Here’s How to Wash Your White Towels, According to Professional Hotel Cleaning Staff

And tips on getting your white towels white once again

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There's nothing more luxurious than the fluffy, soft feel of a white hotel towel. So, how exactly does hotel cleaning staff do it? (And more importantly, how can you wash your own towels, which may or may not have seen better days, like this?)


We asked housekeeping managers at hotels to spill their secrets on how to wash white towels so that you can make your bathroom feel like a spa retreat even on a weekday morning.

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Meet the Experts

Use Multiple Laundry Products at Once

One of the most important aspects of cleaning a white towel is knowing what detergent to use. But to keep white towels white and fluffy, Amanda Mowery, GM and housekeeping manager for The Mohicans (a treehouse resort and wedding venue in Ohio), actually suggests the use of a few different products.


"Due to our specific resort having well water, we do not use commercial solvents as most resorts would. That being said, we use things like enzyme cleaners, such as OxiClean, along with a plant-based detergent, and then a bleach additive will keep them very white," Mowery tells Hunker.


Enzyme cleaners, like OxiClean, are excellent for removing stains and odors. They do this by essentially copying the decomposition process in nature (which, of course, produces bad odors). In the animal world, bacteria is used to take care of the odors, but enzyme cleaners use nonpathogenic bacteria to break down waste. In other words: These cleaners can handle some really smelly situations.

Use the Presoak Cycle

A key to keeping your white towels clean and white is using the correct cycles on your washer and dryer. Though it might be slightly more time-consuming than with other wash cycles, Mowery suggests using the pre-soak cycle on a washing machine.


"Running [white towels] on the pre-soak cycle allows the detergent to get set in and get that white color back in there," says Mowery.


It’s more difficult to soak towels or clothing in a front-loading washer. A good hack to get around this is to add OxiClean (or the enzyme cleaner of your choice) to the detergent drawer, select the cycle you’d like to use, and then run it for five minutes. After the five minutes are up, pause the cycle. Soak your items for 30 minutes and then resume the cycle.

Only Wash White Towels With Other White Towels

We've all been guilty of seeing a pile of laundry and not properly sorting it to wash and dry, but this can be a rather big mistake for white towels in particular.


"You know how most people will wash all their whites together? Just washing the white [towels] separate and drying them, the towels will kind of just fluff themselves out," Mowery says.

Bottom line? Make sure you're properly separating your laundry so that your towels can stay white and fluffy.


Take the Towel Out of the Dryer Early — Really

Although it may seem counterintuitive not to dry your towel all the way, this is actually a crucial step to keeping your towels soft.


"The key is to not overdry the towel, which can result in a rough versus soft and plush dry," Rozalyn Early, director of housekeeping at Conrad New York Downtown, tells Hunker.


With home dryers, Early suggests drying for five to 10 minutes less than the machine-recommended time for whites or whichever cycle is applicable for the machine and towel type.

"After taking the towel out, leave [it] to gently hang dry for the last bit of moisture that might remain, as this helps ensure a soft and plush finish," she suggests.


As far as dryer settings, Mowery has her staff use the fluff cycle for towels at The Mohicans, but if you don't have this particular setting on your at-home dryer, then she recommends using the delicate cycle.

When to Replace a White Towel

Even if you've taken proper care of your towels and washed them correctly, after a number of years, they will need to be replaced. But when exactly do you know when that time has come?


"In our laundry department, the employees are washing, drying, and folding, and they're inspecting every linen that comes in and out. During that time, they are looking for stains, snags, and if the fabric is dingy or wearing down," says Mowery.

If the towels have any of these three marks, then the towel is no longer in rotation, Mowery says. Though your towels at home don't go through as much wear and tear as those in hotels, stains, snags, and dinginess are some signs that it's time to replace a towel.


How to Get White Towels White Again

Image Credit: John Keeble/Moment/GettyImages

Your towels may start out white and fluffy only to turn dull and dingy over time. Give your towels a bit of laundry TLC with these natural methods for how to whiten towels. Wash them according to the instructions below and your towels will be bright and soft again in no time.



1. Boost Your Detergent With Washing Soda

Add 1/2 cup of washing soda to the washing machine before adding the towels. Washing soda is more alkaline than baking soda, and it's the alkalinity that helps your regular laundry detergent work more effectively to loosen the towel fibers and clean dirt and grime. However, if you don't have washing soda, you can substitute 1 cup of baking soda.

2. Run a Small Load

Towels take up a lot of space and can be hard to get clean, so don't overcrowd the washing machine. A small load of three to four towels gives the washing machine room to tumble well and rinse out all the dirt and detergent from your towels.

3. Use the Hottest Water Setting

Set the washing machine to the hottest water setting. Warmer water helps wash out oils and also better absorbs detergent, leaving your towels cleaner and softer. To really get towels white, soak the load before you run it.


4. Go Easy on the Detergent

It's fine to wash towels with your regular eco-friendly detergent but don't assume that more detergent means cleaner towels. Using a little less detergent than usual lets the rinse cycle clear out soap buildup.

5. Use Hydrogen Peroxide

Using bleach can potentially damage the towel fibers, so add 1/2 cup of hydrogen peroxide to the bleach compartment instead. The combination of washing soda and hydrogen peroxide gives a whitening boost similar to OxiClean.

To immediately treat a stain on a white towel, you can make a solution with half peroxide and half washing soda and apply it to the fabric before washing.

6. Rinse With Vinegar

Add 1 cup of distilled white vinegar to the rinse compartment to lift stains and soap residue. If you have really hard water, you might need more vinegar to soften stiff towels. Don't use regular fabric softener on towels, though. It leaves an oily buildup on towels that prevents them from absorbing water.

7. Line Dry

Let Mother Nature help whiten towels by letting the sun naturally bleach out stains. If you don't love how your towels feel after line drying, you can partially dry them in the sun and then finish in the dryer to soften them.

How to Bleach White Towels

Though overbleaching can damage the towel fibers, you can use bleach to get your towels white if you're in a pinch. To bleach them properly:

  1. Separate the white towels from other laundry.
  2. Soak heavily soiled towels in a mixture of 1 gallon of warm water and 1/4 of a cup of bleach for five to 10 minutes.
  3. Add towels to the washer tub.
  4. Fill the bleach dispenser with bleach. If there is no bleach dispenser in your detergent drawer, be sure to refer to your manufacturer’s instructions on where to place bleach during a cycle.
  5. Choose the hottest cycle on your machine (this is likely the sanitize cycle or something similar) and run. 



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