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Handle with Care: How to Wash Beach Towels

drawing of 3 colorful beach towels next to the ocean

If you usually wash your beach towels the way you launder everything else, this is the summer to switch it up. From the sand and salt of the shore to the pool’s chlorine and sun exposure, beach towels can take a beating. When you use our tips to care for them correctly and show a little love, you’ll enjoy their cool comfort and long-lasting freshness year after year. Here's how to wash beach towels, how to fold a beach towel, and more! 

What Is a Beach Towel?

A beach towel is a large towel designed specifically for outdoor activities, like lounging on the beach and drying off after swimming. They're often brightly colored and patterned, made of quick-drying fabrics, and oversized. 

How Long is a Beach Towel?

Beach towels are usually bigger than bath towels. The size of a standard beach towel is 42-58 inches by 24-30 inches, and a standard beach towel is around 48-58 inches by 54-70 inches. Beach towels are larger because they're used for laying down, protecting yourself from sand, and covering lounge chairs. Beach towels are also thinner, so they dry faster and don't absorb as much dirt and sand. 

It's important to protect yourself from the sun's ultraviolet radiation when you're at the beach, lake, or pool. Learn everything you need to know about sunscreen now.

How to Wash Beach Towels

Believe it or not, there's a right way to wash your beach towels. Here are three tips for how to wash a beach towel in general and how to wash a beach towel for the first time: 

1. Shake it out.

It can be tempting to throw your towel straight into the washer, but first, give it a good shake. Doing this removes lingering dirt that could damage your machine, and makes the towel easier to clean. For the stuff that won’t budge, try combing it off with a hard-bristled brush or picking it out by hand.

2. Say “yes” to sunshine.

Damp towels harbor harmful bacteria and produce musty smells, so make sure yours is completely dry before you wash it. After shaking, lay it outside or drape it over a railing and let the sun get to work. The rays will dry the towel, help kill germs that might’ve gotten picked up at the beach or pool, and eliminate any odors.

3. Keep it cold.

Always wash towels separately in cold water. Cold water preserves colors and prevents debris from getting trapped in your towel’s fibers. Skip the fabric softener, too—it can leave a waxy coating that diminishes absorbency. Then, hang to dry. 

beach towel on beach chair in front of ocean

Can You Dry Beach Towels in the Dryer?

No, you shouldn't dry beach towels in the dryer. When the timer dings, don’t transfer your towel to the dryer; hang it to dry instead. Hang drying is eco-friendly and keeps your towel from shrinking. If the dryer is a must, tumble dry on the low-heat setting.

A well-maintained washer will ensure your best beach towels stay clean. Check out 12 DIY washer and dryer maintenance tips. 

How Often Should You Wash Swim Towels? 

There’s no need to wash your towel every time you go to the beach or the pool. As long as it’s not visibly dirty, it’s OK to wash your towel every other time you use it to retain quality. For small stains, a quick spot clean should do the trick.

How to Get Stains Out of Beach Towels

Here are helpful hacks for cleaning common seasonal stains:

  • Sunscreen: Sponge the smudge with a solution of equal parts warm water and liquid dish soap.
  • Mud: Saturate the dirt with liquid laundry detergent and scrub gently.
  • Self-tanner: Rub the mark clean with a cotton round dipped in hydrogen peroxide.
  • Tanning oil: Combine baking soda and liquid dish soap and blot the spot.
  • Ice cream & chocolate: Scrape off excess and dab the stain with a mixture of one cup of cool water and one tablespoon of liquid dish soap. 

summer stain cheat sheet

How to Fold a Beach Towel

Follow these steps for how to fold a beach towel:

  1. Lay the towel flat on an elevated surface with the long edges at the top and bottom.
  2. Bring the two long edges together and fold in half.
  3. Fold the towel in thirds. 
  4. Fold the towel into thirds again. Ta-da! 

The Ultimate Beach Vacation Packing List

Now that you know how to wash beach towels, you're ready to have a fantastic day at the beach! Check out our comprehensive beach packing list, ten beach etiquette dos and dont's, answers to the most frequently asked beach safety questions, and more.