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Should You Wash Clothes with Towels & Sheets?

Should you wash your regular clothes with towels and sheets?

The short answer: Definitely not.

But what’s the harm in it?  They’re all dirty items that need to be laundered, right?  So what’s the big deal with it?

Towels on clothesline

3 Reasons Why You Should NOT Wash Clothes with Towels & Sheets

  • Towels are notorious lint-producers
    If you wash a load of fairly new towels, you’ll notice that there is an enormous amount of lint in the dryer screen.  Towels are natural lint producers (love that cotton!).  While the dryer screen acquires much of the lint, it still gets all over clothes.  And some fabrics attract that lint like a magnet.  And that lint?  It’s a painto remove.
     
    Don’t trust me?  Try washing a black pair of pants with an all-cotton white towel.  I can promise you’ll have a tough time trying to get the lint off with a  lint brush.
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  • Clothes get trapped inside sheets
    Due to their size and design, sheets tend to ball up in the washer and dryer.  When spinning in the washer, sheets trap other smaller items inside of them.  When those clothes are trapped, they don’t have the opportunity to rub against other clothes.  This agitation is partly what gets the laundry clean in the first place.
     
    Likewise, if clothes are balled up inside a sheet in the dryer they’ll come out wet.  Even if you have a damp-sensor in your dryer they’ll still come out wet, since the sensor perceives the outside of the sheet to be dry.
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  • Towels and sheets need to be washed on a hot, long wash cycle
    Regular clothes don’t typically need to be washed on hot, nor on a long wash cycle.  With just normal wear, clothes can be washed on a ‘regular’ setting and don’t need the heavy-duty wash.  If you do wash them on a hot/long cycle consistently, they’ll look old quickly.
     
    Towels and sheets always need to be washed on hot and on a long wash cycle.  You’ve slept on those sheets for about a week your skin cells and sweat are all over them.  You’ve used those towels a couple of times (at least) and your skin cells are all over those too.  And possibly mold and mildew if you didn’t hang them up well.Towels and sheets are made from sturdy cottons and can take the trauma of always washing them so hard.  To get really clean, they need to be washed on this setting every time.
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  • Washing underwear and towels together is just wrong.
    Think about it: ladies (usually) have nice, lacy underwear.  That is expensive.  Do you really want to put that in the same load as the nasty towel you used to wipe up the spilled milk?  Or the bath towel your son used for 9 nights in row?  You don’t.  Trust me.
     
    Some machines have a dirty water sensor.  The sensors determine how dirty the water is and can adjust the wash cycle for longer if it thinks the load is really gross.  So assume your underwear just needs the normal washing as it usually would and you’ve put it in the washer with those gross towels listed above.  Your washer is going to sense how nasty the towels are and run a longer wash cycle.
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    What does this mean for your underwear?  It is going to look old and soon.  Anytime clothes are washed (agitated) for a long time, they start to look old before their time.  It can also cause the elastic to break down sooner.  For something delicate like underwear, it can even cause the seaming to come apart since lace and those type fabrics are typically not as sturdy as a heavy cotton.  For long lasting underwear, treat them gently.

Exceptions to the ‘Wash Towels & Sheets Alone’ Rule

If you are in college, you are allowed to wash your towels, sheets, and clothes altogether.  Money for washing clothes is hard to come by while in college, so just be as efficient with your washing machine money as you can be.  Most of you only use one towel or so a week, right? Winking smile

If you are washing a load of sick laundry, you are excused from the rule.  You know the kind:  your child has vomited half the night and you’d like to put towels, sheets, mattress pads and pajamas in the washer at one time.  Just do it.  Make sure to use bleach and put on the ‘Sanitize’ cycle if you have one.  And then sanitize your washer.  Bleh.

 

So I must know.  Do you wash your towels/sheets with your regular dirty laundry?  Don’t worry – I’m not passing judgment!  Just curious what my readers typically do.

Comments

  1. So horrifying- I know. YOUR very own future sister-in-law was guilty of this. I may be appalled at much of Jon’s behaviors (the jeans debate continues) but I have always just done one giant, slam-packed load of laundry with all my clothes and towels. :) But… don’t worry… I have changed my ways.

    • mamalaundry says:

      I have no doubt that his laundry habits would just make me cringe! But thankfully, you are there to re-vamp them! Ha! I’ve been trying to dream up the perfect laundry wedding present…

  2. I wash my towels separate from my sheets, separate from my clothing. Not b/c I knew I was supposed to do it that way, but b/c we have so many people in our house (7) that there is never a shortage of towels/sheets/clothing to make a full load. The info on washing w/hot water was new to me. I read somewhere previously to always use cold (must have been an eco friendly article?) but now I am going to switch to hot for towels, sheets. Thanks for the info!

