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 about it?
Do you just wash all of your dirty laundry together, regardless of type?
If so, keep reading. I want to show you the better laundry way.
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 pain to 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.
Mama’s favorite lint brush for clothes → Evercare Magik Lint Brush
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.
Read more: Why You Should Not Wash Sheets and Towels Together
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.
Read more: How to Choose the Water Temperature and How to Choose the Washing Cycle
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 and now 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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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…
We live on a planet in crisis. Also we live in an economic time of crisis. Certainly my economic times are pretty close to crises worthy. We need to conserve water and energy as much as possible for both reasons. So sorry, towels go in with sheets and jeans and shirts, etc. One load to use least water and power. Period. Other than the frilly delicate fabrics, of course, and new colors that will bleed on the other clothes- because ruining the clothes means replacing and using more of these resources. That’s my take on it.
I second this. Smaller items of clothing go into laundry nets so that they don’t get twisted with the larger pieces. However I do appreciate all this information. It helps us make informed choices and to decide when to bend/break the rules! Thank you for that.
I am a single guy. I either use the 1980s washing machines in my laundry room or go to the laundromat. Everything gets washed together using store brand detergent. May not meet other people’s standards, but it works fine for me.
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!
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.
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.
My new dryer takes forever to dry. I just throw like colors together. Aside from the towels and sheets rule, do you wash and then dry heavier fabrics together (like jeans)? I’m wondering if I separate out the jeans, will my dark load dry faster?
Oh Katie, your darks should dry MUCH faster if you take the jeans out of that load. Your dryer has a sensor, so it’s sensing the heavier weight of the jeans, which is what’s making it take so long.
Dry them separately, and I bet you’ll like your results much better!
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!
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-
My Machine is LG Smart Machine it checks how much clothes are in it only puts a small amount of water if there only 1 item clothing in it the more clothes the more water but where I’m living in 2 bedroom unit there was no taps in laundry so i had no much choice but to change the tap out with adapter so i can at least use cold water only i tried swap hose from cold to only put hot in that confused the machine bec it was also looking for cold water it was not getting it , so cold it is only hope when i more i more into a place with hot n cold taps for washing machine
so thats my 2 cents worth of chat
I try not to wash bed with bath but will wash dishcloths with bed if I only have a couple of them
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!
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.
It’s best for climate for us to wash everything in cold water and dry outside (or inside) on a line! Yay breeze and sunshine! I do that 90% of the time and feel clean and happy. Warm or hot water is for “special needs” laundry only, and same for clothes dryer. Unless our electricity comes from solar or other renewables, we don’t really have the right to use fracked gas, tar sands oil, and mountaintop removal coal which harms others’ health and lives, as well as harming climate. Sure we are busy. I’m super busy but I’m happier doing it this way. If you’ve got 5 kids and caring for elders and it’s all on you, I understand the time factor, the impossibility! But if at least half of us did this, we’d have a positive impact. In fact my energy does come from solar most of the time but I still enjoy hanging clothes out on the line except in winter when I use a machine more ! What we do and how we think about loving our planet matters. How we get off of oil and gas completely ASAP matters 🙂
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!
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.
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?
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.
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.
Same for me.
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.
Thank you for your article. My husband did not believe me that you should not wash bedding with clothes…………and he did not believe me when I said you are not suppose to push everything down to make it all fit. Thanks to your articles he may change his ways…
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?
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.
My new sheets came with instructions to wash on gentle. So to keep them in good shape, that is what I have been doing. Also do it with my wicking shirts used briefly for workouts.
With so much sorting I would never have enough to wash on a regular basis. So dark towels have been going in with dark clothes. No lint problems can be seen.
