how to wash tea towels

How to Wash Tea Towels

Tea towels are usually put through their paces over a 24-hour period. They wipe umpteen dishes, dry several pairs of hands, mop up spills all over the house, pick up grease from countertops and more.

So, it’s absolutely vital that these multipurpose towels get some TLC at the end of a busy day! How do you do this? Easy… Wash your tea towels.

Tea towels are typically made from cotton or linen and it’s because of this they pick up liquids with ease, and are also easy to take care of.

The absorbent nature of tea towels makes them great for drying wet dishes, wiping hands and picking up liquid messes.

But in order to do their job well they need to be kept clean and free from harmful bacteria. They need to be washed often.

Follow the step-by-step guide below to make sure your tea towels are being cared for correctly.


What Should You Wash Tea Towels With?

what to wash tea towels with

As you might’ve guessed, tea towels are normally exposed to lots of dirt, from grease, to food waste, and from grubby water to soap.

So, the easiest way to clean this muck away is to use a biological detergent that’s packed with enzymes.

The enzymes in question break down proteins, fats, grease and general dirt on the tea towels, so they can be washed away. In turn, the tea towels will be clean and bacteria free when they come out of the wash.

In addition to the above, you can also neutralise poor odours by adding some vinegar, or bicarbonate of soda, to the rinse cycle as the tea towels are being cleaned.

Or you could soak some smelly tea towels in some white vinegar or bicarbonate of soda overnight and then wash them.

In some cases, you may have to bleach your white coloured tea towels using chlorine bleach. Or a colour-safe bleach to clean coloured tea towels. This is usually done to remove toughened dirt and/or heavy stains.

Laundry sanitisers can also be added to washes to help remove even more bacteria from tea towels.


How to Wash Tea Towels

how to wash tea towel

The simplest way to clean tea towels is to throw them into a washing machine and to run a washing cycle. You can, however, wash them by hand. Find out what you need to do below.

Tip: Wash similar coloured tea towels together.

Washing machine 

Steps to follow:

  1. Pre-treat stains with a stain remover or rub detergent into the marked area. In some cases, the stains will be too bad and will require bleaching.
  2. Add the tea towels to an empty washing machine.
  3. Select a normal wash cycle.
  4. Add a biological detergent to the appliance, like Persil Bio Laundry Washing Liquid Detergent.
  5. You can add a laundry sanitiser as well, like Persil Antibacterial Laundry Sanitiser. However, this isn’t essential.
  6. Start the cycle.

Additional tips

You can use a hotter water temperature if you like, about 60°C. But check the tag on the tea towel to make sure such a high temperature won’t cause any irreparable damage.

And you can also add vinegar or bicarbonate of soda into the machine during the rinse cycle to remove any stinky smells from the tea towels.

tea towels in laundry basket



Hand-washing tea towels is also an option. All you need to do is apply the steps above, but instead of using a machine, you clean the tea towels in a tub or sink.

Simply pre-treat stains first, then fill a tub/sink with warm water, pop the tea towels in (make sure you keep similar colours together), add a biological detergent to the water and wait an hour or so. You can then start agitating the tea towels in the water to clean them.

When you’re done you need to remove and rinse the tea towels, and then dry them.

If you need to bleach your tea towels, you can add a measure of bleach to the water.

Just remember that bleach may discolour your tea towels, and you need to wear rubber gloves when handling bleach.

Disinfecting tea towels

To disinfect your tea towels either clean them according to the steps above, use a bleach-based cleaning agent to clean them (may discolour coloured tea towels, so buy a colour-safe bleach), add an antibacterial laundry sanitiser to your washes, or clean the tea towels on a hot cycle.

Drying tea towels

drying tea towels

When it comes to drying your tea towels you should pop them out on the line to dry naturally.

Ideally, you should pick a warm sunny day that has a slight breeze. The sun will act as a natural bleaching agent for your tea towels and will be able to disinfect the material for you. The breeze will speed up the natural drying process.

If you don’t have an outside space, you can use a clothes horse or heated airer. Just be sure to hang your wet tea towels up. You don’t want to leave them in a wet heap as this will lead to problems.

As a backup you can use a tumble dryer, but follow the drying instructions stipulated on your tea towel’s tag.


