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Can You Wash Towels With Clothes in the Load?

A collage of woman washing towel on a washing machine.

My mother took a lot of time separating clothes before washing. I can still remember her sorting the whites, colors, jeans, and towels. When I began adulting, I threw these rules out the window. I just tossed clothes in the washer, bravely disregarding everything I was taught. 

As I got older, I realized that there was some wisdom in her method. To keep your items in the best condition, there are some things you shouldn’t wash together. 

Can you wash towels with clothes? It turns out, it’s a bit of a gray area. 

Related: Can You Wash Underwear With Towels? | Can You Wash Towels With Sheets? | Can You Wash White Towels With Colored Towels? | Can You Wash Bathroom Rugs With Towels? | Can You Wash Microfiber Towels? | Can You Wash Towels in Hot Water? | Can You Wash Towels in Cold Water? | Can You Dry Towels with Clothes?

Can You Wash Towels with Clothes?

A woman feeling newly washed towels.

Of course, you can wash towels with clothes. The real question is, should you wash these items together? It seems like a simple question, but the answer is anything but. 

It really depends on what your priorities are. Washing them together can save time, but washing them separately is often best for the items. Let’s take a look at the things you should consider if you are wondering if you can wash towels and clothes together. 

Considering Wash Setting

It’s always a good idea to check the care tag before tossing something into the washing machine. Towels typically say that you can wash them in hot water. 

Most items of clothing, however, should be washed in warm or cool water, according to their care labels. 

You can wash a mixed load in cool or warm water, but this can be problematic due to concerns about bacteria and germs. 

Is Washing Towels and Clothes Together Sanitary? 

A woman taking laundry out of washing machine.

The reason it’s best to wash towels in hot water is for sanitation. Hot water gets things cleaner, and is more effective at killing germs and bacteria than cold water. 

Most sources say you should take more care with this if you share towels with others in the household. I disagree. Germs and bacteria exist in your towels, no matter who is using them. 

Sure, your family members will have slightly different bacteria on their body than you do. However, toss a wet towel in a laundry basket, and it will grow bacteria regardless of who has used it. This bacteria can even be harmful. 

According to the University of Arizona, 90% of towels have coliform bacteria, and 14% have e-coli. This means that sanitizing your towels is a big deal. 

So, it’s not a good idea to wash clothing in hot water, but it’s important to kill germs on your towels. How can you wash them together? This brings me to my next point. 

The Dryer Does the Job 

A blue towel inside a washing machine.

I wash anything I can in hot water. I think it gets my clothes cleaner than cooler water. However, the washing machine, no matter the water temperature, isn’t well suited to kill germs anyway. 

Your dryer on the high heat setting is one of the best ways to kill germs in your laundry. The high heat setting will kill bacteria, viruses, and even allergens. 

Before you toss your clothes in the dryer, however, there’s something else to consider. Most clothing shouldn’t be dried on high heat. High heat can shrink the fibers of clothing, and cause it to lose its shape over time. In fact, it’s not a good idea to dry most shirts or jeans on high heat.  

Towels, on the other hand, are best dried on high heat. This will kill any germs still lurking in the towels. They are also heavier than most items, so they take longer to dry. Drying them on high heat will ensure that they dry properly.

However, if you have clothes and towels in the dryer, the clothes will dry before the towels, which can cause further wear and tear on your clothes. 

Washing Clothes and Towels Together Not the Best Idea for Your Clothes 

To sum it up, washing your clothes and towels together has some serious downsides. If you get the towels clean, sanitized, and dry, you are causing damage to your clothes. 

If you choose to wash your towels in a way that cares for your clothes, the towels will not get as clean as they would otherwise, and they will be sanitized. 

Is Bleach the Solution? 

Washing soap and toilet towels.

Can bleach get your towels sanitized, without ruining your clothes? Generally, no. Bleach can be used on white clothes, but it can’t be used on colored items. 

However, you can use color safe bleach. Better yet, use laundry sanitizer. This at least eliminates the concern about germs remaining on your towels when washing them with clothes.  

Towels and Fabric Softener 

Another issue with mixing loads is that you should use fabric softener sparingly on towels. Experts say that you should only use fabric softener every 3 to 4 times you wash your towels, if at all. 

Fabric softeners may make your towels soft and fragrant, but they can build up in the fibers and cause them to deteriorate. Over time, this can reduce the absorbency of towels, and cause them to lose their fluffiness.  

If you want to use fabric softener on your clothes, you may want to avoid washing them with your towels for this reason. 

Lint and Color Considerations 

When it comes to towels, you don’t have to worry a lot about the colors. You probably won’t be upset if your towel becomes a little faded because it was washed with a different color towel

However, this is an issue with your clothes. It’s best to wash light colored and dark colored clothes in separate loads. You may choose to wash towels and clothes of similar colors together. 

Lint can be an issue when washing towels and clothes. New towels typically release more lint than older towels. This lint can get onto your clothes, making them not as attractive. If the lint is a different color than the clothes, this is more obvious. 

Reasons to Wash Towels and Clothes Together 

Washing machine and laundry basket.

Despite the downsides, there are some reasons and situations where you may want to wash your towels and clothes together. 

You Have a Small Load

Perhaps you live alone, so you don’t dirty a lot of clothing and towels. Perhaps you need a towel for your evening shower, and an outfit washed for tomorrow. These situations call for a small load of laundry. 

You can use the small load setting on your washing machine. However, it still requires a significant amount of water and energy. If you dry them in the dryer, this also uses a lot of energy. When you wash two loads rather than one, you are doubling your energy and water use. 

In this case, you may choose to wash your towels and clothes together, rather than washing two tiny loads. This saves on your utility bills, and it’s better for the environment. 

You are in a Hurry 

Life is very busy these days. Many people wash towels and clothes together simply because it saves time. At least, it seems to. Whether or not it does depends on the size of your loads. 

If you have enough for a full load of towels and a load of clothing, washing two mixed loads doesn’t save any time at all. However, if you don’t have enough for two loads, washing them together can save you time. 

You may feel like you are saving time by not sorting your clothing before tossing it in the washing machine. Just grab items and throw them in, because it’s faster than sorting them, right? 

Not really. Sure, it’s faster when you are putting them in the washing machine. However, it means the load will take longer to dry. It may also take longer to wash, because many clothing items could be washed in a short cycle, while towels should get a long cycle. 

Even folding the clothes and putting them away takes longer when you are dealing with different types of items. 

Can You Wash Towels With Clothes FAQs 

Can you wash towels with sheets? 

Yes. Towels and sheets can be washed on the same settings. However, sheets dry faster than towels. It’s a good idea to remove them from the dryer once they are dry. Then continue drying the towels. 

Can you use bleach on towels and clothes? 

Bleach is excellent for sanitizing clothes and brightening whites. However, it will ruin the color on bright or dark colored items. This might not be a concern with towels, but it is an issue with clothing. 

You can choose to use color safe bleach or laundry sanitizer on colored items, instead of standard bleach. 

What should I not wash with towels? 

If you must wash clothes with towels, there are some items you should avoid washing together. Sportswear, including Lycra and spandex, shouldn’t be washed with towels. Fleece and delicate items shouldn’t be added to the load, either. They require different washing and drying settings than most clothing and towels.