How to Sterilize Towels

Things You'll Need

  • Mild laundry detergent

  • White vinegar

  • Bleach

Let the sun disinfect your towels.
Image Credit: Elena Kalistratova/iStock/Getty Images

If you don't sterilize your towels from time to time, the fabric can become smelly, indicating bacteria or germ growth -- not what you want to wrap yourself in after bathing. The laundering tag instructions on colored towels typically prohibit the bleach and hot water washing, and even hot drying, that you can use with white towels to sterilize them. That doesn't mean you can't use the sun or certain laundering methods to at least lower the germ count of your bright, dark or light-colored towels.

Colored Towels

Step 1

Wash like-colored towels separate from other laundry in water that's as hot as the care tag suggests, using mild laundry soap.

Step 2

Rewash the towels. Add 1/2 cup white vinegar during the rinse cycle. A second wash and a vinegar rinse lower the germ count even more. Vinegar also helps to set fabric dye, reducing color bleeding.

Step 3

Dry the towels in a dryer set as hot as the tag recommends.

Step 4

Hang dry towels outdoors in direct sunlight for an hour or two. The sun's ultraviolet rays act as a natural disinfectant, destroying even more bacteria.

White Towels

Step 1

Wash white towels in hot water, using mild laundry soap and 3/4 cup bleach, if the fabric care tag allows.

Step 2

Dry the towels on the hottest dryer setting recommended on the care tag.

Step 3

Hang the towels outdoors in direct sunlight to sterilize them even more.


Bacteria thrive in dampness. Reduce bacteria growth by hanging up your towels to air out after using them, rather than tossing them straight into a hamper.


Refer to the towel manufacturer's care instructions before using any laundering method to avoid discoloring or damaging your towels.

references & resources