Experts weigh in.

By Sara Dickinson
July 08, 2020
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Getty / Ruthsarintre Pattarapongpatch / EyeEm

There's nothing worse than reaching for a clean, soft towel after a shower only to find a damp, smelly one. But over-washing your towels can actually break down the fibers and make them stiff and less absorbent over time—rendering "clean" linens not-so-sanitary. We talked with Gwen Whiting and Lindsey Boyd, the co-founders of The Laundress, to find out how often we really need to wash our towels, and how we can take care of them so they stay absorbent and fluffy.

"Moist towels make for ideal breeding grounds for bacteria so we recommend washing them after three to four uses," Whiting says. As for how these experts wash their own bath linens? Their approach begins with pretreating stains with a few drops of The Laundress Stain Solution ($18, thelaundress.com) and a sprinkle of their All-Purpose Bleach Alternative ($14.99, containerstore.com); when used together, they make a powerful paste.

Then, they use their stain brush ($10, thelaundress.com) to work the mixture into the fabric. "If the towel has a musty odor, pre-soak it in hot water with a quarter cup of The Laundress Scented Vinegar ($12, amazon.com) for up to 30 minutes," Whiting adds. Launder your towels on a hot cycle on their own, separating them from your day-to-day laundry—or, wash them with similar items, like sheets. "Add the appropriate amount of The Laundress Signature Detergent ($20.50, shop.nordstrom.com) for the load size, but be sure not to add more than recommended," says Whiting. "Too much detergent can leave a stiff, soapy residue."

Boyd recommends shaking your towels out before you add them to the dryer. "If you throw bunched up towels into the dryer, it will delay dry time and can lead to stubborn creases," she says. "Dry towels on high with The Laundress Wool Dryer Balls ($18, thelaundress.com) to fluff and smooth wrinkles." Boyd also warns against using fabric softeners or dryer sheets since they coat fibers and reduce absorbency over time. "If you must use fabric softener, use it every other wash," she suggests.

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