Can you wash clothes with towels? Care strategies for laundry

Combining washing loads can be tempting to save time and energy but if you’re thinking of doing so, you might be asking the question: can you wash clothes with towels?

While it is, of course, perfectly possible to put whatever combination of items you like from the dirty laundry hamper into the machine and run a washing cycle, it doesn’t necessarily follow that it’s what you should do.

Here, we take a look at the best way to wash clothes and towels with advice and laundry room ideas from the experts.

Can you wash clothes with towels: the steps to selecting laundry loads

The answer to the question can you wash clothes with towels is, of course, that you can – and many people do.

The general rule when it comes to laundry? ‘You should try to wash similar items together,’ says Melanie Musson, a cleaning expert with Clearsurance.

1. When not to wash clothes with towels

There are two things to consider when washing towels: temperature and separation from other items.

For the wash temperature, look at the labels on your towels. They’re likely to indicate that the towels can go into a hot wash. However, this isn’t a rule – they can alternatively be washed at lower temperatures.

Towels that are shared are best washed at the high temperature indicated for hygiene reasons. The same goes for towels that are heavily soiled, or if someone in your home has an infectious illness. Other than that, though, they don’t have to go into a high temperature wash and can be washed in a normal cycle with detergent.

Can you wash clothes with towels? Care strategies for laundry

As for separation, it is best that shared towels are washed in a separate load, and when someone at home has an infectious illness towels should be washed separately from other items.

2. When to wash clothes with towels

Temperature is crucial when deciding on a load for the washing machine. ‘Since most clothes should be washed in warm water or cold water (depending on the fabric), it is much easier to wash and dry towels separately,’ suggest Derek Chiu and Leslie Tam, co-founders and directors of UrbanMop.

However, if you’re happy to wash the towels at a lower temperature than the maximum indicated on the tag, and bearing the guidelines above in mind, mixing is possible.

Wayne Edelman, CEO of Meurice Garment Care, which specializes in interior and wardrobe cleaning services, says, ‘We understand and value that not everyone has time to do 100 loads as well as the aspect of water waste. If you only have a single towel, a pair of jeans, a T-shirt, socks, and underwear, it would be a serious waste of water, soap, and energy to do multiple loads so all items in one load would totally work provided the T-shirt is not some fancy designer thing. If the item is highly delicate, you may not want to mix with a towel or anything.’

If you’ve decided your personal answer to the question of can you wash clothes with towels is yes, there is something you need to be mindful of, however. You shouldn’t use fabric conditioner at all – or, at most, only a little – when washing towels in order to keep towels soft and absorbent, so this may influence what you choose to put together in the drum.

Note also that new towels may shed fluff, so this can be a reason to wash them as a separate load at first.

3. How should you decide on a washing machine load?

In answering the question can you wash clothes with towels, it is important to note that there are still guidelines you should follow when selecting what goes into the machine together.

‘You should try to keep like colors together,’ says Wayne. ‘It is important to note that a light terry towel and dark sweatshirt will result in lint on both items.’

Think, too, about the nature of the pieces you’re planning to wash. ‘Try to keep heavy items separate from lighter items,’ says Wayne. ‘For example, it is not the best idea to wash a bath mat with a light cotton blouse for fear of the blouse being ruined.’

The extent to which items are soiled should also be considered when making up a load for the washing machine. ‘I would not mix dowels used to wash and dry the golden retriever with the rest of the laundry as everything will be covered in the dog’s hair,’ says Wayne. ‘Use common sense. You do not want to mix heavy cleaning (car wash) towels with your nice clothes.’

4. Drying clothes and towels

One reason you might decide that even though the answer to the question can you wash clothes with towels is yes, you still want to wash them separately, is the drying cycle.

Towels take longer to dry than clothes, so you’ll need to monitor the tumble dryer cycle to swerve the potential risks. ‘If you are drying light items with heavy ones, always remove the light items when dry to prevent over drying,’ says Wayne.

‘Most shrinkage occurs during the last 16 to 20 per cent of drying so we recommend dampening dry items to avoid shrinkage. Many new dryers have residual moisture controlled drying so use it to prevent shrinkage.’

Can you wash sheets and towels together?

Sheets and towels can be washed together. As ever, pay attention to the washing labels so you don’t wash the load at a hotter temperature than the lowest maximum indicated when taking all items into consideration.

‘They can also be dried together but it is important to be aware that sheets dry a lot faster than the towels,’ says Wayne. ‘When doing a load with towels and sheets, you can simply remove the sheets first from the load and then allow the towels to finish drying.’

Can you wash jeans with towels?

And can you wash clothes with towels if we’re talking jeans? ‘They are a great combo because they usually take the same amount of drying time,’ says Wayne.

As with mixing sheets and towels, don’t exceed the temperature indicated on the label of the item that has the lowest maximum, though.