How often should you replace towels?

How Often Should You Replace Towels? How Long Do Towels Last?

Towels are a daily necessity, playing a crucial role in our routines, from the kitchen to the bathroom. But, have you ever stopped to think, “How often should you replace towels?”

In this post, you’ll learn about the lifespan of towels, the signs that it’s time to replace them, and how to choose and maintain your towels to ensure they last longer.

How Often Should You Replace Towels?

As noted by Brandi Winch, in an article on Martha Stewart, typically, hand and body towels that are well-cared for can last between two to five years, while washcloths usually need replacing every one to two years due to more frequent wear and tear.

Type of TowelLifespan
Hand and Body TowelsTwo to Five Years (with proper care)
WashclothsOne to Two Years (due to more frequent wear and tear)

Insights from Everyday Towel Users

When it comes to the lifespan of towels, real-life experiences can offer a wealth of insights. A glance at a discussion on Reddit reveals a variety of practices and preferences among everyday towel users.

Some Redditors have shared that they are still using towels that have been with them for years, with one user mentioning using their first set since 2006 and another stating they have towels from the 80s that are still in good condition. These instances highlight how, with proper care, towels can indeed last a long time.

Another user shared their practice of receiving new towels as gifts, mixing them with the old ones, and only discarding them when they are stained or worn out, sometimes even repurposing them for pets. This reflects a common practice of integrating new towels into the existing collection and repurposing old ones, emphasizing the practical approach many take towards towel replacement.

Interestingly, one user mentioned buying three sets of premium white towels when moving into their first home and noted that a decade later, those towels are still in use and could probably last another five years. This anecdote underscores the potential longevity of high-quality towels and how initial investment in good quality can pay off in the long run.

These varied experiences illustrate that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to how often towels should be replaced. It largely depends on individual preferences, usage, and care routines, with some opting to hold on to their towels for years, while others prefer frequent replacements to maintain optimal freshness and hygiene.

Factors Affecting a Towel’s Lifespan

The recommendation to replace body towels every one to two years is based on several considerations:

  1. Hygiene: Towels are exposed to dead skin cells, oils, and a variety of bacteria every time they are used. Over time, even with regular washing, towels can harbor bacteria and mold, posing a risk to health. Replacing them ensures you are not exposed to harmful microbes.
  2. Wear and Tear: Regular use and washing cause wear and tear on the fibers of the towels, affecting their texture, strength, and absorbency. After one to two years of regular use, towels may become less absorbent and less effective at drying.
  3. Aesthetic Reasons: Over time, towels may become discolored, stained, or frayed, losing their aesthetic appeal. Replacing them helps in maintaining a fresh and pleasant appearance in your bathroom or kitchen.
  4. Optimal Performance: For towels to perform their best in terms of absorbency, softness, and overall effectiveness, they need to be in good condition. After a couple of years, the performance of towels typically diminishes, and replacing them ensures you continue to have an optimal drying experience.
  5. Frequency of Use: The more frequently a towel is used and washed, the quicker it will wear out. In households where towels are used extensively, the need to replace them may arise sooner.
  6. Quality of Towels: Higher quality towels made from durable materials may last longer than one to two years, while lower quality towels may need replacement sooner.

Related: How Long Do Bath Mats Last and When to Replace Yours?

Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Towels

Knowing when it’s time to bid farewell to your old towels can be tricky. Here are some nuanced signs that your towels may be past their prime:

They’re Scratchy:

A lack of softness is a clear indicator that they’re getting too old for use. This can sometimes happen when they are washed with too much detergent or due to the buildup of body oils and detergents within the fabric, causing stiffness and a rough feeling, as explained by Daelin Arney of Cozy Earth in Better Homes & Gardens.

They Have an Odor, Even After Washing

If your towels still have that musty smell even after washing them with detergent, this means they are beginning to absorb more germs than moisture and should be replaced. Lingering odors can be a sign of poor ventilation in the bathroom or the towel absorbing unpleasant smells from its user.

They’re No Longer as Absorbent

If your towels are frequently dripping wet and no longer absorbing as much as they did initially, they are no longer serving their purpose and it is time for new ones. Lindsey Johnson, co-founder and CEO of Weezie Towels, mentions to Better Homes & Gardens that a loss of fluffy, absorbent qualities is a telltale sign it’s time to replace your towel.

