Laundry 101: clean towels

Laundry 101: clean towels

When I left home for the college at the age of seventeen, I had never done a load of laundry.  I had only looked on with envy as my cousins helped their mom with the wash–and they got paid a quarter a load to do it, too.

I arrived at my college dorm with loads of clean sheets, and clean towels–and no idea what I needed to do to keep them clean.  Clothing was easier for me to understand–I wore it, it got dirty, or smelly, and therefore clearly needed washing.  But towels and sheets often don’t look dirty, even if they are unclean.   How often to wash?  How to do it?  No idea.

Thank goodness for my British roommate, who showed me the ropes.

What the Brit taught me about clean towels.

Clean bath linens will look bright white and smell like….clean towels!  There should be no trace of a musty or mildewy scent.  If your white towels are not clean, bright and fresh, there is no way to hide it.  It’s not complicated to get great laundry results for your towels, you just have to know what to do.

Choosing your towels

Colored towels can be lovely, but white towels are more versatile.  White cotton terry towels are a classic choice and they can be bleached, which is key. These organic towels from Pottery Barn are my personal favorites.

During the week

Hang wet towels to dry right away.  Hang properly, which means in as thin a layer as possible.  No bunching!  The towels need to dry quickly so mildew and mold don’t have the opportunity to form.

Wash towels at least weekly

Any longer between washings and trouble is more likely to arise.  Hang towels to dry, and then place towels in hamper.  Don’t leave piles of wet towels around waiting for laundry day.

Laundering Instructions

Wash towels on “high” with the hottest water you can.  Add bleach (for white towels) or vinegar to the rinse cycle at least every few times you wash the towels.  If towels are coming out dingy,  increase the water temperature and use bleach.  Make sure you are using a quality detergent.  You can also add a booster to the detergent for better results, such as borax, washing soda or Oxiclean.  (Note:  don’t bleach colored towels.)

Biokleen laundry powder is my favorite detergent. It contains grapefruit and citrus seed extracts that smell wonderful and clean well. I get mine from Vitacost. Get $10 off your first purchase by getting a coupon here.

Don’t use fabric softener or dryer sheets.  This may seem counterintuitive, but fabric softeners work by depositing a thin layer of wax on the fibers, and this decreases the absorbency of the towels.

Remove wet items from the washing machine promptly. Don’t give mildew an opportunity to set in.

Dry the towels. Dry on high in the dryer, hang on a clothesline, or try a combination to save energy.  The dryer kills more germs than the actual wash cycle. For pure freshness, hang towels outside to dry in the sunshine.  The sun’s rays sanitize the towels, making this a healthy choice as well.  If you don’t like the crispness of line-dried towels, try a clothesline-dryer combination.

Fold neatly until ready to use. Shield your clean towels from dust by storing them in a cabinet or linen closet.  Or, as the case may be, in a plastic tub in your teeny dorm room closet.

Read here to learn about clean sheets.

Comments

  1. says

    Interesting – your tip about the dryer and no fabric softener. My son has asthma which is induced by dust (actually dust mites.) His pediatrician recently gave me a similiar tip in regard to his bedding: no fabric softener! The residue feeds dust mites. Unless the bedding is soiled, she said to stick it in the dryer on high heat once a week and presto – the dust mites are dead!

    • Naomi says

      Place pillows in a plastic bag and put them in the freezer over night, or during the day, and the freezer will kill the dust mites. The plastic bag contains any contaminates from being released into the freezer.

  2. Stu Powers says

    I have a problem with light-colored, especially white, wash cloths. They get stained and it doesn’t wash out, getting worse over time. It seems to be bodily residue but the darker soap also leaves behind a stain in the middle.
    Lacking specific guidance I am trying presoaking them in a detergent and using a pre-spray wash.

    • says

      Stu, bleach is the obvious go-to, but I’m sure you already knew that. Have you tried hanging them to dry in the sun? The UV rays are a natural brightener.

  3. Anonymous says

    Sunlight is far too weak to destroy germs on towels. You’re more likely to pick up airborne irritants (if you have alergies this is important.)

    Not to mention forgetting them out there and having to re-wash them!

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