Is It Okay To Wash Clothing And Towels Together?

Ah, the laundry machine. The house appliance that is perhaps most shrouded in mystery and lore. Partially due to the great variation between machines, detergents, and of course, those bizarre laundry labels on your clothing tags that may as well be ancient hieroglyphics. And our parents and our parent's parents have plenty of do's and don'ts to keep track of, as well. The need to separate dark from whites has proved to be less of an issue now that washing machines can effectively clean clothes with cold water. With the addition of the delicate cycle, intimates or dainty things no longer need to be hand washed. 

But some of the old methods work best still, too. For instance, white vinegar really can purify clothes of residue and reduce odors, says Healthline. But when it comes to combining towels and clothes, you might wonder if you've got the green light. Our answer? Yes and no. Read on to figure out whether you're good to toss those towels in with your trousers. 

When to avoid combining towels and clothes

While there isn't a hard and fast rule to say you should never combine towels and clothes, there are some occasions where it's essential to keep them separated — like when you need to sanitize your towels rather than just wash them. Cleveland Clinic recommends washing your towels at least once a week. If the towel has been used for more than a week, it is likely soiled with skin oil and soap residue. It's also been wetted and air dried several times, leaving it susceptible to mold and mildew. That means you'll want extremely hot water on the towels to help with sanitization. 

Other occasions when this holds true are if the towel has been used to clean up a mess or sickness or if you yourself have been ill. Bacteria like to cozy up into towel fibers, so without hot water, you can become reinfected. Because of the need for piping hot water, you should leave your clothes out of this wash cycle, as typical clothing fabrics are not meant to stand high heat. Additionally, if your fabrics are especially fragile, like silk or lace, do not combine them with heavy terrycloth towels, as delicates can be susceptible to tearing.

When combining towels and clothes is just fine

Whether you've got in-unit laundry or you're headed down to the laundromat for your weekly appointment, there are some occasions where combining towels and clothes just makes sense. You can save time by combining loads, and it's less energy to run a single load. So if you've got some odds and ends or just had a really light laundry week, feel free to stack the towels into the machine as well. One easy rule recommended by Jolie Kerr at The Hairpin is that towels and cotton fabrics can go together — think socks, sweats, PJs, and even sheets. But again, if the cotton garment is especially delicate, avoid combining them to avoid tearing. 

And while most towels can withstand high temperatures, it doesn't mean they always have to. Be sure to wash according to the most delicate, least harsh garment rather than the most durable. While your towel can handle mild warm water and a low spin cycle, your linen blouse won't do well in steaming hot water and a high tumble dry. These few principles will hopefully guide you on when it's best to combine towels and clothes and when it's best to just keep them separated.