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What wash setting should I use for towels and sheets? Take some of the guesswork out of laundry day

white sheets and towels drying on washing line in sunshine and greenery - what wash setting should i use for towels and sheets

Cotton sheets and towels usually require a fairly aggressive wash cycle, but just how hot can you go?

What wash setting for towels and sheets will yield the best results? It’s a question you’ve no doubt asked yourself as you’re stuffing bedding and bathroom towels into the washing machine, before selecting the same old cycle out of little more than habit. Maybe you even use the same setting you use for clothes, just to keep things simple. After all, life is complicated enough without having to memorise all those different wash programs, right?

Sadly, it’s not quite that simple. The fact of the matter is that bedding and towels tend to accumulate more bacteria than your T-shirts and sweaters. As this could lead to some unpleasant odours – or even make you sick – if it’s not dealt with thoroughly, you’ll need to treat these items slightly differently when you’re doing the laundry. All the best washing machines are built with a whole host of settings, so once you do find the right wash, cleaning your towels and bedding will be a breeze.

So, what do you need to know when it comes to washing these bigger, dirtier items in your laundry basket? Below, we’ll answer some of the most commonly asked questions about washing towels and sheets, and we’ll try to demystify your machine’s dial and help you decide which settings to use for the best results.

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Can towels and sheets be washed together?

Towels and sheets are different materials and, in an ideal world, they would be washed separately. Towels are generally more abrasive than soft, comfortable bedding so there’s an argument to be made that your sheets will last longer if they are washed on their own. However, washing them together is not going to make a huge difference and if your main concern is saving time and energy, it makes more sense to clean both at the same time. Just make sure you still separate your lights and colours.

How often should sheets be washed?

The general advice from healthcare professionals is that you should wash your bedding at least once every two weeks. You might even need to do it more frequently when it’s hot, or if you have a pet that likes to curl up with you at night.

If you don’t wash your sheets often enough, you may find yourself sharing a bed with unpleasant guests such as dead skin, bacteria, dust mites and crumbs. At best, this is grim and, at worst, it could result in a nasty rash or even a serious illness.

How often should towels be washed?

The science suggests you should wash your bathroom towels around every three uses – while your gym towels should be washed even more often – to keep them free from bacteria.

sheets going into washing machine - what wash setting should i use for towels and sheets

Dirty, damp towels are the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, especially when they’re left hanging in warm, dark bathrooms. To kill these germs, they need to be washed frequently.

Should I use fabric softener on sheets and towels?

Yes and no. While it might seem like a perfectly good idea to use a fabric softener every now and then to keep your towels fluffy and your sheets soft, doing so too frequently could negatively impact the material.

If you use fabric softener every time you wash your sheets, it can begin to affect their breathability and might make your bedding dirtier in the long run. As for your towels, using fabric softener in every wash is likely to impact their absorbency, which is a rather important quality for towels to possess. In fact, as fabric softener residue builds up on the fibres, your towels can start to become stiff and scratchy.

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What is the best wash setting to use for towels and sheets?

Unfortunately, there’s no silver bullet for this problem; instead, you have different options, depending on your bedding and towels. If, for example, you have silk or satin sheets, you may need to wash them on a delicate cycle.

If you’re principally concerned about patterns and prints running or fading, it’s best if you can wash your bedding and towels on a cool wash. Similarly, if they’re not particularly filthy, you could follow the ‘if it’s not dirty, wash at 30’ school of thought.

However, a hot wash will always be the best way to get them clean and free from nasties and washing cotton sheets and towels at 60℃ is a surefire way to eliminate germs and bacteria. This may seem less environmentally friendly than washing at a lower temperature, but it might mean you need to wash your sheets and towels less frequently in the long run. Since washing at a low heat won’t manage to kill all of the bacteria, nasty odours will return faster – by getting rid of them entirely with a hotter wash, you’ll be starting from fresh every time.

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