How To Wash Brand New Towels: Advice From a 70-Year Old Towel Company
Oftentimes we may feel compelled to run our towels in the same wash cycle as the rest of our clothes at home. After all, spreading our dirty laundry into multiple smaller loads uses up so much more of our valuable time and energy -- our two most indispensable and irreplaceable commodities.
But if you're the type that doesn't like seeing dingy towels awaiting you as you step out of the shower, we have put together the ultimate instruction manual for the proper method for laundering BRAND NEW towels, specifically all white, 100% cotton towels, to start us off.
When 100% cotton white towels are manufactured, an optical brightener (O.B.) is applied to maintain that "white look" for storage prior to use.
Therefore it is important to launder your white towels correctly at least during the first few washes, though we would encourage you to continue this practice to maintain the life and longevity of the towel itself.
If you warm-wash these towels (no hotter than 60 degrees C, or 140 degrees F) using normal laundry detergents, which often contain these same optical brighteners, the double-dose of O.B. is likely to cause on some occasions a yellow shadowing to be evident in the fabric.
Though this may seem contrary to popular belief (how can a double dose of brightener make it anything but brighter?), it's important to keep in mind that cotton is a crop, and is not inherently stark white. It is only through the manufacturing process that the cotton is woven into towels after a stripping and dye process to give it that crisp, white look we all love, and this look must be continuously maintained until it leaves the stocking shelves. The rest is up to you!
The best way to avoid this yellowing fiasco is to wash all new 100% cotton white towels at least once, but preferably twice, in clean water (cool or warm) with NO DETERGENT whatsoever. Even this procedure may not result in a total removal of excess O.B., so we advise in such cases to simply wash the towels a few more times in clean water without detergent to ensure the O.B. is completely removed.
You may then follow with a regular wash (under cool or warm water not to exceed 60 degrees C, or 140 degrees F) with the desired detergents.
Once you have your towels properly washed, tumble-drying should be run at a medium heat (also no higher than 60 degrees C, or 140 degrees F), along with a 10 minute cool-down cycle.
The time to dry varies based on the amount of towels you have in the dryer, as well as the size and weight of the towels. So it is important to adjust your time if you go from laundering hand towels and washcloths to a set of luxury 22-pound bath towels, for example. We also recommend not to overcrowd the washer or the dryer, as this may compromise the quality of the cycle.
Keep in mind, if you add any conditioners or certain fabric softeners, this will reduce the absorbency of the towel once dried. Adding bleach to your wash will certainly brighten and enliven the towels, but will also come at a hefty price. Bleach is a stripping agent, so over time it will inevitably affect the integrity of the towel and cause damage to the fabric. It may also be responsible for some dinginess and yellowing if over-applied. Use sparingly if you must.
After regular use and wear around the home, the occasional deep clean is advised in hot water to remove oils and build up of bacteria.
As for color towels...
Any brand new cotton color towels should be laundered in the same manner (i.e. the first 1-2 washes should be in clean water with no detergents).
But here's where we share some tricks of the trade:
If you add one cup of salt to these initial washes, this will make the towels "color-fast", meaning they retain their color and pigmentation for much longer and under greater distress (such as with exposure to sun, chemicals, etc.) than they would otherwise. This does not make the color indestructible but it should keep the pigment a bit more stable and less likely to bleed out.
After that, be sure to wash in the normal manner (cool or warm water no greater than 60 degrees C) using the standard detergents you would otherwise use.
Please remember that with darker colored towels -- Navy, Burgundy, Hunter Green, etc. -- you should expect some color loss during the initial washes. Therefore, DO NOT wash with any other items, especially those that are lighter-colored! You will risk color-bleed and lint shedding and will not be a happy camper when you pull your load out of the dryer.
It is advised to check the tags of your towels beforehand just in case. Certain manufacturing mills may have specifications to the material and fabric that may respond better to methods different from the ones outlined in this general how-to.
Have any household tips we may have missed? Let us know!