I always wash my bath towels, hand towels, and washcloths separate from my oven mitts, kitchen towels and dishcloths. The main reason for this is the number one evil in laundry combinations – cross contamination! My mom tells me to change the dishcloth every couple days, because bacteria and germs breed on them when I wash the dishes and clean the kitchen counters and dining room table. My kitchen towels and dishcloths, but especially the dishcloths, become so smelly in the laundry bucket, it literally smells like barfups! I wash my sheets separate from my pillow cases, since they’re really heavy when wet, and I wouldn’t want the pillow cases to tangle in the sheets. I even have separate laundry buckets. One for clothing, which I keep in my bedroom closet, one for bedding, which is also in the bedroom closet, and one for towels, which I keep in the bathroom. As I’m blind, I can’t see any colors, so it would be hard to tell which colors are dark colors and which colors are light colors. I wear all colors except red, pink, black, and purple, since I don’t really like those colors. As I visualize them, they just don’t look good on me! All my towels are blue in color, and my sheets are blue as well. I live alone in a rental studio apartment, so the washing machine is smaller than your average front load washing machine. The hardest part is, I wash my load of bath towels together, which consists of four middle-size bath towels, four hand towels, and four washcloths on heavy duty in hot water, and no matter how evenly I distribute them, the washing machine and dryer start dancing, as the dryer is stacked on top of the washing machine.
“I wear all colors except red, pink, black, and purple, since I don’t really like those colors. As I visualize them, they just don’t look good on me!” Love this comment! – My response has nothing to do with the washing thread, just to say you sound amazing and inspiring! Have a lovely Christmas, a sparkling new year and happy washing! xx
I live in an apartment complex and use the commercial washers & dryers in the laundry room. A light load and a dark load are all I can manage. Almost all of my garments call for cold water and the washing instructions on sheets/towels never say to wash in hot water, which I would prefer to do.
In a perfect world, I would have a washer & dryer in my apartment and live the fantasy of never having any dirty clothes. The machines would have a variety of settings and I’d be able to select the correct variation for each load.
I come from a family where the women always washed their delicates by hand, as I do today. None of my bras or panties has ever seen the inside of a washing machine. Aside from lasting a very long time and being kept in good shape, I prefer not to think of these personal items being washed with other types of garments and items. I do not follow the washing instructions on lingerie and always wash in hot wash, for obvious reasons.
I guess my clothes will continue to get rolled up in the sheets in the dryer; I was looking for a solution to that occasional problem, when I found this interesting and informative site.
…gotta’ go get the clothes out of the dryer; maybe they won’t be bunched up today !
I’m pondering that very question as I type. I cannot see why those with laundering limitations would not be able to use a type of ‘laundering mesh bag’, such as a lingerie bag, only larger! Sounds like a decent solution to me!? Yes, in a perfect world, I would have it ALL!
I am a college student, and each laundry load cost $2.25 to wash and another $2.25 to dry. Hope there is a cheaper way to do laundry other than washing one load every two weeks…Any ideas?
What does one do if they live alone and rarely has a full load of just towels? I don’t want to have to do an extra half full load just for towels, yet the lint all over my clothes is not tolerable either.
Sarah, I’d personally wash just small loads of towels, rather than having my clothes linty. Just use less detergent, and adjust the water level if you have an older style top-loader. If you have a newer machine, it will sense the smaller load and adjust the water level.
just had a ‘debate’ with the wife about whether or not it is OK to pour clothes into the washer from a hamper without un-balling them.
in particular, we’re referring to small towels, t-shirts, etc… not big towels, sheets, etc.
1 of us believes that water (with detergent) will get to ~ a balled-up towel or t-shirt regardless if it began balled-up
1 of us believes that it won’t.
i saw your statement about the need to item to rub against something.
IME (in my experience) if an item is balled up, it will not necessarily remain balled up while washed in a washer and it will still rub against itself even if it is balled up.
Nope – sheets and towels and clothes can all be washed together. After so many washings there is very little lint coming off my sheets and towels. A good soak whether cool or warm will wash away debris an horrors I have been known to line dry my clothes and towels. Before there were dryers there were clothespins and clotheslines OUTDOORS….stuff smelt so much better!!!!