Can you wash sheets and towels together? A care guide

Find out if you can wash sheets and towels together to speed through the laundry

Sheets and towels together
(Image credit: Alamy)

Want a full load for the washing machine and asking can you wash sheets and towels together? After all, mixing items could save energy and thus money as well as sparing you the time taken to deal with two different loads. 

But while of course you can wash sheets and towels together in the sense of loading them both into the washing machine drum and setting a cycle going, whether you should is another issue.

To answer the latter question we’ve put together a guide on both the benefits of a mixed load and the downsides, including advice and laundry room ideas from the experts.

Can you wash sheets and towels together: selecting laundry loads

There are plenty of people who will tell you in response to the question can you wash sheets and towels together that the answer is no. 

‘The internet is full of reasons why you should not wash your sheets and towels together, and in an ideal world, you would wash them separately,’ says Steve Payne, bedding and interiors expert  at Sleep and Snooze.

‘However, unless you've got navy blue towels and ivory white bedding then washing them at the same time will not do either any harm,’ he continues. ‘The environment will thank you for it as well.’

1. When to wash sheets and towels together

gray laundry room countertops

(Image credit: Kate Lester Interiors / Lauren Pressey Photography)

Filling the washing machine is a good reason to put different types of items together. Wayne Edelman, CEO of high end dry cleaning service Meurice Garment Care, which specializes in interior and wardrobe cleaning services, answers the question of whether you can wash sheets and towels together, ‘Absolutely, if there is not enough for a full load of each.

‘As long as they are compatible in a wash load and the load does not become too large for the machine, it makes for greater efficiencies in terms of water/electric/gas etc,’ he says.

2. What temperature and cycle to use

Check the laundry symbols on the labels of sheets and towels to determine what temperature and cycle is best, bearing in mind that the sheets could have a lower maximum wash temperature, which you’ll need to abide by for the load.

‘As a rule of thumb, white can tolerate hot cycles, light to medium colors warm and dark colors cold,’ says Wayne Edelman. ‘Keep in mind that the warmer the temperature the more effective the surfactant qualities of detergents become at removing stains and soil. Massage/body and moisturizing oils on sheets might require a higher temperature and possibly pre spotting prior to washing.’

Detergent is a matter of preference, but you’ll probably want to skip the fabric softener to keep towels soft as well as absorbent. ‘I do not recommend the use of fabric softeners in the wash for towels as it degrades their moisture retention, however their use on sheets is fine,’ says Wayne. 

If you don’t want to go without it for your sheets, of course, this will be a reason to split the two different types of item in the laundry.

3. When not to wash sheets and towels together

A preference for using fabric softener for sheets and avoiding it for towels is not the only reason you might choose not to wash sheets and towels together. As  mentioned above, their color is also crucial. 

The rules to follow? ‘Red is the color most likely to run, therefore keep red items separate,’ says Wayne Edelman. ‘Black items are also in this category. We usually separate into three categories for the most part: white, light colors and dark colors.’

Look out, too, for any special requirements for sheets. ‘Some types of sheets need additional care, so you should always read the care instructions on your product’s label to ensure you’re cleaning them correctly,’ explains Logan Foley, sleep science coach and managing editor at Sleep Foundation.org . ‘Use the hottest water setting that the sheet type allows (cotton can usually handle hot water, but polyester should be run on warm). Towels are usually cotton, but you can check the label to be sure.’

4. Drying sheets and towels

Drying sheets and towels together is also possible, but they do have different drying times. ‘Sheets usually dry long before the towels,’ says Wayne Edelman. ‘I recommend stopping the cycle early if you are co-mingling and check to see if the sheets are dry. If they are dry, they should be removed from the dryer and leave the towels to dry by themselves. It is best to fold towels and other items right out of the dryer to prevent wrinkling.’

How often should you wash sheets and towels?

Wash sheets and towels weekly – or perhaps even more frequently. ‘You should wash your sheets once a week,’ says Logan Foley. ‘If you sleep with pets or have allergies, you should change them even more often. Towels follow the same general rule – wash once a week.’

However, it is a matter of personal perference as well as circumstances. ‘There is no rule as it depends on your own personal hygiene as well as how much time you spend in the bed and what goes on in it,’ says Wayne Edelman. ‘Do you shower before getting into bed or in the morning? We change our sheets and towels in my house two times a week. I would like to move to three times.’

Sarah Warwick
Sarah Warwick

Sarah is a freelance journalist and editor. Previously executive editor of Ideal Home, she’s specialized in interiors, property and gardens for over 20 years, and covers interior design, house design, gardens, and cleaning and organizing a home for H&G. She’s written for websites, including Houzz, Channel 4’s flagship website, 4Homes, and Future’s T3; national newspapers, including The Guardian; and magazines including Future’s Country Homes & Interiors, Homebuilding & Renovating, Period Living, and Style at Home, as well as House Beautiful, Good Homes, Grand Designs, Homes & Antiques, LandLove and The English Home among others. It’s no big surprise that she likes to put what she writes about into practice, and is a serial house renovator.