Tuesday, November 2, 2010

How often do you wash your towels?

You just spent the last 20 minutes lathering your body in soap bubbles, washing every square inch of your body. You feel so fresh and clean. Until...you put your face into the towel that wreaks so bad you want to vomit. The musty towel stench is so indescribable. Nothing is worse than getting a wiff of that smell on your skin hours later at the office. Does it mean your towel is too old? Probably not. Is your washing machine bad? Highly unlikely. Do you have a bad water tank? Most likely not. It would be safe to say that you need to evaluate how often you are washing your towels and will most likely need to change up your washing technique. So before you throw out those bad boys - read on.

There are a handful of people that reach for a brand new towel every single day. This post will probably mean nothing to you. I for one, do not. I hang my towel on the hook and reuse a handful of times. So this got me thinking whether or not, from a germ perspective, I ought to be washing my towels more often. I did a little research and couldn't find anything that told me I should be washing my towels every "x" amount of days. I hate that. I'm a rule follower. I want to be told "wash it every 3 days" and I'll do it.

But this is what I did learn. Most is common sense but nonetheless, a good reminder. According to Discovery Health, bathrooms -which are typically wet, warm spaces - make for a perfect breeding ground for bacteria and mold. The humidity and moisture teams up with the dirt, oils and dead skin that sit in the towel fibers and wah-la, you have yourself instant mildew. Ugh, what an unpleasant thought.

So what is a sufficient washing routine? Most of the research claimed that anywhere from 5-7 days is good enough. Washcloths should be every 3-4 days. I say, go off how it smells. I noticed that as the weather got colder for us, our inside house temperature dipped therefore causing our towels to stay damp throughout the day. I noticed they would start to sour faster which was my indicator to toss them in the wash. I did find that draping them completely flat over a towel bar dried them faster than on the hook.

But what about when you pull the newly washed towel out of the linen closet and before it even gets wet, you can smell that musty, sour aroma? My first question would be; is your linen closet in the bathroom? If so, the humidity is getting them damp causing them to mold. Best if your towels are not stored in your bathroom. My second question would be; did those towels sit in the bottom of a dirty clothes hamper wet for some time before getting thrown into the wash? Or better yet, how long do your towels sit in the wash before you transferred them to the dryer? Towels, and clothes, can not sit wet for long periods of time or the odor will remain even when they are dry. My third question would be; how large was your load? If you tend to overload your washer, you could be causing the problem. There needs to be enough room for them to circulate freely and get the optimal rinse. My fourth question would be; do you use colored towels? I couldn't find any scientific research on colored vs. white towels but my hypothesis is that colored towels spoil quicker than white towels. Every colored towel I have ever used smells funky. Possibly the dye they use in the fabric magnifies the musty smell? Regardless, I'm a fan of white towels only.

So without throwing out your towels, how do you get the stench out?

First and foremost you should always separate the moldy items from all other laundry. Never wash towels with anything other than towels. There are a million and one ways to get the moldy smell out of your towels listed on the Internet (borax, ammonia, pine sol, baking soda, etc) but I've found that Distilled White Vinegar does the trick every time. And no your clothes will not smell like vinegar. Studies have confirmed that regular 5% acidity white vinegar (the kind you can buy in the supermarket by the gallon) kills 99% of bacteria, 82% of mold, and 80% of germs (viruses). If your towels need some serious TLC, I would recommend running a load with 1-2 cups of vinegar and super hot water. After that first load is done, run that same load again mixing 1/2-1 cup vinegar in with your normal amount of laundry detergent (I prefer "Gain - Original Fresh" from Costco - best deal in town). Re-run in super hot water again. If you have white towels, I suggest adding bleach into the 2nd load as well. FYI - bleach is very effective at killing germs and mold, but it can ruin your towels. The harsh chemical wears through threads quickly, which means you may have to purchase replacements more regularly depending on the quality of your towels. Lastly, make sure you are quick to immediately transfer your towels into the dryer. Settings should be on extra hot heat. If your towels are even the slightest bit damp when you take them out, you might as well kiss all your hard work goodbye.

So there you have it. I truly thought this would be a short post but apparently I am just as passionate about musty towels as I am other things. I have several other fun household uses for vinegar to share with you so when you rush out to buy some Vinegar, buy the big 1 gallon jug.

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