How Often Should You Wash Your Dish Towels?

(Image credit: Andrea Posadas)

I love a cute dish towel. I switch dish towels up seasonally, plus I have color-coordinating ones, which I like to pair up with each other as nice little pattern-mixing schemes for my kitchen.

Obviously, beyond being a decorative element, dish towels are workhorses in the kitchen. “Dish towels are multipurpose tools — people use them to do things like dry their hands, mop up spills, hold glassware as it air-dries, and dry veggies,” says Melissa Maker, author of Clean My Space. Given their crucial role in keeping your kitchen clean, it should come as no surprise that kitchen towels need to be washed pretty often.

But turns out, it’s a lot more often than I realized.

I usually wash my kitchen towels about once a week, when I do my Sunday night sweep of the house to put all the towels and table linens into the laundry. But it turns out that while I thought I was on track, I am actually a disgusting human being.

Apparently, I should be washing them at least every other day!

“Think about it: They get used so many times in one day! And even if you lay them out, they rarely dry fully in between uses,” says Maker. Do you really want to be patting dry your Brussels sprouts with a cloth that’s still wet and possibly growing mildew?

“I have a huge basket of dish towels, and I probably have three going at once,” says Maker. Even so, she tosses them into the laundry almost every day, every two days at most. Before that, she always lets the towels dry overnight — sometimes, that means laying them out on her tile floor — so they don’t grow mildew and start to stink up the laundry. “If a cotton dish towel is not 100 percent dry, it will grow mildew and smell musty and gross, then you’ll have to wash it two or three more times to get the smell out,” says Maker.

Note: Maker prefers microfiber towels to cotton ones — she likes them so much, she even has her own line of them. “Cotton isn’t really that absorbent, and microfiber doesn’t harbor bacteria,” Maker says. She does, however, prefer to use cotton towels for greasy jobs because the grease washes out of them easily.

Even with proper care, you can’t expect your dish towels to last forever. “After about a year, they’re going to get holes in them, get faded and stained, or lose their shape,” says Maker. Once a towel is past its prime, you don’t have to totally trash it. Just relocate it from your kitchen to a rag basket and use it to clean up after pets or for your dirtiest jobs. “That’s really all they’re good for once you’ve used them so much!” says Maker.

So, I guess I should go round up those three-day-old towels currently hanging in my kitchen!

How often do you change out your dish towels?

We support our readers with carefully chosen product recommendations to improve life at home. You support us through our independently chosen links, many of which earn us a commission.