Towelling off (Day 201)…


So I’m currently in Banff (don’t worry, the flight has been offset at TerraPass), spending a week learning how to write short stories. As per my rule about only staying at green-minded hotels, the Banff Centre holds up well enough. My desk lamp has a compact fluorescent light bulb, the packaging for the toiletries is recyclable, they’re in the process of seeking LEED certification and they ask that you reuse the towels, leaving the ones you want changed in the tub and the others on the rack.

But reusing a towel twice before changing it doesn’t seem over-the-top environmentally friendly (and here at Thistle headquarters, we’re all about being over-the-top). So from now on, whether it’s at home or at a hotel, I’m going to commit to using my towels a minimum of five times before putting them in the laundry. This may sound a bit gross, but I’ll be towelling off when I’m at my cleanest, and as long as I don’t leave them sitting in a wet bunch on the floor — like a certain little sister I know — they should keep fairly fresh.

Photo courtesy of Deborah Harroun on Flickr

24 Responses to Towelling off (Day 201)…

  1. Good for you. I find it hard to understand why people expect to change a towel every day. Maybe it’s because I live in a dry climate (Colorado) and I’m good about hanging them up neatly — but even when I lived in New York City, once a week sufficed!

  2. Hellcat13 says:

    Yep, I agree with Susanna…I do the sniff test to see if they are getting musty, but for the most part, towels last about a week in our household as well. The key is hanging them up so they dry quickly.

  3. anon says:

    I’d suggest an obvious exception to this for times when staying at a hotel but not long enough to use the towel 5 times…

    Otherwise… I don’t understand how people think they need a fresh towel everyday. And the laundry pile associated with that practise must be frightening!

  4. alottaerrata says:

    Ever since I was a kid, the family rule was to use the towel for about a week- Towel wash was on Sunday, same day as change-the-sheets day. We all had a designated space to hang the towel so that it would dry quickly and we knew who’s towel was whose (I always favored a particular one as a kid)

    I still practice this to this day, and for the longest time thought it was normal until I saw the amount of towels other people go through. I just don’t get it.

  5. Julie says:

    If you mix a teaspoon of tea tree oil into a little pint spray bottle and mist your towel every couple of days it stays lovely and fresh. You can also use it in the laundry if you’re having trouble with mildew but I’m not sure how much needs to go in.

  6. rosasparks says:

    i must be foul then, b/c i use the same towel for 2 weeks, usually. i always put a dash of baking soda in my laundry, so it keeps things pretty fresh.

  7. Cstars says:

    5 uses doesn’t sound gross at all. In fact, keep checking your towels. You may find you can go even longer.

    My 2 towels (one for hair, one for body) go 3 weeks between washes, which is around 10 showers. I’ve never noticed the towels getting musty between washes, especially in winter when they dry almost immediately.

  8. Beth Terry says:

    I recently had my own traveling nightmare because I didn’t plan ahead. When I got back, I discovered a great web site for finding green hotels. It’s at It’s a user-driven database where you can look for a green hotel and also review and rate new hotels.

  9. JulieT says:

    I had no idea so many people just used towels once or twice–we always use them for a week. What’s the big deal? As you said, you’re using them when you’re at your cleanest.

  10. blah says:

    I used to think that everyone did this, but when I found out my friend Tammy uses a different one every day I was really put off and upset at that idea. It’s just plain wasteful. Besides, I like to err on the side of lazy. That’s too darn much laundry for me.

    I don’t know if you are using fabric softener (eco-friendly or not) but if you don’t use fabric softener with your towels, you’ll actually increase the amount of moisture they will absorb.

  11. emily says:

    Sorry, but I have to join the chorus of “wait, people change towels after only using it once? and after only five times??”

    We use ours until they smell; and really, towels only get mildewed if they are hung up folded (if your towel rung is too narrow, for instance). It’s worth investing in a wider towel rung if it means using the towel 10-15 times, and hardly ever having to wash them!

  12. rejin says:

    The first thing we did when moving in to our current house was cover every wall in the bathroom with towel bars. There is one for each of us plus a hand towel and one for a guest. Towels get spread out and stay pretty fresh for a week or more. I am always surprised to see just one or two bars in other people’s bathrooms – no wonder they have to wash towels more often.
    Oh, and I’m with Blah: its all about doing laundry less often.

  13. vigilant20 says:

    I wash mine weekly as well. They don’t even really need it at that point, but there always room in the last load of laundry for my bath towel and hand towel. I can’t say I know anyone who washes towels more often that that.

  14. kim says:

    i’m with all of you on the towel thing… not only is it wasteful, but what kind of house are people living in if they’ve got wet towels on the ground? i can only imagine what else is being thrown about. we always hang our towels on the banister upstairs, ’cause there’s not enough room in the bathroom. and we pick them up in the morning once they’re dry. if i know i’m having guests over, i’ll just throw it over my closet or bathroom door so they’re not visible in the common areas of the house.

  15. rexmoond says:

    There’s also showering only once a week.

  16. I’m with the “Once a wee” crowd.

    Friday is bed changing, teatowel changing, kitchen towel changing and bathroom towel (washer, hand towel and mat) day.

    On a similar vein, when I was a kid, the beds got changed once a week like so: bottom sheet into the wash, top sheet to bottom, new top sheet.

    Then again we washed our hair once a week, shared bathwater and wore our school uniforms for a week between changes…

  17. blah says:

    Im in the military, and I always wear my uniform daily for a week before I go for another one. I have an office job, so I don’t sweat or get dirty (thank goodness!). I have to wash all my uniforms separate from my real people clothes (the velcro on them will ruin all my nice clothes), so I just wait until a month or longer goes by and wash them all together.

  18. cheaplikeme says:

    So where are all the in-the-closet once-a-day people? 🙂 I think my objection is how many towels you would have to buy … I buy them in sets of 2, and my daughter has her own two towels. A daily change would mean you need to have 7 towels? Yikes!

    I do change dishtowels almost every day, because we use them really frequently and they are more likely to have gunk on them.

  19. just ducky says:

    Your sister is gorgeous! (I’m a married mother of two…so don’t worry, no stalking or anything weird like that…) I followed the link from your blog to her website and saw her picture. Your mother must be very proud to have two beautiful daughters! Of course with your mum being a doctor, it sounds as if brains and beauty run in the family! I have two beautiful daughters and two rather cute puppies, so I consider myself quite blessed as well. OK, so it’s not the most environmentally responsible comment to your post, but sometimes a little departure from “the norm” isn’t all bad…

  20. pat farquharson says:

    Thankyou! The girls are blessed but they also know that they have to work hard for the important stuff in life. They also both have a great sense of humour which helps as well. And they both have cats. But there the resemblance ends!

  21. NYGreen says:

    Yeah, I have two towels and when I’m being good one goes with me to the gym, the other stays at home. They only get washed if I have room in the laundry, definitely more than 5 days. I don’t think I ever have people at the hotel replace my towels everyday. I mean why? I don’t at home.

  22. chile says:

    How about a Bodyflik instead? No towel, no laundry, I haven’t tried one but it looks like a great concept. Easy to travel with, too…

  23. Nicole says:

    We use our towels for seven days here. Always have.

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