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How to Sanitize Bath Towels

by M. Langton
Published November 17, 2009 | Updated February 10, 2016

How often do you sanitize your bath towels? They're a prime locations for germs, picking them up from contact with wet skin and breeding more germs as they hang in a warm, humid bathroom. Fortunately, careful laundering of your bath towels can help. Sanitizing bath towels reduces the spread of illness in your home and prevents musty odors on towels. The process is simple, and you only need a few extras in addition to your regular laundry essentials.

Sanitizing Bath Towels:

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Things You'll Need
Washer
Dryer or Clothesline
Laundry Detergent
Borax
White Vinegar
Bleach
  1. Sort Your Towels by Fabric and Color

    Place cotton and linen bath towels into separate piles. Further separate those piles into whites, darks (such as dark red, dark blue, and purple), and lights (like pink, yellow, and light blue). For multicolored towels, separate according to the predominant color. Wash each pile separately to prevent dark colors from bleeding onto light towels.

  2. Clean with Detergent

    Add 1/4 cup of laundry detergent or, if your bath linens are especially dirty, 1/2 cup of detergent to the washing machine. If your washing machine doesn't have a detergent dispenser, pour the detergent into the barrel. Along with the detergent, add one 1/2 cup of borax. Borax boosts the detergent's cleaning power and reduces odors.

  3. Brighten with Bleach

    Add bleach to brighten and sanitize bath towels. Use 3/4 cup regular bleach for your white and bleachable towels. Use 3/4 cup color-safe bleach for colored towels. If your washing machine doesn't have a bleach dispenser, mix the bleach in 1 quart of water. Add this mixture five minutes into your washing cycle.

  4. Choose the Washing Machine Settings

    A temperature of at least 155 degrees Fahrenheit kills most common germs. This is acceptable for cotton towels but too hot for linen towels. Choose the hot temperature setting for cotton towels and the warm setting (less than 140 degrees F) for linen towels. If your machine lets you set the cycle length, choose a minimum of 90 minutes.

  5. Add Vinegar

    Pour in 1/2 cup of 5 percent white vinegar for the final rise. Vinegar helps remove odors and also acts as a mild disinfectant for bath linens. For a top-loading machine, simply raise the lid and pour in the vinegar. For a front-loading machine, wait until water from the previous cycle has drained completely. Open the door and pour the vinegar over the towels.

  6. Remove Towels Promptly

    Remove the towels from the washing machine immediately after the spin cycle; letting them sit in the washer while they are damp may undo the cleaning you've just done. Place them in the dryer, and set the dryer to high heat for cotton bath towels and cool for linen towels. If you don't have a dryer, hang the towels on an outdoor clothesline in a breezy, sunny location. Sunlight also helps reduce germ count.

Tips on Washing Your Bath Towels:

If you have hard water, use oxygen bleach instead of chlorine bleach. This will prevent the pinkish stains that bleach sometimes creates in hard-water washes.

Don't use more bleach than the directions on the bottle suggest. Too much bleach can make towels brittle and yellowish.