How to Wash Terry Cloth Towels

Terry cloth towels are known for their super absorbent and plush texture.

How to Wash Terry Cloth Towels

With proper care, these towels can last for years while maintaining their softness and absorbency.

Washing them correctly is key to keeping your towels in tip-top shape.

Sort and Pre-Treat Terry Cloth Towels

The first step is proper sorting and pre-treating. Pay attention to:

Separate By Color

  • Wash white towels separately from colored ones to prevent dye transfer. Reds and blues tend to bleed color the most.
  • Also wash light and dark colors separately as darker dyes may bleed onto lighter colors.

Check Tags For Washing Instructions

  • Refer to the care label on your towels for specific washing directions. Symbols indicate appropriate wash method, water temperature, bleaching, drying etc.
  • If care tags are missing, wash in cold water to be safe.

Pre-Treat Stains Beforehand

  • Inspect towels and pre-treat any stains with a stain remover or mix baking soda with water into a paste and apply on stain.
  • This breaks down stains so regular washing removes it easily after.

Key Takeaway: Properly sorting towels by color and pre-treating stains beforehand allows for more effective cleaning during the actual wash.

Use the Right Washing Machine Settings

Choosing suitable machine washing settings helps preserve your towels:

Wash on Gentle Cycle

  • Terry cloth loop piles are delicate so use only the gentle/delicate setting.
  • Harsher cycles cause excess wear and tear through too much friction.

Wash in Lukewarm Water

  • Very hot water can damage fibers and cause towels to lose absorbency. Warm or cold water retains softness.
  • For whites, washing in hot water helps remove oils and residue though so that is an exception.

Add a Mild Laundry Detergent

  • Use only a mild detergent, not one with brighteners or bleach as that is too harsh for terry cloth. It could fade colors.
  • Baby detergents or eco-friendly ones work well.

Here is a quick table summarizing ideal wash settings:

Wash CycleWater TemperatureDetergent Type
Gentle/DelicateLukewarmMild (for colors)
RegularHot (whites only)Mild (for colors)

Key Takeaway: Washing terry cloth towels on the gentle cycle in warm water using a gentle laundry detergent preserves the integrity of the fibers.

Follow Proper Drying Methods

Choosing suitable drying methods is equally important:

Tumble Dry on Low Heat

  • Do not use high heat in the dryer as it damages terry cloth loops.
  • Medium or low heat tumble drying is best for fluffiness.

Reshape and Fluff While Damp

  • Gently stretch and smooth towels when they are slightly damp from the wash.
  • This helps retain shape and fluffiness as it dries further.

Avoid Direct Sunlight

  • Sun exposure fades colors so don’t hang colored terry cloth out to line dry.
  • For whites, outdoor line drying is fine.

Proper machine drying maintains both softness and absorbency in the long run.

Key Takeaway: To keep terry cloth towels fluffy and plush, always tumble dry at low heat. Further air drying aids in reshaping too.

Helpful Laundry Additives

Certain laundry boosters enhance the wash too:

Add Vinegar to Set Colors

  • Add 1 cup white vinegar to your towel wash, especially for new colored towels.
  • This helps intensify and set colors so they stay vibrant after many washes.

Include Baking Soda to Whiten

  • For dingy looking white towels, add 1⁄4 cup baking soda to your wash routine.
  • It naturally whitens without using harsh bleach.

Avoid Using Fabric Softener

  • Do not use any fabric softener when washing terry cloth towels.
  • The silicone in them coat fibers and reduce absorbency. It is counterproductive.

Boosters such as vinegar and baking soda make a noticeable difference in improving the cleaning results.

Handling Common Terry Cloth Issues

Even with proper washing methods, terry cloth towels can develop some problems. Here is how to tackle them:

Pilling and Loose Threads

  • Do not pull loose threads or pills will expand. Rather, trim off close to base with scissors.
  • Check washing machine for rough items rubbing against towels such as zippers, snaps etc.

Funky Smells

  • Musty smells mean mold or mildew has built up within the towels.
  • Wash towels in hot water with bleach/color safe bleach to disinfect and remove odors.


  • Grayish discoloration and yellow stains are typically from body oils and dead skin cells being trapped.
  • Add baking soda or dishwasher detergent to break down deposits in the wash.

With some troubleshooting, you can easily handle minor terry cloth linen issues at home.

Useful Laundry Tips and Tricks

Here are some extra handy tips for keeping terry cloth towels looking like new for longer:

Shake Out Towels Before Wash

Gently shake towels outdoors before washing so any particles come loose. This prevents buildup.

Wash When Visibly Dirty

Aim for washing bath towels every 3-4 days depending on use but at least wash them when looking visibly dirty.

Disinfect With White Vinegar

Periodically wash towels in hot water and white vinegar only to deeply disinfect them. The acidity kills bacteria.

Check Under Hot Tap

Hold washed towels under hot tap water, if water takes very long to soak in, it means oils have clogged fibers so wash again adding baking soda.

Store Properly

Let towels fully air dry after each use and store in a cool, dry spot to avoid musty smells from moisture buildup.


Can you bleach terry cloth towels?

Use bleach minimally since it weakens terry cloth fibers with repeated use. For stain removal, spot treat with diluted bleach first. Always bleach white towels separately.

How do you strip towels of residue buildup?

Wash towels in hot water adding laundry detergent, borax, washing soda, and baking soda. The combination helps dissolve residue. Soak overnight first for tougher buildup.

How often should you wash terry cloth towels?

Ideally wash terry cloth towels after every 3-4 uses. So for bath towels that is about every 3 to 4 days on average depending on how soiled they appear. Musty smells also indicate its time for a wash.

What is the best laundry detergent for terry cloth?

Choose a mild detergent without optical brighteners or bleach. Popular options are baby detergents, sensitive skin kinds, eco-friendly detergents etc. Avoid regular perfumed laundry detergents.


The super absorbent and fluffy texture that makes terry cloth towels so popular requires a little extra care.

Mix in some periodic disinfecting and deep cleaning and you will eliminate odor issues altogether too.

Emma Kellam
Emma Kellam

I'm Emma, and I run Towels Edition, a website for fellow home goods enthusiasts who, like me, are passionate about textiles. After working in high-end retail, I was amazed by how little most people (myself included!) know about all the towel options out there.

I research and write all the content myself. Whether it's specialized towels like bar mops, Turkish cotton production methods, or comparing hair towel absorbency, I cover it. My goal is to share my knowledge and enthusiasm to help others.

Running Towels Edition allows me to constantly expand my own expertise too. I love learning about innovations in bamboo fabric or ideal bath towels. It's so rewarding to receive emails thanking me for recommendations that improved my readers' routines.

I want Towels Edition to be the ultimate online towel resource, making this overlooked necessity far more fascinating. My aim is to open people's eyes to how specialty towels can thoroughly enhance hygiene, cleaning, recreation and self-care.