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How Often Should You Wash Your Towels?

Ask a mom how often you should wash your towels and she might say “After every use.” Ask a 20-something, and they might have a more relaxed attitude, washing them when they stop passing the “sniff test.” GE conducted a poll about laundry habits, publishing the results on National Laundry Day (April 15, in case you were curious.)  and “50% of those polled live by the philosophy that “I’m clean when I use it” because they all admit to using their bath towel at least five times before throwing it in the washer. An additional 14% use their bath towels more than eight times before it hits the laundry basket.”

So, Who’s Right?

We rounded up all the latest research and insights to give you the definitive answer.

But first a little about the why behind washing. Towels are specifically designed to wick away moisture from the body. This porous, damp environment is a perfect breeding ground for bacteria, mold, yeast, viruses and, even –YUCK!– e-coli. So, never leave your towels on the floor or lumped together, damp, on your towel rack. Make sure to hang them, unfolded, to dry between laundering.

American Cleaning Institute: Recommends hanging towels to dry between uses and washing after 3 to 5 normal uses.

Consumer Reports: Says to launder towels after 3 or 4 normal uses or more frequently if you play sports.

Various microbiologists and dermatologists (here and here) all agree that towels need to be washed every two to three days.

The Final Verdict

Your bath towel can be used two or three times before it needs to be washed. Washcloths hold dead skin, skin oils and makeup, should be washed after every use.

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