Extend the life of these summertime essentials with our laundering tips.

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How you launder your beach towels may not be something you've thought very deeply about, but it's time for you to give their care some extra consideration. Ultimately, beach towels are quite different than bath iterations-they take more of a beating and are often caked with sand, sweat, sunscreen, and the occasional ketchup or rosé stain at the end of a day at the seashore. That said, it's important to wash them properly. Do so, and a quality beach towel can last you many seasons. To get the scoop keeping beach towels in mint condition, we tapped home improvement and lifestyle expert (and laundry extraordinaire) Kathryn Emery. She's also a self-described beach lover. Before we get to her tips, first a reminder. Do not (repeat, do not!) use a bath towel on the beach. Their fabrics attract sand and they are shorter in length, which makes them uncomfortable for lounging. Bottom line? Invest in a quality beach option-you won't regret it.

beach towel hanging over beach chair
Credit: Tetra Images / Getty Images

First shake, then dry in the sun.

While you're still at the beach, give your towel an initial shake to remove any big clumps of sand. Then, fully dry your towel in the sun before packing it up. "Bacteria is lurking at the beach and getting wiped onto your towel," Emery says. "The warm ultraviolet rays of the sun dry your towel and kill off germs in the process."

Shake again.

This is arguably the most important step, because not only is tracking in sand into your home very annoying, but too much sand can damage your washing machine over time. "After your towel dries in the sun, give it a strong shake to the point where it makes a 'snap' sound," affirms Emery. "You want as little sand as possible before you put it in the wash."

Wash on a cold setting.

When you're back home, toss your towel in the washing machine with like colors on a cold setting. "Washing in cold water makes it less likely to embed any leftover sand into the towel's fibers," explains Emery, "which helps reduce shrinkage and keeps the color brighter, longer."

Spot-clean sunscreen stains.

However, if you're pre-treating any stains, Emery explains you'll want to use warm water, instead. "The challenge with sunscreen specifically is that it can have an ingredient called avobenzone; combined with hard water, it can leave a rust-like stain," she says. "To prevent this, add a water softener to the load. If it still won't come out, launder with a commercial rust remover. Also, if you can get to the stain right when it happens, rub sand into it to soak up the oil from the sunscreen. This will make it easier to get out in the wash."

Skip the fabric softener.

"Go light on the laundry detergent and skip fabric softener when washing your beach towels," says Emery. "Both can leave behind a waxy residue that reduces the absorbency and softness of the towel."

Hang to dry.

The best and most eco-conscious way to dry your clean beach towels? Hang them up. You can also tumble dry on low, but be sure to check the tag for the brand's specific washing instructions.

You don't have to wash after every use.

"Beach towels should be washed about every third use to keep them bacteria-free," says Emery. "But, of course, if the towel appears or smells dirty, wash as needed."

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