Can You Wash Sheets and Towels Together? Here’s What Laundry Experts Have to Say.

published Apr 5, 2023
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Laundry basket on living room rug with folded clothes in it
Credit: Photo: Sidney Bensimon; Prop Styling: Anna Surbatovich

Twitter is a hotbed for discussion — anything from politics to music to laundry. Yes, laundry. One recent thread was on the scintillating topic of whether you should wash sheets with towels. Some people are adamant that you shouldn’t (“unless you really like your towels getting wrapped up inside of your fitted sheets and then not getting dry when they do the same in the dryer,” says one user), while others say you definitely should because it not only saves water, but also the amount of loads you do (an important factor when you live in a shared space or need to go to a laundromat).

If you’ve already been doing this, you might think, “What’s the big deal?” To be clear, you won’t necessarily have a laundry catastrophe if you mix them — unless, of course, your towels are red and your sheets are white. But there are some good reasons to reconsider your laundry technique if you have been throwing everything together in the wash. 

For insight, we checked in with laundry experts Cheryl Nelson, founder and owner of Prepare with Cher, and Alicia Sokolowski, president and co-CEO of AspenClean.

Can You Wash Sheets and Towels Together?

Technically, yes, you can wash them together, but “ideally, it is best to wash sheets and towels separately from each other,” says Nelson. Here’s why.

You’ll have cleaner laundry.

“Towels are bulky and sheets can’t circulate as easily in the water,” Nelson says. If those towels happen to get bunched up inside the sheets, they won’t get clean. 

Drying sheets and towels together might also be an issue. “Towels can also get wrapped up inside sheets and not dry completely, leading to a breeding ground for mold and bacteria,” says Nelson. 

For germ-free laundry, Nelson says to read the labels — you want to wash sheets and towels at the hottest water temperature they can handle. “Most towels (cotton) and cotton sheets can typically be washed in hot water and polyester sheets in warm water,” she says.

It should be noted, however, that you can wash sheets in cold water, especially if you want to prevent prints or darker colors from fading. Hot water might have been preferable for laundering bed linens decades ago, but today’s detergents are optimized for cold water. And because cold water uses less energy than hot water, you’ll save money, too.

You might need to put them on different wash and dry cycles.

Then there’s the issue of drying them, especially if they’re made from different fabrics. “Never wash towels with delicate materials such as silk because the constant rubbing of the towels against the silk can damage the material,” Nelson explains, noting that silk sheets must be washed separately on a delicate cycle. 

Keep an eye on how long they’re in the dryer, too. “If you are drying sheets and towels together, know that sheets typically don’t require as long of a drying time,” says Nelson.

You’ll prevent sheets from pilling.

Separate washes can also put off the pilling that happens to sheets with repeated use, says Nelson. “Synthetic fibers will attract lint, and natural fibers shed lint with each wash and dry, so don’t want to wash the two together because this will lead to pilling,” Nelson explains.

The Correct Way to Wash Sheets with Towels

Nelson understands the urge to save water by running larger loads of laundry. “With water conservation in mind, you may wash sheets and towels together if they are of similar color and the same material, such as cotton,” says Nelson. 

Combining the two might also stop your washing machine from “walking,” as some machines are known to do when laundry isn’t loaded evenly. Alternatively, if you’ve got multiple sets of sheets in the house, you might consider washing two sets at a time to balance out the machine — or at least adding in the pillowcases from other beds if you’re washing a queen or king set of sheets.

Sokolowski, too, says you can wash sheets and towels of similar fabric and color together, but make sure you also follow these guidelines.

  • Don’t overload the machine. “Overloading can prevent sheets and towels from getting clean and cause excess wear and tear on the machine,” says Sokolowski.
  • Use the correct amount of detergent. Follow the directions on the bottle for the right amount for your laundry load, says Sokolowski. Using detergent pods? “Drop the laundry pod into the washing machine drum before adding the towels and sheets so it can dissolve properly in the water and won’t get caught in the folds of the fabric,” Sokolowski explains. Make sure you set it at the right water temperature, too. Check for any residue before tossing them into the dryer; otherwise, you’ll have to run another wash cycle.
  • Dry everything properly. Whether it’s on a clothesline or in the dryer, Sokolowski says they need to be completely dry before they are folded and tucked away.