Towel management

A friend of mine, who has a family of six, mentioned that she launders loads of bath towels every day. She stated that most of the time, towels are used only once then placed in the hamper for laundering. The damp towels sit in the hamper and, if not washed right away, they start to get a mildew smell. This friend asked me for suggestions on how to get organized and reduce the amount of laundry she had to do.

Start with clean towels. Launder all the towels. Generally people use too much laundry soap which can actually cause towels to take longer to dry. Follow good laundry tips to get fresh, fluffy towels.

Fold and sort the towels into groups once they are clean:

  • Bath Sheet (35” x 60” or 90cm x 150cm): For drying off after a shower. These towels are large enough to wrap around an adult.
  • Bath Towel (27” x 52” or 70cm x 130cm): For drying off or wrapping up long hair after a shower. These towels are large enough to wrap around a child.
  • Hand Towel (16” x 28” or 40cm x 70cm): For drying hands after washing. Can be used to wrap child’s long hair.
  • Washcloth (13” x 13” or 30cm x 30cm): These can be used for washing the face at the sink or in the shower for washing the body.

Assign each person his/her towel set. Each person should have a bath towel, one or two hand towels and a few washcloths. Those with long hair may wish to have an extra towel or a hair towel wrap. You can assign each person their own colour of towels or sew name tags on towels. Remember to set aside at least two sets of towels for guests. Guest towels could be a unique colour or have a different pattern to differentiate them from the family towels.

Storing towels between uses. Storing towels in the bathroom is convenient. If the bathroom is large enough — or the family is small enough — towel racks or hooks can be mounted so that towels can easily hang to dry. Sometimes the bathroom is too small to store the family’s towels or too humid for the towels to dry properly. In this case, family members can store their towels on hooks in their bedrooms. Bedroom storage is a little inconvenient especially when you forget to bring your bath towel to the bathroom with you, but new routines can be learned quickly.

It doesn’t matter whether you store towels in the bathroom or in bedrooms, it is important that towels are hung up properly to allow airflow so that they dry quickly after every use.

Over-the-door towel racks are great because the towels hang flat and are out of the way. However, if the towels are squished between the door and the wall, they may not dry very quickly.

Radiator drying racks also can be useful. Not only can the towels hang on radiators, but they can also be used on some types of windowsills as well as balcony railings.

Freestanding towel racks (pictured above) take up floor space but they can hold multiple towels and can be placed over furnace vents or in front of radiators, windows or fans.

Set up laundry routines. Bath towels should be laundered after every 3 to 5 uses. Depending on the number of people in your home, the size of your washer and dryer and your available time, you may find that washing one or two sets of towels per day works best for you. Alternatively, you could wash all the towels once or twice per week. Pick a day to wash the towels and round ’em up.

Storage of Extra Towels. You many or may not want to designate an extra set of towels for every person in the household. It depends on your laundry routine as well as your storage space. Towels should be stored in a dry environment, such as a linen closet. Extra sets of towels can be stored in bedroom closets or in an under-bed storage bin, if a linen closet is not available.

If have even more tips on how to manage towels, please share them with our readers in the comments.

15 Comments for “Towel management”

  1. posted by Ana on

    At home we ( J and I ) have only 1 set running, we share all the towels, and we wash in hot water -60ºC- them once a week.

  2. posted by Shanna on

    We, a family of three, each have a set of 4 bath towels in our own color. Mine are pale yellow, so I can use them to fill up the light coloured laundry. The others are blue and grey, colours of which I always have loads of laundry. I wash them on monday and Thursday, so each towel gets 3-4 ‘turns’ before being laundered. In this system, we could do with 2 or 3 towels, but I like having some extra for swimming or sports.

  3. posted by Sarah on

    “Bedroom storage is a little inconvenient especially when you forget to bring your bath towel to the bathroom with you, but new routines can be learned quickly.”

    You clearly do not live in a house where everyone but you has ADD. The Husband routinely puts dishes away in the wrong place even though they have never had another home, or if a routine has been changed, randomly reverts to the “old” way of doing things, sometime years later. If I changed the color of his towels, he would be completely lost.

  4. posted by Kelly on

    I don’t think it is a good idea to use the towels and not launder them. You may be clean but you still have skin cells that come off your body. And then use them again? I don’t know how sanitary that would be. We have five children (all over 12) they learn to do there laundry and throw in a load of towels. I guess it is up to you how fresh you want your towels.

