How to Wash, Dry, and Care for Bath Towels

Bath towels and laundry detergent sitting on shelf

Heather Bien

Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 2 - 3 hrs
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $20

There’s nothing better than a fluffy, fresh towel after you get out of the shower, and you can have that spa-like experience every time—if you know how to wash and dry your bath towels correctly. 

When you spring for quality bath towels, they’re made to last, but you also need to follow the right instructions to keep them looking as good as new. It’s not always as simple as washing them on hot and tossing them in the dryer. Caring for your bath towels deliberately keeps them from smelling musty, losing absorbency, or becoming dingy-looking too quickly, and, when you pay attention to the right settings for specific fabrics and colors, you can keep your white towels white, your bright towels bright, and your dark towels dark.

From how often to wash bath towels to whether you should use the same detergent method every time to how to fold and store them, this is your ultimate guide to how to wash, dry, and care for your bath towels and keep them feeling plush.

Meet the Expert

Laura Mountford is a cleaning and laundry expert and the author of the book "Live Laugh Laundry."

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Washing machine
  • Dryer


  • Laundry detergent
  • Bleach or color-safe bleach
  • White vinegar
  • Baking soda


How to Wash and Dry Bath Towels
Detergent High-performing detergent
Water temperature  Hot for whites, warm for colors and darks
Cycle type Normal
Drying cycle type  Low
Special treatments  Bleach or color-safe bleach to remove stains, white vinegar to remove smells, baking soda to soften
How often to wash Every three uses

How to Wash Bath Towels

  1. Separate by Color

    Separate your bath towels out by whites, brights, and darks to keep all colors looking their best. Combining them could lead to color bleeding and dinginess.

  2. Wash According to Color

    Wash each color grouping according to the following: white towels should be washed in hot water with detergent. Colored, bright, and dark towels should be washed in warm water with detergent.

  3. Deep Clean as Necessary

    When deep cleaning or taking care of stains, add bleach to the white towels or a color-safe bleach to colored towels. Half a cup of vinegar can be added to take care of smells, while a half a cup of baking soda will help soften towels.

  4. Dry Them for Extra Fluff

    Before putting laundered towels in the dryer, give them a shake rather than throwing them in straight from the washing machine. This will help keep them fluffy. Make sure towels are completely dry before taking them out of the dryer to avoid musty smells from showing up.

White bath towels sitting on a shelf and in basket

Heather Bien

Treating Stains on Bath Towels

To treat stains on towels, try soaking them in white vinegar or treating them with bleach. Also, be careful with benzoyl peroxide skin care products and your nicest bath towels. The bleach from these products is one of the biggest offenders when it comes to ruining bath towels. 

Storing Bath Towels

Whether you fold or roll towels to store them comes down to personal preference, though rolling may save you space in a small bathroom. If you have the storage, storing bath towels outside of the bathroom is ideal to keep them from getting damp between uses. 

Bath Towel Repair

While fraying bath towels can be mended with binding tape and a running stitch, it’s easiest to avoid letting them fall into that condition. Using bleach frequently can break down the fibers so only use it when absolutely necessary for deep cleaning and stain removal.

How Often to Wash Bath Towels

If you’re used to hanging your bath towel back on the rack after each shower and losing count of how long it’s been since the last laundry day, you might want to put a system for tracking in place, like washing every Monday and Thursday. 

“Three uses is about right for the average person. I would wash a bath towel after every three uses," Laura Montford, cleaning and laundry expert, says.

But she adds a caveat where you might want to launder bath towels more often.

“If you are unwell and don't want to transfer germs, bath towels can be washed after every use," she says.

Tips for Washing Bath Towels

  • 100% cotton is best for absorbent bath towels that are easy to care for.
  • Less detergent is better. Too much detergent will lead to stiff towels rather than the fluffy, soft bath towels we all look forward to using.
  • Don’t overload towels in the washing machine. This can prevent them from getting fully clean (and who wants to wash their towels twice?). 
  • Avoid using fabric softener and dryer sheets to lengthen your towels' lifespan.
  • Dry towels on low heat to avoid breaking down the fabric.
  • Make sure your towel bar allows your towels to spread out and dry completely between uses to avoid mildew and a musty smell. Don't overcrowd them.
  • Should you wash towels before you use them?

    Yes. If you've ever noticed a towel isn’t as absorbent the first time you use it, that’s because there can be a buildup when you first take them home from the store. A wash with half a cup of vinegar should soften them.

  • Can bath towels be washed by hand?

    If you don't have a washing machine, don’t worry—you can throw your bath towels in the bathtub and hand wash. Add a small amount of detergent (too much will cause stiff towels), half a cup of baking soda to soften them, and hot water. Hang them to dry.

  • Can bath towels be washed with other clothing items?

    While you can wash bath towels with any other cotton items, you should wash them with other towels of similar colors so you can control the temperature and detergent based on their specific needs.

  • Can bath towels be washed with colors?

    It’s always best to keep similarly colored towels together. That way, you can avoid bleeding and color transfer, as well as follow the best practices for each color towel. Wash whites with whites, brights with brights, and dark colored towels with other dark color towels.