  3. another argument for properly separating clothes….the new washers do a fabulous job, BUT you must re-learn how to do laundry; aka ‘read the instructions’. I have heard a lot of people complain about lint and wrinkling of their laundry. If separated properly, as well as selecting the proper spin settings, the laundry comes out beautifully.

    • mamalaundry says:

      Yvonne, I couldn’t agree more! Learning to use the new washers is quite the learning curve. But you’re right – once you figure it out, clothes are washed beautifully and cleaned really well.

  4. I never wash my towels or sheets or reg. clothes together. That much I knew. However, I don’t wash the towels or sheets with HOT water. I use cold to save $$$, but you brought up some points…so hot it is!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Sara, if you have a front-loader it’s only using 15-17 gallons of water at the most anyway. So using cold water won’t save you huge amounts of money as if you were using a traditional top-loader (uses 45+ gallons per load).

      Just throwing some statistics out there! :)

      Thanks for stopping by-
      Lauren

  5. I try not to wash bed with bath but will wash dishcloths with bed if I only have a couple of them

  6. Yeah, what’s up with the “wash everything on cold” deal? Is that true? I have been doing that and I want to know if my clothes are getting clean like they should!

    • mamalaundry says:

      Jenny, I DO think some things should be washed on cold (delicates, items you know will bleed). However clothes need warm/hot water plus agitation to get really clean, in my experience. I wrote on the whole cold water debate a few months ago. Here’s the link in case you want to read it.

  7. Just got finished reading all of the basics. Now, my next question is: what type of detergent do you use? Have you ever made your own? I just made a batch of my own and want to know if it’s going to clean everything as well as I hope!

  8. Cathy Lawson says:

    I have always washed my clothes seperate. My sheets and towels I NEVER was them together, I have always heard that washing them together will cause those little piles to form on your sheets. Is this true, or have I been fussing at everyone that does for no reason.

  9. I always separate my clothes by color and type of material, and I never wash towels and sheets together.I read labels and use the temperature called for on the label, but from now onI will wash sheets and towels in hot water. Dowes washing unequal weights of material wear on the washer?

    • mamalaundry says:

      Marie – I don’t think it wears on the machine at all, except that it will make the dryer run longer. Since they are such different weights, the sheets dry quickly and the towels take a long time due to their thickness.

      If you wash them separately, the sheets dry really quickly and the towels dry faster than they would if they were with sheets.

  10. It’s funny- I just had this conversation with a friend the other day. It never occurred to me that it wasn’t okay to mix towels/sheets and *some* items of clothing. And I still don’t see the big deal…

    #1- Of course I wouldn’t wash black pants with a white towel, but socks and hubby’s t-shirts, I wash them with towels all the time. I like to keep my laundry hamper empty, so I mix what I can in with a load of sheets or towels.

    #2- I’ll give you that one, but I still don’t think it’s enough of an issue to deter me from throwing in t-shirts and socks with my sheets and towels. When a sock is discovered balled up in a sheet, it simply gets set out on the drying rack to finish drying. No biggie…

    #3- gosh no! Underwear contains spandex, and items with spandex should always be washed in cold and hung to dry. It’s about knowing the fabric content of what you’re washing, not simply keeping sheets and towels separated from the rest of the wardrobe.

  11. Tashanna says:

    I didn’t used to wash towels separately until maybe 5 years ago. New ones, yes, because I noticed the lint problem. It’s easier to make full loads of just sheets and towels now that I have a little family. I noticed a couple of older women in my husband’s family don’t separate their towels and I wanted to do some research in case I decide to tell them it’s a bad idea.

  12. But my sheet/towel labels say warm water? I am single and was wondering about the sanitary aspects of washing my black color panties/socks with my expensive dark color sheets/night gowns?

    • mamalaundry says:

      Rachael, it is true that some sheets need to be washed only in warm or they might draw up. If they are 100% cotton, you run a greater risk of them shrinking. If they have any poly in them at all, it’s probably safe to wash them in hot without them becoming smaller.

      I have never met a towel that couldn’t withstand hot water. ;) Now hot water will make a dark towel fade, but it won’t cause it to shrink.

      I personally don’t wash delicate undies/lingerie with sheets. Sheets don’t need to be washed with small items because they get balled up inside of the pockets and don’t get washed as well due to decreased agitation. Also, lingerie and nice items should be washed on a gentle cycle.

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