Whether they’re bath towels, hand towels or washcloths, washing towels the right way is essential to keeping them fluffy and absorbent. Our step-by-step guide will show you how to wash towels and how to make towels soft again. 

Since towels should be washed after every three uses or so, caring for them properly will help keep your towels looking new and smelling fresh.

Supplies you’ll need for washing towels

  • Detergent
  • Bleach or color-safe bleach
  • White vinegar (optional)
  • Wool or rubber dryer balls (optional)

Models shown: WTW7120HCWED7120HC

Woman opening a Whirlpool® Washer

Step 1: Consult the care label

New towels should be washed before you use them to remove any chemical coatings and to help reduce lint. Before washing, remember to check the care label. Some towels may have trim or other decorative fabrics that are different from the normal cotton towel, which can affect which wash and dry cycle you use.

Step 2: Separate towels by color

To keep white towels bright and help prevent discoloration, wash them in a separate load. Brightly colored or dark towels should be washed in their own loads to prevent fading or dye transfer. You’ll also want to wash towels in a load without clothes to avoid any possible transfer of bacteria.

Step 3: Load towels in the washer

Load towels loosely in the washer—towels need to be able to move around the wash basket for a thorough clean. Some larger capacity washers can handle more towels at once, but take care not to overload.

Model shown: WTW7120HC

Swash™ Laundry Detergent being added to a Whirlpool® Load & Go™ Dispenser

Step 4: Add detergent and other additives

Add detergent as you normally would for a regular load. Swash Laundry Detergent is designed with a pre-measured pour dosage cap to help you use the right amount. If your towels are beginning to feel stiff, you may want to consider adding a little bit less detergent. Residue from too much detergent can build up over time and be harder to wash out. 

If you’re using bleach to brighten up or sanitize white towels, add about a half cup of liquid bleach in the bleach dispenser or to the wash water before loading the towels.

Cleaning tip: How to make towels soft again

You might be tempted to reach for the fabric softener or dryer sheets to help soften scratchy or stiff bath towels, but the chemicals can affect the absorbency of your towels and leave behind a coating that repels instead of soaking up water. A better bet is to add up to a half cup of either white distilled vinegar or baking soda to the load, which will help soften fibers and get rid of any musty odors.

Step 5: Choose the right cycle and settings for washing towels

Towels should be washed in the warmest water appropriate for the fabric according to the care label. Generally, warm or hot water is recommended for washing towels. Use a cycle specifically for towels or a normal/regular cycle. A sanitizing cycle can also be used, but may not be recommended for every wash, depending on the towel fabric. Some washers, like Whirlpool® Top Load models with Intuitive Controls, help you choose a cycle based on what you’re washing and how you’re washing it.

Model shown: WED6120HW

Person selecting a cycle on a Whirlpool® Washer

Step 6: Dry towels in the dryer

Once the wash cycle is complete, transfer towels to the dryer right away to avoid any build-up of musty smells. To help towels dry faster, give them a good shake before loading to help release any creases or crumples.

Towels should be dried with the warmest heat appropriate for the fabric according to the care label. Generally, low to medium heat is recommended. Use a cycle specifically for towels or a normal/regular cycle. High heat and overdrying can cause fabric damage, so be sure to remove the towels promptly once they’re dry. Some dryers contain moisture sensors that stop the cycle automatically when clothes are dry, including these models from Whirlpool brand. You can also add wool or rubber dryer balls to help soften towels and help with drying efficiency.

Step 7: Fold towels when dry

Wait until towels are completely dry before removing them from the dryer, as any remaining moisture can cause musty smells. Fold towels and store them in a cool, dry spot to keep them fresh and fluffy.

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