After you buy new bath towels, wash them before you use them. Even though they are new, you don't know how long they sat in a warehouse or on a store shelf getting dusty, and they could harbor microscopic germs or bacteria. Besides, most manufacturers add a finish to the towels to make them feel soft in the store, but this finish may contain chemicals you don't want against your skin.
Read the Care Label
All store-bought fabrics come with a care label that includes recommendations for washing and drying. Towels are made from a variety of fibers such as cotton, polyester, bamboo and microfiber. Each of these fibers usually has a different cleaning regimen. Adhere to the manufacturer's care instructions for the best results. If the care label is missing, then set the wash and rinse cycles to warm water.
Wash Similar Colors Together
Don't mix white towels with colored towels, and don't wash towels with anything else. After the first washing with your regular detergent, new fabrics have a tendency to release some of their dye colors, which bleeds onto lighter fabrics. Set the temperature to the highest setting recommended by the care tag, but verify that all the towels going into the load can be washed at that setting. After removing them from the washer, fluff them with your fingers before drying. For fresher-smelling towels, hang them outside on a clothesline to dry.
Avoid Softener Sheets
Dryer fabric-softener sheets contain wax and softening chemicals that release onto the towels while they're being dried. The heat in the dryer causes the release of these ingredients, which coat the towels to give them a fragrance and a softer feel. But this interferes with the towel's ability to absorb water from the body. If you want towels to smell fresh, add 1/2 to 1 cup of vinegar to the rinse cycle, and dry them on the low-heat setting. If you want your towels to last longer without wearing out, avoid the dryer altogether and air dry them instead.
At the most, wash towels after they've been used three times. If you let them sit too long, they develop a musty scent that can be hard to remove and they become a breeding ground for bacteria. If the towels get really musty, wash them once without soap and with a vinegar rinse, and then wash again with detergent. As towels are rubbed against the body to remove moisture, they also gather up microscopic dead skin cells -- into the millions -- which stay on the towels until they are washed. When you have sick people in the house, wash their towels immediately after use and add a disinfecting agent to the wash, such as bleach for white towels.