and now it’s time to store our towels. But wait, there’s an art to this too! Proper storage is the cherry on top of our “how to wash a towel” journey. It ensures that towels remain fresh, accessible, and free from any mold or mildew. Here’s the best way to put those towels away until their next use.

Folding vs. Rolling

How you choose to store your towels can influence not only their longevity but also the overall aesthetics of your storage space.


  • Benefits: Folding towels is a classic method. It’s neat, allows towels to be stacked, and optimizes space in a cupboard or on a shelf. Plus, folded towels give a uniform and tidy appearance.


  • Benefits: Rolling can be a space-saver, especially if you’re storing towels in a basket or open shelving. Rolled towels are also less prone to creases, and they can be easier for kids to grab and go without toppling over a neat stack.

Shelf or Drawer Organization

No matter the size of your storage space, there’s always a way to keep your towels organized and within easy reach.

Keeping Towels Easily Accessible:

  • Create a dedicated spot for each type: bath towels, hand towels, washcloths, etc. This not only keeps things tidy but also makes it easier to find what you need.
  • If space allows, you might want to designate separate shelves or drawers for different towel colors or patterns, ensuring that sets remain together.

Ensuring Complete Dryness

The cardinal rule of towel storage? Never, ever store them damp.

To Avoid Mold and Mildew Growth:

  • Even a slightly damp towel can become a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Always ensure your towels are 100% dry before folding or rolling them for storage. If you’re unsure, give them some extra air drying time.
  • It’s also a good practice to occasionally air out your towel storage area, especially if it’s a closed cupboard or drawer. This ensures that any trapped moisture escapes, keeping the environment dry and mold-free.

And there we have it—the final step in our comprehensive “how to wash a towel” guide. From washing to storing, each phase is vital to ensure you have clean, fresh, and fluffy towels ready to use. Happy washing!


Washing a towel might seem like a simple task, but as we’ve journeyed together through this guide, it’s clear that there’s an art and science to it. From the preparation phase to the final storage, every step has its significance, ensuring that our towels remain soft, fresh, and long-lasting. With the knowledge of “how to wash a towel” now in your hands, you’re equipped to maximize the lifespan of your towels, ensuring they’re always ready to wrap you in comfort. So the next time you step out of a refreshing shower or wipe your hands dry, take a moment to appreciate the clean and cozy embrace of a well-cared-for towel. Cheers to many more years of fluffy, fragrant, and fresh towels!


It’s recommended to wash bath towels after three to four uses. However, if a towel is visibly dirty or has an odor, it should be washed sooner. Hand towels and washcloths, since they’re used more frequently, should be washed every one to two days.

While it’s possible, it’s best to wash towels separately. This ensures they get properly clean and reduces the risk of towel lint transferring onto clothes.

A musty smell can be caused by towels not drying fully before being stored or by a buildup of detergent and fabric softener in the fibers. Try washing them with a cup of white vinegar to break down the residue and ensure they’re thoroughly dry before storing.

While bleach is effective in whitening and disinfecting towels, it can weaken the fabric if used frequently. If you must use bleach, ensure it’s non-chlorine bleach and use it sparingly.

While fabric softener can make towels feel soft, overusing it can reduce the towel’s absorbency. If you choose to use it, do so occasionally. For a natural alternative, white vinegar can be used as a softening agent.

Yes! Pre-treating stains increases the chances of completely removing them. Dab a bit of detergent or stain remover on the spot before the main wash.

Both methods have their merits. Air drying is energy-efficient and gentle on towels, preserving their fibers. Using a dryer, especially with dryer balls, can make towels fluffier. However, always ensure towels are dried thoroughly by either method to prevent mildew.

Rolling towels can be a space-saving method, especially in tight spaces. Utilizing vertical storage, like over-the-door hangers or wall-mounted racks, can also help in maximizing space.