  5. posted by Pat Reble on

    If you Google towel washing, the standard recommendation seems to be: “Towels. After 3 or 4 normal uses or more frequently if you play sports.” Many hotels these days have notices that towels will only be changed if they are left in the tub. The more towels you have, the more will be used. As you do the Fold and Sort part of the routine, I’d add CULL. When there are fewer towels available, people are less careless about the way they use them.

  6. posted by liz on

    I just went through my towel collection and filled up two bags with ones that needed to be tossed. A friend’s daughter works with horses and she took them off my hands. Another option is to give old towels to animal rescue, dogs or cats.

  7. posted by Janet on

    I think washing towels after every use is beyond wasteful. So much water and energy wasted on it, it’s terrible.

  8. posted by Debbie on

    I use one towel to dry off with and then wrap it around my head. I hang it up to dry. I wash towels once a week. The comment about it being dirty after one use…old skin, etc. seems silly to me. I’ve lived a long time and haven’t “suffered” sickness from my towel routine. 🙂 But….everyone has things they are picky about. Including me.

  9. posted by Michaela on

    I have all black or grey towels, since they have the illusion of always looking clean. Nothing grosses me out more than dirt smudged white towels (having a husband and two boys influenced this decision to switch to black). Also I dye my hair, and that way I have no chance of ruining any towels – ever. I have two sets of towels for each bathroom (meaning two towels hanging and two towels tucked away under the sink – along with two hand towels and two washcloths). I usually gather them up on Saturday and wash them all unless I need to fill up a load of laundry or something and they may get washed twice. I learned a long time ago to cull down the towels to only what I need. I felt guilty not long ago my MIL got my son a towel with a bear hood thing on it. Unfortunately its in the donate pile – since my son has never shown an iota of interest in it – and it doesn’t match the rest of my towels (sigh!). First world problems!

  10. posted by Nadira on

    Growing up we had different color towels for everyone in the family. We each had a set of bath towel, hand towel and washcloth. They were washed once week.

    As an adult I have a dozen small washcloths that I change daily. I still wash towels only once a week

  11. posted by Pauline on

    I put up a second spring-loaded shower curtain rod, in front of the one that actually has the shower curtain on it. That way, we can hand two big bath towels and/or the bath mat to completely dry (without touching a wet shower curtain or door) and then fold them in half and hang on their own towel racks. One of us is a morning shower person, the other, a night shower person – so that second curtain rod is never crowded. We assign towels by *racks* – his, mine. Towels get tossed twice a week. BTW – skip softener in your towels – it makes them slimy, and less absorbent. Throw in a little white vinegar in the rinse – gets soap out, leave towels fluffy when put in the dryer.

  12. posted by Lars on

    I cut up a 2nd hand towel into 8 smaller handtowel / washcloth sized towels and sowed the edges so it doesn’t fray. 1 is used for showering, 1 for drying dishes, 1 on the floor outside my wet bathroom and 1 in my backpack for when I’m out and about. You can’t cover yourself with one if someone knocks on the door while showering, but they easily absorb the water from my body and short hair, take up minimal space, dry quickly when hung up after being wrung out and cost nothing. I hand wash all my laundry daily in a bucket of cold soapy water with a breathing washer “plunger” and put the small towels in a couple of times a week. Alternative way to go about it but it works really well for me and have for years.

  13. posted by Sheila Henne on

    One way to make good use of limited wall space is to “stack” towel racks. Start with mounting an 18″ or 24″ rack at roughly waist/hip level, then mount a matching rack about 18″-24″ above the first one. Each stacked pair for one person. Bath towel on bottom, hand/face towel and washcloth on top. Works great!

  14. posted by Laetitia on

    Right now I’m reminded of “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” by Douglas Adams.

    When I was growing up we had towel rails on the backs of our bedroom doors. I appreciate that not everyone has the ability to install these (particularly if they rent) so another option is to hang the towel over the door itself (if it’s a door not subject to damage from a damp towel).

    Then there’s the bath mats – we hang these over the top of the shower or curtain rail to dry if they will have to wait to be laundered. We launder towels roughly once a week, more often if the hand-towel isn’t drying out between uses or anything starts to get a bit ‘whiffy’. We launder towels separately from other items so they don’t shed fluff on other things (some of our towels still shed fluff even after many cycles including the use of vinegar as ‘softener’). Kitchen hand towels are done in the same batch.

  15. posted by Claire on

    We both have our own towels but I have a clean wash cloth (flannel) every day. After I have used it to clean myself I use it to do a wipe round in the bathroom.

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