How Often You Should Wash Your Hand Towels, According To A Laundry Expert

Plus, tips for proper washing.

Dillard's Bathroom
Photo: Laurey W. Glenn

Whether you're the consummate hostess, have a large family, or live alone, it's important to care for your hand towels. While you may be in a rhythm of washing bath towels and sheets once or twice a week, hand towels can often get forgotten—especially in secondary bathrooms—which can cause them to lose their fluffy softness and freshness over time. We asked Madeline Miller, product specialist at The Laundress, for her expert advice on all things hand towel care.

How Often Should You Wash Hand Towels?

Miller says a good rule of thumb for washing hand towels is to get on a weekly schedule, which she says is key to keeping them clean, soft, fluffy, and free of unwanted bacteria and odors. This is especially important if you've invested in a luxury set of hand towels that you'll want to have on hand for several years.

"It's important to consider multiple factors like how many people live in your home, how damp your bathroom is, and whether or not you also use hand towels to dry your face," says Miller. "The more 'traffic' the towel is getting and the more humid the environment it lives in, the more often it needs to be washed." Additionally, if someone in your family is sick, it's important to use separate towels and launder more frequently until your household is illness-free again.

These factors should also impact how many hand towels you keep your linen closet stocked with. Miller says that generally, it's helpful to have one hand towel per one to two people in your household, plus extra for guests, especially if you are a frequent entertainer. Plus, you'll want to have an extra towel on hand per person for face washing to help prevent the spread of acne-causing bacteria, particular for family members with sensitive or stubborn skin.

Tips for Proper Hand Towel Washing

Miller's favorite secret for keeping her hand towels as soft, fluffy, and luxurious as the day she bought them is by laundry stripping. She says that since towels are naturally absorbent, they are prone to holding a lot of detergent residue, which can cause that unwanted "scratchy feel."

She starts by first separating towels from other garments and washing them on their own to reduce the transfer of lint and achieve a deeper clean. She also suggests washing and drying towels in small loads instead of trying to pack in as many as possible to ensure they are thoroughly cleaned and dried.

"Towels should be washed using a long wash cycle with warm to hot water," Miller says. "And stick to the recommended amount of detergent because more detergent does not equal more cleaning power."

If you're looking to up the brightening power, she suggests opting for a capful of The Laundress's All-Purpose Bleach Alternative or a similar product in the machine drum for safe, nontoxic cleaning, and she also says to ditch the fabric softener as it can actually make your hand towels less absorbent over time. Instead, Miller advises opting for a classic household staple, vinegar, to naturally soften, and she says it will also deodorize and remove build-up to keep them extra-fresh and plush. The brand's multi-purpose Scented Vinegar is a nice option for those who still want a fresh scent without the chemical additives.

Keeping Hand Towels Fresh Between Washes

The good news is that there are plenty of ways to keep your hand towels in tip-top shape in between laundry cycles. Miller recommends misting them with a fabric-refreshing spray, like The Laundress's Fabric Fresh Classic. She notes it's important to utilize a spacious towel rack or find a place with good airflow that will allow your towels to air-dry faster to prevent bacteria build-up. You also may want to consider where you store your towels, as Miller notes that damp areas like under-sink storage can keep your towels from staying fresh between washes.

Updated by
Lauren Wicks
Lauren Wicks

Lauren Wicks is a freelance editor and writer who covers all-things lifestyle. Her experience working for respected brands such as VERANDA, EatingWell, and Cooking Light has helped Lauren build her expertise in a range of subjects from food and wine to luxury travel and interior design. She has more than five years of experience working in media.

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