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A Complete Guide to Cotton Towel Care

Towels may be a necessity, but if you start with high-quality fabric and care for them properly, they can be an ultimate everyday luxury, too. Cotton is a durable fabric, so you can keep towels clean by just tossing them the wash, but with a little extra attention, you can keep them extra soft and fluffy for the long haul. If you’re wondering how to wash, dry, and fold towels to keep them fresh, you’ve come to the right place.

Picking the Right Towels

Beginning with high-quality cotton like the PimaCott found in Wamsutta towels gives you the best start for long-term freshness and softness. Cotton is naturally absorbent, but proven pure pima cotton will deliver superior durability and colorfastness, too. Look for a looped terry over sheared cotton, and avoid decorative trimmings like rick-rack edges, which will wear out faster than the body of the towel.

For Best Results, Wash Before Use and Skip the Softener

Many towels are treated with silicone finishes to improve the perception of softness on store shelves, but these can hamper absorbency. To remove these finishes as well as any excess dyes from colored towels, we recommend washing new towels before their first use. In addition, remember that fabric softeners and dryer sheets also coat cotton to offer an illusion of softness, but can actually irritate the skin and break down the cotton fibers more quickly. Because of this, we suggest you skip these extra steps altogether.

Wash Separately with Unique Conditions for Whites and Colors

For hygienic reasons – and because they often take longer to launder and dry – towels should always be washed in their own load. Counting uses is more important than counting days between washes, and laundering every three uses is a good rule of thumb. White towels can be washed in warm water with a small amount of detergent and nonchlorine bleach, and colored towels in cold water with detergent and a color-safe bleach if necessary.

Proper Drying Makes the Difference

Shaking excess water out of your towels before putting them in the dryer will help fluff the terry loops and keep them absorbent. Don’t let wet towels sit in the washer for too long, as this can result in an unpleasant mildew smell. Once you have them out of the washer, be sure to give your towels long enough to just dry fully, either hung for air drying or in the dryer, but not too long, as overdrying can compromise cotton fiber integrity. When in doubt, allow your towels to complete a full cycle in the dryer and then finish by air drying if any dampness remains. Finally, resist the urge to speed drying times by ironing your towels, as this will just reduce absorbency.

The Final Step – A Perfect Fold

A smart fold will help you keep your towels in tip-top shape and your linen closet looking organized. For the best use of your shelf space, we recommend folding bath towels and hand towels in thirds. Start by holding the short end of the towel at chest height, and then fold each edge across to meet the opposite side fold for neatly overlapping thirds. Fold up the bottom third of the towel, then fold the top third down, and store with the outer folded edge of the towel facing out to make it easy to grab a single towel off the shelf – and to keep your linen closet looking great.