How to Prevent Discoloration on Colored Towels
Who doesn’t love getting out of the shower or bath to dry off with a soft, warm, fluffy towel? If you’re like me and you like to invest in quality towels for your bathroom, it’s in your best interest to keep them looking as good as new for as long as possible. And if you choose to purchase colored bath towels, that also means taking every precaution to prevent any dreaded discoloration from occurring.
For this post I am partnering with Micro Cotton® to share some of the most common (and sometimes unexpected!) ways unwanted discoloration on colored towels can occur as well as best practices to avoid discoloration pitfalls.
How to Avoid Unwanted Discoloration on Dark Towels
Avoid Contact with Bleach
Bleach is usually the first culprit that comes to mind when we think about discoloration mishaps in colorful fabrics. Contact with the active ingredient, sodium hypochlorite, is what causes discoloration.
With that said, it’s important to note that accidentally adding bleach to your colors cycle isn’t the only way contact with bleach can happen!
First, be careful if you’re using bleach to clean your laundry machine. If you choose to clean your machine with bleach, make sure any laundry load you do immediately afterwards does not contain colored fabrics.
Still stumped by mystery color splotching? Keep reading for more possible causes.
Avoid Contact with Recently Disinfected Surfaces (Including Shopping Carts!)
Did you know that the active ingredient in many disinfectants has a bleaching effect on fabrics? If a cleaning product is labeled as a “disinfectant” then it is likely NOT safe for use on fabrics, especially colorful fabrics.
Given the current state of the COVID-19 pandemic, people are using disinfectants on surfaces more often than ever before. Be very careful not to allow colored towels or other fabrics to come in contact with wet disinfecting spray. When fabric is laundered after contact with wet disinfectant, a chemical reaction will occur causing unwanted discoloration and color spotting.
To avoid this, make sure disinfected surfaces are completely dry before setting down your colored towels or other colored fabrics. Because towels are more absorbent than other textiles, they are more likely to be affected by disinfectants.
Surfaces where towels may accidentally come in contact with wet disinfectant cleaner:
- Bathroom and kitchen countertops
- Shopping carts
- Store checkout counters
- Store checkout conveyor belts
If you are in the habit of disinfecting your shopping bags after a trip outside, make sure that the disinfectant does not accidentally touch your towels or household fabrics.
Minimize Exposure to Acne-Treating Skincare Products
Benzoyl Peroxide is another chemical that is sometimes to blame for discoloration on colored towels. It’s an ingredient commonly found in acne treatment products and face washes that can transfer to your towel as you dry your face.
Luckily this towel bleaching mishap is avoidable. The team at Micro Cotton® recommends washing your towels within 24-36 hours after contact with benzoyl peroxide to avoid unwanted bleaching effects – even for towels that claim to be “BP Safe”.
The Discoloration Damage Has Already Been Done… Now What?
So you already have blotchy, discolored towels on your hands and now you’re not sure what to do with them. There are a few options for you.
My favorite way to handle blotchy towels is to repurpose or upcycle them. I cut up old towels and use them as bar mops. This is one eco-friendly way to eliminate paper towels from your cleaning routine!
Discolored towels also make for great drop cloths when painting or crafting. Smaller face towels make for great gym towels – we keep a stack next to our exercise bike and use them regularly.
I also like to mop my floors using old towels. I wrap them around my Cuban mop and clean away!
Don’t need more bar mops or gym towels? Consider donating your bleach stained towels. Places like dog shelters will often welcome bleached towel donations.
It should go without saying but even if your towels are discolored, please make sure they are clean before bringing to any charity as a donation!
Not ready to give up on your discolored towels? I get it!
I have seen some blog posts that boast success after using Rit dye on their discolored bath towels. This is not something I have personally tested and you may get mixed results… but if you’re determined to restore your bleach-stained towels to a more consistently pigmented color, then dying is certainly an option to consider.
Kait is the founder and editor of A Clean Bee. She is passionate about discovering natural, eco-friendly, and sustainable ways to clean and organize her home. Kait has been featured in online publications such as NBC News, Oprah Magazine, BuzzFeed and PopSugar for her expertise in natural cleaning techniques. She enjoys spending her off-time outside in her garden with her husband and their two small boys.