Tea towels are easily one of the few household and kitchen items that get the most use. As a result, it has the most exposure to dirt, dust, grime, food particles, and spills. Thus, they are prone to stains and discolouration. These things are tell-tale signs of bacteria and germs. Common sense would tell us that the best way to care for them is to wash them, like any other cloth.
The thing about tea towels is that they are different from your usual kitchen or dish towels. Their soft and thin fabric makes them delicate. As with any delicate material, you must wash them at an optimal temperature to avoid irreversible damage.
So how exactly do you wash and clean your tea towels? What temperature should you wash them at? Here’s everything you need to know about keeping your tea towels clean and fresh.
Why the Right Temperature Matters
As with most fabrics, the right temperature plays a huge role in the efficiency of cleaning the towel.
The different temperature affects the fabric quality and removal of bacteria and germs. Here are the factors you need to consider when it comes to washing your tea towels:
Hot water is the most common choice for washing fabric. The high temperature effectively dissolves dirt and removes stains, as it breaks down the greases and oils that hold them in place. On the other hand, cold water is not as effective in dissolving the particles of these substances, which means the fabric could take longer to clean inside the washing machine, or you may need a stronger detergent.
Killing bacteria and germs
High temperature is more effective in cleaning bacteria and germs. For tea towels that suffer wear and tear in the kitchen, the hot water is extremely helpful in eliminating the accumulated germs. Some bacteria cannot survive in high temperatures of 60°C (140 °F), while most die instantly at 70°C (158 °F).
Preservation of fabric
Water temperature can also directly influence the quality and longevity of the fabric. While high temperature is extremely effective in removing stubborn stains and killing off bacteria, it can also cause wear to the fabric’s fibres, causing them to break down faster. This results in fading of the colours, shrinkage of the material, and general wear and tear.
Thus, knowing the perfect water temperature for cleaning and washing your beloved tea towel is crucial. In addition, you must have the ideal balance of cleaning power and preservation of the fabric.
So, what’s the right temperature to wash tea towels?
Different tea towels are made of different fabrics and have different prints, colours, shapes, and styles. As a result, there is no one perfect water temperature for them.
The general rule is to wash your tea towels in the washing machine at 40°C to 60°C (104 °F to 140 °F).
At 40°C (104 °F)
The 40-degree range is the perfect temperature for washing slightly soiled tea towels that don’t have visible marks or stains. It is also the preferred water temperature for delicate fabrics such as bamboo, easily damaged by higher temperatures.
At 60°C (140 °F)
The 60-degree range is the proper water temperature for washing tea towels that are heavily soiled and with visible marks or stains. It is also recommended for people suffering from allergies or weakened immune systems due to various health conditions. In addition, this water temperature effectively eliminates bacteria and germs that may be present on the towels.
At 90°C (194 °F)
This temperature is highly unnecessary for most types of washing. However, it is the suggested water temperature for removing highly infectious particles and other substances, such as blood and bodily fluids, as it eliminates bacteria and germs on the fabric.
How to ensure you are washing your tea towels right
Aside from providing the proper water temperature, you must also consider other factors to ensure thorough and safe cleaning of your tea towels.
Use the right detergent
Choose a detergent designed for washing machines that effectively removes dirt, stains, and germs. Avoid using fabric softeners, as these can cause damage to the fibres of the fabric and compromise the absorbency of your tea towels.
Sort your towels
To ensure proper cleaning and prevent irreversible damage, sort the towels by type of fabric and colour. For example, avoid mixing white towels with coloured ones, which can lead to bleeding and staining. Also, make sure you separate towels of a different fabric (cotton, microfiber, durable fabrics, etc.)
Don’t overload your washing machine
Putting too much and too many things inside the washing machine will lead to inadequate cleaning and damage to your towels. Thus, keeping the load small to medium is recommended to ensure proper and safe cleaning.
Choose the right cycle
For optimal cleaning, choose the appropriate wash cycle for the type of fabric and level of soiling. Of course, you can never go wrong with a delicate wash, but sometimes, it requires a normal wash to clean and remove dirt and stains effectively.
Dry them properly
The drying part of the tea towels is just as important as the washing part. To keep them clean and hygienic without damaging them, hang them dry in a well-ventilated area. Avoid using the dryer, as this can damage (shrink) and reduce the absorbency of your towels.