Should you wash towels in hot water? Professionals give a definitive answer

Experts are setting their washing machine dials to this temperature – for bacteria-free towels that look fresher for longer

Rolled towels in a brown wicker basket
(Image credit: Alamy)

Knowing whether you should wash towels in hot water may seem somewhat relative, but your water's temperature is more important than it seems. 

While learning how to wash towels is a seemingly easy process, there are different levels of cleanliness to consider. Simply throwing your towels in the washing machine will help them appear cleaner, but if you wash them at the wrong temperature, you may be left with harmful germs and bacteria that are much better left outside your bathroom. And your water temperature's importance goes beyond bacteria prevention. 

If you've read up on how to keep towels soft, you may know that temperature and your drying habits all have an impact on their quality, and that includes how fresh they look on your towel rail. 

Bathroom with blue tiled floor, white double hand basin against white tiles with blue garden scene with birds.

(Image credit: Future)

Mastering an effective wash routine is a key part of knowing how to use your towels correctly. This is what the experts suggest for clean, fluffy towels that stay brighter for longer.

Should you wash towels in hot water? 

'Yes, towels should be washed in hot water to kill any bacteria or germs that may be present,' says Basit, a home expert from Kitchen Strategist. 'Hot water will also help to remove any dirt or grime that may be on the towel and is more effective than cold water at removing these things from fabrics.' 

However, using hot water comes with a warning. If your water is too hot, it can decrease the life of your towel and also lead to fraying, color bleeding, and shrinkage. The expert recommends opting for a temperature range between 104-140°F for clean towels that will look fresh, wash after wash. 

'This temperature is hot enough to kill bacteria but not so hot that it will damage the fabric of the towels,' he says. 'Additionally, this temperature range is comfortable enough to touch without being too hot.'

Rolled towels in a bathroom

(Image credit: Sheridan)

Wayne Edelman, the CEO of Meurice Garment Care, also warns that you should also be extra careful when washing darker towels in hot water, as the heat may cause the color to fade. 

How do you get towels white and fluffy again?

Knowing how to maintain your towels properly goes beyond your towel storage ideas (though these are important too). 

Traditional wooden unit with two round sinks in a bathroom with Victorian floor tiles.

(Image credit: Future)

Wayne Edelman from Meurice Garment Care explains that your laundry habits are vital to ensuring your towels remain white and fluffy, but in many cases, this involves dropping an important laundry staple.

'I do not recommend the use of fabric softeners in the wash for towels as it degrades their moisture retention,' the expert warns. 'You [should] dry towels all the way through in your dryer to remain light and fluffy. It is best to fold items right after to prevent wrinkles.'

As an extra step to white towels, Basit recommends cleaning with baking soda – the versatile home-care staple that will help to loosen dirt and stains. This solution will also 'leave your towels looking and smelling fresher than ever.'

Megan Slack
Head of Celebrity Style News

Megan is the Head of Celebrity Style News at Homes & Gardens. She first joined Future Plc as a News Writer across their interiors titles, including Livingetc and Real Homes, before becoming H&G's News Editor in April 2022. She now leads the Celebrity/ News team. Before joining Future, Megan worked as a News Explainer at The Telegraph, following her MA in International Journalism at the University of Leeds. During her BA in English Literature and Creative Writing, she gained writing experience in the US while studying in New York. Megan also focused on travel writing during her time living in Paris, where she produced content for a French travel site. She currently lives in London with her antique typewriter and an expansive collection of houseplants.