They’re Ripping and Fraying at the Ends

Any visible damage like rips or holes means they need to be replaced. Towels aren’t designed to last forever, and visible damage is a clear sign that they have reached the end of their lifespan.

You’ve Had Them for a Few Years

General wear and tear over the years can degrade their quality. If you can’t remember the last time you bought new bath towels, it’s probably time to get new ones.

The Color Is Fading

Faded colors or towels that don’t look as vibrant as they used to can be a sign that it’s time to replace them. While towels are practical, they also add to the aesthetics of your bathroom, and faded towels can make your bathroom look dull and uninviting.

There’s Mildew Spotting

If you notice mildew spots on your towels, they need to be thrown out. Poor ventilation in the bathroom can lead to moisture buildup, causing mildew to form on the towels.

How to Make Your Towels Last Longer

Ensuring the longevity of your towels involves more than just choosing the right ones; it also requires proper care and maintenance. Here are some tips to help your towels last longer:

  1. Follow Care Instructions: Always adhere to the care instructions on the label of your towels. This usually involves washing them in warm water, avoiding overuse of detergent, and avoiding fabric softeners, which can decrease absorbency.
  2. Wash Towels Separately: Wash towels separately from other laundry to avoid the abrasion from other fabrics, which can damage the fibers of your towels. This also prevents the transfer of lint onto your towels.
  3. Use Vinegar and Baking Soda: Every few washes, add a cup of white vinegar to the wash to remove residue and maintain the fluffiness and absorbency of the towels. You can also use baking soda to remove any musty odors and refresh your towels.
  4. Avoid Overloading the Washer: Do not overload the washing machine. Washing smaller loads allows the towels to rinse properly, removing all the detergent and minimizing wear and tear.
  5. Dry Towels Properly: Dry your towels thoroughly, whether you are using a dryer or hanging them to dry. If using a dryer, avoid high heat as it can damage the fibers. If air-drying, ensure good ventilation to avoid mildew.
  6. Rotate Your Towels: Have multiple sets of towels and rotate them regularly. This gives each set a break, reducing wear and tear and extending the life of your towels.
  7. Store, Fold or Roll Towels Neatly: Store your towels by folding or rolling them neatly. This prevents them from becoming misshapen and helps maintain their structure and appearance. Keep them in a dry, well-ventilated area to avoid dampness and mildew.
  8. Address Stains Immediately: Treat any stains on your towels immediately. The longer a stain sits, the harder it is to remove, and it may permanently damage the fabric.
  9. Avoid Bleach: While bleach is great for whitening, it can weaken fibers and affect the longevity of your towels. Use bleach sparingly and only when necessary.
  10. Use Towels Appropriately: Use your towels for their intended purpose. Avoid using bath towels as cleaning rags or beach towels, which can lead to premature wear and tear.

Frequently Asked Questions

Navigating through the world of towels can bring up several questions, and we’re here to answer them for you.

How often should bath towels be replaced?

Bath towels that are well-cared for should typically be replaced every two to five years, depending on their quality, usage, and care.

How often should I change my towels and sheets?

Towels should be washed after three to four uses, and sheets should generally be washed every one to two weeks. However, if they are visibly soiled or have an odor, they should be washed more frequently.

Is it OK to wash towels every two weeks?

It’s recommended to wash towels more frequently, ideally after three to four uses, to maintain hygiene and prevent the buildup of bacteria and mold, especially if they don’t dry properly between uses.

How often should hotels replace towels?

Hotels typically replace towels as needed based on wear and tear, but a general guideline is to replace them every six months to two years, depending on the quality of the towels and the frequency of washing.

What to look for when purchasing towels?

When purchasing towels, consider the material, weight (GSM), size, construction, care instructions, price, personal preference, color, design, and eco-friendliness to ensure you choose towels that suit your needs and preferences.

What are the best materials for towels?

Cotton, especially Egyptian and Turkish cotton, is one of the best materials for towels due to its softness, high absorbency, and durability. Microfiber is also a good choice for quick-drying properties.


So, how often should you replace towels? It all boils down to their condition and hygiene. Regularly assessing your towels for signs of wear and tear, maintaining proper hygiene, choosing the right towels, and caring for them properly can ensure they last longer.

Remember, a clean, well-maintained towel is not just a luxury; it’s a necessity for a healthy life. Keep an eye on your towels and don’t hesitate to replace them when needed!

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