July 12, 2024

After a shower, you probably throw your bath towel over a wall hook to dry. It’ll hang there until the next time you need to towel off—unless it needs to be washed, that is. But how often should you really change out your bath towel for a fresh one?

There’s a certain number of days to be mindful of before your towel becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Plus, using a fresh, clean bath towel is not only good for your personal hygiene, but for your overall health. Ahead, find what experts have to say when it comes to how often you should change your bath towel.

This Is How Often You Should Change Out Your Bath Towel

According to Annie Chiu, MD, a board-certified dermatologist and founder of The Derm Institute, there’s a clear guidance on when to make the swap.

“Generally, you should change your towels every three to four uses,” she says. “This helps prevent the buildup of bacteria and odors.”

It’s important to stick to this clean towel schedule for a few reasons, Chiu notes. Bacteria, dead skin cells, and excess oils from your skin can build up on wet towels. So when a dirty towel is used, you run the risk of creating skin infections or exacerbating existing skin conditions like acne.

Factors That Affect When You Should Swap Out Your Towel

That said, several factors can impact the length of time you keep a towel in your rotation.

How Smelly It Is

If a towel looks unclean or starts to smell before three uses, you should change it sooner, Chiu says.

How Often You Shower

On the flip side, if you shower every day, you might be able to use your towel a few more times before changing it.

How Much You Sweat

“However, if your workout or job causes you to sweat a lot, you should change your towel more frequently,” she adds. “The same applies to those who live in humid climates—because towels may take longer to dry, increasing the risk of bacterial growth and odor.”

Your Towel’s Material

Your towel’s material can also come into play. Waffle weave towels, for example, tend to dry more quickly than typical terrycloth towels.

“Thanks to the waffle weave construction of our towels, we have found that they do generally dry faster than a traditional cotton terry towel,” explains Jason Gutierrez, cofounder of textile company Geometry. “In our experience, a quicker-drying towel lends itself to more uses between washes.”

Gutierrez estimates swapping out a waffle weave towel every seven to 10 days, while also considering how often the towel is being used, where and how it is stored in between uses, and the humidity and temperature of the area where the towel is hung.

Pollutants in the Environment

“Factors such as exposure to pet dander, smoke, or outdoor pollutants can also affect towel cleanliness and may necessitate more frequent changes,” say the product experts at bedding and linens company Cozy Earth.

When Should You Throw Away Towels?

After swapping towels in and out over a few years, your bath towel may start to lose its softness, fluff, and absorbency. “If your towels no longer absorb water effectively and feel less soft and plush than they used to, it may be time for replacements,” say the experts at Cozy Earth. “Over time, towels can lose their absorbency due to wear and tear or the buildup of detergent residue.

Similarly, if your towels are exposed to chlorine and sunlight, that makes a difference in their longevity, as do washing habits and how often you use them.

When properly cared for, a typical towel’s lifespan is about two years (less if they’re heavily used, more if they’re mainly for display).

“Personally, once my towel starts to show signs of wear such as fraying, I know it has lived its life and it’s time for a new one,” says Gutierrez. “I have several Geometry waffle bath towels that have been in my towel rotation for years and are still going strong. They’re quite durable in terms of construction and functionality, but like all textiles, they do eventually wear out.”

Don’t throw your towels away though! There’s plenty you can do with them, like donating them to animal shelters or turning them into cleaning rags.

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