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How to Sanitize Bath Towels

by M. Langton

Bath towels stacked on a table

Things You Need:

  • Washing machine
  • Laundry detergent
  • Borax
  • Bleach
  • 5 percent white vinegar

Bath towels are prime locations for germs. Towels pick up germs from contact with wet skin and breed more germs as they hang in a warm, humid bathroom. Fortunately, careful laundering of your bath towels can reduce the germ count. Knowing how to sanitize bath towels effectively reduces the spread of illness in your home and prevents musty odors on towels. The process is simple, and all you need in addition to your regular laundry essentials are a few extras. This article will help you learn how to sanitize bath towels.

Sanitizing Bath Towels:

  1. Sort your towels by fabric type 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 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 settings on your washing machine. 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. Remove the towels from the washing machine immediately after the spin cycle. Place them in the dryer. 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.


  1. 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.

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

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