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Last Updated November 7, 2023

Bright white towels give your bathroom something extra, don’t they? They make the space feel spotlessly clean and luxurious, like a fancy hotel room. However, as we all know, white towels eventually lose their shine and become discolored and dingy, making them look a little less luxurious and a little more “wait, these are clean, right?”

Luckily, with a little TLC, you can brighten white towels that are looking a bit tired. Keep reading to learn what causes dingy towels and how to keep white towels white for years to come.

  1. What Causes Discolored and Dingy Towels?
  2. How to Whiten Towels (3 Methods)
  3. Replacement Tips

What Causes Discolored and Dingy Towels?

Detergent

Using the wrong detergent, or excessive amounts of detergent, can be a major contributor to dingy towels. Some detergents contain harsh chemicals that may break down the fibers in the towels, causing them to lose their brightness over time.

Residual detergent left in the fabric can also attract and trap dirt and stains, making the towels look dull and gray long before their time.

Washing with Colors

You've probably heard it before, but it's worth repeating that you shouldn't wash your white towels with colored clothing, especially newer items, to prevent color bleeding.

Minerals

If you live in an area with hard water (i.e. water that’s high in dissolved calcium and magnesium) you may find your towels turning gray or dingy over time.

Fabric Softener

Although the name makes it sound appealing (who doesn’t like soft fabrics?), it can be misleading.

Rather than softening your towels, fabric softener leaves a thin waxy coating on the fibers which temporarily makes it feel softer. However, the coating also flattens the fibers and reduces the absorbency of the fabric, not ideal when it comes to towels in particular.

Over time, buildup of fabric softener residue can also cause discoloration and lock in existing stains.

Natural & Skincare Oils

Buildup of oils on towels is common, whether they be natural oils from your skin or oils from skincare products like makeup, lotions, creams, and self-tanner. Like fabric softeners, they can cause discoloration over time.

If you’re struggling to keep makeup and skincare products off of your white towels, our personalized makeup towels come in a rich navy, designed to stay beautiful use after use.

Hair Products

Similarly, hair products like shampoos, conditioners, and styling products often contain oils and chemicals that can transfer onto your towels during use.

Temperature

Cool water wins when it comes to washing Weezie and other luxury towels. Hot temperatures scorch the cotton fibers, causing them to deteriorate much more quickly. The result: yellowed towels that don’t feel as soft.

Some detergent manufacturers and online sources say that washing in hot water can make detergents more effective. However, washers today run cooler than those in the past and many detergent manufacturers have adjusted their products to ensure they're effective even in cooler temperatures. Though an occasional warm or hot wash won’t damage our towels, consistently hot soaks will.

These residues can build up over time, creating a yellowish tinge on the fabric– impacting the brightness of your white towels.

How to Whiten Towels (3 Methods)

There are a few reliable methods we recommend to brighten white towels and remove stains from residue buildup.

1. Baking Soda and Vinegar

  1. Add half a cup of baking soda to the detergent compartment of your washing machine.
  2. Pour half a cup of white vinegar into the fabric softener compartment.
  3. Wash your towels using hot water and run a complete cycle.
  4. Once the cycle is complete, repeat the washing process, but this time use detergent only (no baking soda or vinegar).

2. A Bleach Alternative

  1. Wash your towels with an all-purpose bleach alternative, like this one from Branch Basics.
  2. Pre-soak your towels with 1-2 scoops of bleach alternative in a sink or tub filled with water.
  3. Ensure your towels are completely covered.
  4. Soak for a few hours.
  5. After soaking, wash your towels as usual using a mild detergent and cool water.

3. Towel Stripping

  1. Fill your bathtub with hot water. Add ¼ cup borax, 1/3 cup washing soda, and ½ cup laundry detergent.
  2. Stir to dissolve.
  3. Submerge your towels, and let them soak four to five hours, or until the water has cooled.
  4. Drain the dirty water (it’s normal for it to be grey and murky) and then run your towels through a rinse-only cycle in the washer.
  5. Tumble dry low.

Replacement Tips

These are our best methods to keep towels white so you can continue enjoying them for years to come. However, all towels do have a lifespan. Typically, this is somewhere between two and five years, depending how well you take care of them. When your towels have reached the end of their lives, you’ll notice less absorbency, a lingering odor, or some rips and tears. When the time comes to say goodbye, check out our collection of luxury monogrammed towels, all made in Portugal from 100% organic cotton with personalization options available.

If you have questions about any of our recommendations above or our products, reach out via email holler@weezietowels.com or via text at 470-999-6551 and we'll be happy to help.

Sources

About the Author

Liz Eichholz

Liz Eichholz

Co-Founder & Creative Director
University of Georgia, BFA, Graphic Design
11 years of experience