How to Maintain Tea Towels

tea towels in drawer

Below you’ll find a few suggestions on how to look after your tea towels:

  • Wring your tea towels out if they become water-logged. Moisture filled tea towels are a haven for bacteria and can encourage mould growth.
  • Store your tea towels correctly and when they’re completely dry.
  • Don’t be afraid to clean your tea towels with a disinfectant cleaner/laundry sanitiser, like Dettol Antibacterial Laundry Cleanser. A product like this will be able to remove germs from the material.
  • Wash used tea towels every day. And clean tea towels immediately if you’ve used them to clean up a spillage.
  • Give your tea towels a quick rinse under a hot water tap before washing them. This’ll loosen up and remove any clumps of dirt from the fibres.
  • Spot treat stains when you need to.
  • Once you’ve washed your tea towels, dry them. You shouldn’t leave wet tea towels hanging around because they’ll go smelly, bacteria may start setting up home in the fabric, and mould will start to thrive.
  • Hang your tea towel up when you’re done using it. Plenty of air will reach the material and will also begin to dry it.
  • If you use a tea towel to clean an area that has come into contact with raw food, say meat, wash it immediately.
  • Make sure you’ve got lots of tea towels at home, so you can continuously swap and wash your tea towels.


FAQs on Washing Tea Towels

washing tea towels

How often should you wash tea towels?

As a guide, well-used tea towels should be washed every single day. This’ll limit the number of bacteria that’ll be passed around as the tea towels come into contact with various surfaces.

If you don’t use a tea towel very much in your home you may be able to wash it every two days.


Do you need to wash tea towels?

Yes, you do need to wash tea towels. Why?

Tea towels get wet, are used to mop up food waste, become riddled with liquids and grease, and because they’re usually damp, they can encourage mould growth. In turn, the tea towels turn into a circus for bacteria and become super unsanitary.

Washing your tea towels is the only way of keeping your tea towels clean, free from germs, and hygienic.

Further to this, tea towels are used to wipe dishes in a lot of homes. So, it’s imperative that the tea towels are clean, otherwise when you wipe your plates, glasses and cutlery you’ll splatter them with microorganisms. If you were to consume these germs you could be seriously ill.

Similarly, if you wipe your wet hands on a dirty tea towel, you could be spreading harmful bacteria all over yourself. This could make you or someone in your house unwell.

There’s no way around it: you’ve got to wash tea towels.


Can you put tea towels in the washing machine?

tea towel in washing machine

Yes, you can wash tea towels in a washing machine. In fact, unless you’re told not to do so by the care label, cleaning tea towels in this manner is the easiest way to keep them clean and sanitary.


Should tea towels be washed separately?

Generally, you should wash tea towels on their own, so you can prevent the cross-contamination of germs.

It would be unwise to wash your tea towels with your underwear, for example.

And although you might think that washing tea towels and bath towels is okay, this is usually not a good idea. You really don’t want to start mixing up the germs found on your bath towels and kitchen tea towels, and vice versa. It’s not sanitary to do this.

It’s better to stick to washing similar items together. And if there’s no way of doing separate laundry cycles, you should add laundry sanitisers to your washes, so you get rid of as many germs as possible.


Can you put tea towels in the tumble dryer?

Yes, it is possible to dry tea towels in a tumble dryer.

However, it’s better to try and air dry them as much as you can. The natural sunlight will help to bleach any stains and will act as a disinfectant. And the fresh air will help to release any trapped smells from the tea towels’ fibres.

Also, air drying tea towels can protect them and ensure their longevity.


Is it ok to wash tea towels with bath towels?


Ideally you should wash your tea towels on their own, and then wash your bath towels on their own. This will prevent any cross-contamination from occurring.

Think about it like this, if you were to clean grease-stained tea towels with generally clean bath towels, the greasiness would transfer onto the bath towels.

In turn, the bath towels would end up feeling and smelling a little greasy. And drying yourself with these bath towels would be a little unpleasant.

It’s best to avoid doing this. But if there’s no other option, use a biological detergent and add an antibacterial laundry sanitiser to your cycle as well. You should kill off the bacteria and clean your laundry as best as you can by doing this.