Why you should always wash new towels before you first use them

It’s vital for removing chemicals and restoring softness

Although the allure of a newly unpacked bathroom towel may be tempting, don’t be fooled by its soft and seductive feel. Even if it seems clean, bright and ready to use, it needs its own wash and dry before it reaches its full pampering potential.

Still not convinced? This is advice we took on board before testing the best white towels for our buying guide – and here’s why.

white washing machine with white towels insideCredit: Shutterstock/Didecs
It’s essential to wash new towels before using them

Towels need time to reach their potential

According to Emily and Johnathan Attwood, founders of Scooms, whose towels ranked first in our guide, it’s not just a nice thing to do. In fact, it’s essential you wash your towels before using them for the first time. Why? There’s a list of reasons, all of which need tackling so that you can get the best out of your new purchase.

  • It removes finishing chemicals – some brands (not Scooms) use a finish on their towels, which gives them an extra sheen. This can impact the absorbency, meaning they might not perform as well the first time you use them if they haven’t been washed.
  • It increases freshness – your towels will have been woven in a factory before either being stored in a shop or packed and delivered to you. A first wash will remove any hidden dust or particles that have collected in the fibres.
  • It stops shedding – it’s normal to get a few stray threads or cotton fibres on new towels. Washing will remove them, and save you from thinking your towel isn’t performing as well as it could.
  • It maximises absorbency – by washing your towels before use, you can improve the absorbency of the cotton. The first wash will help the cotton fibres soak up and release water, improving the absorbency.
  • You’ll get fluffier towels – they may be a little flattened by their packaging so washing will help fluff the cotton fibres back up, so you have super plush towels from day one.
woman putting white towels in washing machineCredit: Shutterstock/1st Footage
Plump up the fluffiness before using them in the bathroom

The experts at Christy agree, telling customers it’s really important to wash towels before their first use. “New towels often contain excess lint and other fibres that can shed and cause irritation or discomfort,” says the company. “By giving them a quick wash before using them, you can minimise the number of loose fibres – keeping your towels soft and ready to use.”

And finally, Chrissie Rucker, founder of quiet luxury brand The White Company, reminds us that using fabric conditioner is not always the best choice for towels. Although it makes fabrics softer, it does this by coating the fibres, which in turn reduces absorbency.

Using too much fabric conditioner is a common mistake that can also lead to the longer-term issue of stiff towels, so make sure you avoid filling up the fabric conditioner slot on your machine.

It will reduce the amount of build-up in the dispenser drawer, too, meaning you won’t need to need to clean your washing machine so often.

Sarah Harley

Written by Sarah Harley she/her


Since first picking up a paintbrush and experiencing the joy of re-decorating her bedroom in a questionable red, white and grey scheme as a young teenager, Sarah Harley was hooked on the world of interior design. This obsession even led to a real life ‘Grand Designs’ project in 2005 when she donned a pink hard hat and appeared on TV screens, project managing the renovation and extension of a Grade II listed 17th century Folly in South Wales.

Throughout her career, Sarah has gained an array of experience in several different roles, ranging from copywriting, PR, events management and photography to interior design and home staging. With her two passions being the written word and the joys of a beautifully designed home, Sarah’s mission is to open the door on the world of interiors, inviting readers in to help them work their way through the vast choice of products, ideas and trends so that their own homes can reach their full potential.

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