how to wash towels so they'll last

If you care for your new towels right, they'll keep you and your kids wrapped in post-bubble-bath softness and comfort for at least five years. And they'll look color correct, too.

That's right, a good-quality towel, properly laundered, can arrive with your newborn and stick around until he starts kindergarten and look little worse for wear.

The expected life span of a good- to best-quality towel is five to 10 years. (Best-quality towels are those made from premium fibers, such as Supima or Egyptian cotton.)

Here's how to sanitize towels, get a mildew smell out of towels, and how to keep them clean and soft for your family, wash after wash.

Wash New Towels Before Using Them

Don't just put that new towel on the bathroom hook or towel bar. Washing new towels before use is key to getting them primed for softness and absorbency.

Many manufacturers add a finish that creates a sleek, soft feel, but in truth this actually diminishes the towel's absorbency.

While these chemical will rinse out after a few washes, you're often left with a scratchy, rough towel.

To get the fluffiness and absorbency you crave, first soak or wash the towel in cold water without detergent or fabric softener. Then tumble dry low.

And only then, into the bathroom they go!

Wash Towels Separately from the Rest of the Laundry

Always wash towels separately from the rest of your laundry; this is both for the towels' longevity and that of your family's clothes. Towels can cover co-washed clothes with lint. And clothes with zippers, hooks, and buttons can pull loops out of terrycloth towels and snag others.

Sort your towels by fabric and color, creating piles of whites, darks (such as red, blue, and purple, and lights (like pink, yellow, and light blue).

Further separate dark-colored towels from their lighter cousins. Wash each load separate to keep both light and dark colors intact.

Wash Towels in the Hottest Water the Fabric Can Take

Towels are the perfect breeding ground for germs, mold, and mildew as they hang - usually damp - in a warm humid bathroom.

Hot water (at least 155 degrees F.) is the best washing machine setting for towels as it kills most common germs.

It's how to sanitize towels to reduce the spread of illness in your home, and the only sure way to get the mildew smell out of towels.

Use only half the recommended amount of detergent to keep towels absorbent and soft. Add bleach to brighten and sanitize your white and leachable towels, and to get the mildew smell out of towels.(Use a bleach alternative for your colored towels).

Wash towels at least once a week, preferably every three to four days, to freshen towels and keep them clean and at their best. Wash towels sets together so any color fading is uniform.

Remove Towels from the Dryer Slightly Damp

Tumble-dry towels on a hot setting and remove the towels while they're still slightly damp. Excessive heat wears down towel fibers. If they're hot (not warm) to the touch, you've overdried them.

Like Your Towels Absorbent? Skip The Silicone Fabric Softeners

Some fabric softeners contain water-repellent silicone, the death knell for towel absorbency.

Let Towels Hang Out in the Bathroom After Use

Between bathing, hang towels loosely on the towel rod or on hooks to allow quick air-drying. This will keep mold at bay, meaning your towels stay fresh longer and need fewer washings (a double plus: less work for you and less machine time for the towels).

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