How often to wash towels, according to the experts – combining cleanliness and eco-friendly practices

All your different household towels see different kinds of usage, meaning it's important to keep on top of how often they should each be washed

(Image credit: Future / Paint & Paper Library / Future)

As the items that are constantly used to dry off and clean ourselves and our houses, towels themselves are often forgotten when it comes to proper care, but they can quickly become quite unhygienic if you don't know how often to wash your towels. 

Not only is it important to regularly wash towels to keep them clean, but as elements of your home that are often decorative, it's important to wash towels to keep your whole home looking spotless. After all, making your towels smell fresh and look as good as new can make your spaces more inviting.

‘Even if you can't visibly see it, a towel can have a number of germs and bacteria accumulated on it because water can’t wash all of it off,' says Fantastic Services' house cleaning expert and supervisor, Petya Holevich. 'Salt, skin cells, and spills and food can be transferred to towels,' which is why it is vital to keep track of how long it's been since each one has been washed, rather than play a guessing game.

Our experts have advised how regularly you should wash different kinds of towels, based on their usage.

How often to wash towels

‘The frequency of towel washing should be influenced by factors such as the number of individuals using the towels, the level of physical activity, the prevailing environmental conditions, and while keeping environmental responsibility in mind' advises Muffetta Krueger, professional cleaner and founder of Muffetta's Domestic Assistants

'In a household with multiple occupants or in humid climates, towels might need more frequent laundering. 

‘High-quality towels made from natural fibers like cotton tend to last longer and maintain their freshness,' continues Muffetta Krueger.

'Regardless, regular washing is essential to maintain towels effectiveness and hygiene.’

Muffetta Krueger
Muffetta Krueger

Muffetta Krueger is a cleaning expert and founder of Muffetta’s Domestic Assistants with over 16 years of operational management experience in the service industry. Muffetta’s Domestic Assistants provides housekeepers, house cleaners and maids, and is based in New York.

1. Bath towels

Vintage bathroom with black and white flooring and vintage wood closet

(Image credit: Artist Residence)

'Wash bath towels after three to four uses, or once a week if you use them less frequently,' recommends Cam Dowski, interior designer and founder of We Buy Houses Chicago. 'This is due to the fact that bath towels, especially if you use them to dry yourself after exercising or a long day, can absorb a lot of perspiration, grime, and bacteria.’

This will allow you to strike a balance between maintaining freshness and not over-washing since besides not being eco-friendly, over-washing can also cause your best bath towels to wear out prematurely. 

'However, if you live in a hot and humid climate, or you or your family members have skin conditions or allergies, you might want to consider more frequent washing to prevent bacterial or fungal growth,' warns Rich Mullins, interior design expert and owner of H2O Plumbing.

2. Hand towels

bathroom basin with veined marble counter and oval mirror

(Image credit: William Abranowicz)

Cam Dowski recommends, 'If you use them regularly, wash your hand towels daily or every two days. Hand towels can easily become contaminated with bacteria since they are frequently used to dry wet hands after washing them.' 

Again, this can depend on how regularly they are used. In a house of two clean adults, you can probably wash hand towels less often, but in a packed house full of children hand painting and playing outside, washing them more regularly is advised.

3. Washcloths

Bathroom vanity blue tile pattern

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'Always wash your washcloths after every use,' says Mohammed Ahmed, interior designer and Founder of The Home Guidance. 'They come into direct contact with the face, removing makeup, oils, and grime, making them one of the most quickly soiled towels.'

It's critical to ensure washcloths are as clean as possible because they are used to clean the most delicate areas of your body. This is particularly important for avoiding infections and for those with sensitive skin.

Mohammad Ahmed
Mohammad Ahmed

Mohammad Ahmed is an Interior Designer and Home Expert. He did his bachelors degree in Interior Designing at the University of Minnesota in 2013 and since then has worked as an interior designer in various companies, designing functional and beautiful spaces for clients.  In addition to his interior and exterior design skills, Mohammad is also Home expert with a talent for creating bespoke furniture and other accessories. He has been featured in popular publications such as Forbes, Yahoo, Realtor, Real Homes, Bustle, and Livingetc for his exceptional design tips.

4. Kitchen towels

Orange kitchen with round dining table in foreground

(Image credit: Paint & Paper Library)

‘For kitchen towels, it's crucial to be diligent due to potential food contamination,' recommends Michael Gottron,  owner of Germicidal Maids.

Mohammed Ahmed adds, 'These towels absorb food residues, come into contact with raw meat, and become a hotspot for foodborne pathogens if not washed regularly.'

Michael Gottron continues, 'I suggest washing them every day or after every meal prep session to prevent cross-contamination,’ since regular washing is essential to maintain hygiene in the kitchen.

5. Decorative towels

A blue tiled bathroom with a long white back and two blue towels hanging from a roof hanger

(Image credit: Future)

Decorative towels are some of our favorite towel trends and can elevate a room, adding a texture or element of color. However, even though they may not regularly or ever be used, this doesn't mean you can neglect to wash them.

'Decorative towels can be washed every 2-3 weeks or if they've been used,' says Mohammed Ahmed. 'While they are less frequently used, dust and ambient moisture can still affect them.'


Why should you wash towels after buying them?

Although that new towel feeling is great, the rules for buying new towels dictates that you should wash new towels to remove chemicals and to make them more absorbent. 

Fantastic Service's house cleaning expert and supervisor Petya Holevich advises, ‘You should soak your towels in cold water and 1 cup of vinegar for 24 hours before you use them when you’ve just purchased them. 

'This will improve their absorbency and remove any residual chemicals or dyes that may be left from the manufacturing process. 

'New towels also often tend to shed excess fluff so washing them with vinegar before you use them will prevent them from leaving lint over your body.’

How do you know it's time to replace your towels?

Micheal Gottron, owner of Germicidal Maids says, ‘It's essential to keep an eye out for signs of mildew or odors. If towels develop a musty smell or appear discolored despite regular washing, it might be time to replace them or adjust your laundering routine.

'Additionally, always follow the care instructions on your towels to ensure their longevity.’

How often should you wash towels if you have sensitive skin?

'People with skin infections like eczema must wash their towels after every use to prevent further irritation,' suggests Sabrina Tretyakova, an certified cleaning technician at Fortador.

'I would suggest air-drying your towels before you throw them in the hamper. It deters the growth of harmful bacteria and fungi.'

Cleaning expert, Muffetta Krueger recommends, ‘To balance hygiene with environmental responsibility, consider adopting eco-friendly laundry practices, such as washing full loads, using cold water, and air-drying towels whenever possible,’ to be sustainable at home.

Muffetta Krueger leaves us with one final tip: 'If you notice that your towels are becoming stiff and less absorbent, wash your towels with white vinegar every few washes to help remove any detergent residue from them,’ to make your towels soft again.

Lola Houlton
News writer

Lola Houlton is a news writer for Homes & Gardens. She has been writing content for Future PLC for the past six years, in particular Homes & Gardens, Real Homes and GardeningEtc. She writes on a broad range of subjects, including practical household advice, recipe articles, and product reviews, working closely with experts in their fields to cover everything from heating to home organization through to house plants. Lola is a graduate, who completed her degree in Psychology at the University of Sussex. She has also spent some time working at the BBC.