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How To Declutter Towels & Washcloths

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Today's mission is to declutter towels and washcloths around your home, such as in your bathroom or linen closet.

This mission is designed to be done while we work on the Organize Linen Closet Challenge here on the site, which is one of the 52 Week Organized Home Challenges.

How to declutter towels and washcloths in your bathroom or linen closet, including guidelines for how many towels you should keep for each family member, plus ideas for what to do with the towels you declutter {on Home Storage Solutions 101} #Declutter365 #DeclutterTowels #Declutteringuse this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
Recall that earlier, when decluttering the kitchen, we decluttered kitchen towels and rags, so we're focused on bathroom towels and related items in today's mission.

To start this mission I suggest rounding up all the towels you've got in your home, and putting them in one place to see how many you really have.

This can be an eye opening experience.

Don't forget that you probably have some dirty ones that are currently getting ready to be washed, so make sure they get accounted for when making your decisions, or you'll still have too many once the wash is done.

Obviously you need to keep some of these towels. You and your family need some of them after all.

The issue is how many should you keep, meaning, what is a reasonable amount?

There is no hard and fast answer to this rule, although I will provide some guidance below.

But the first step is to get rid of any old ratty, gross towels that you really don't want anymore, and don't want to use anymore for drying your body. You should examine body towels, hand towels and wash cloths.

Get rid of those that are worn and thin, have holes, or are severely fraying. You could also get rid of the ones that have faded, always cause lint to accumulate on everything else in the wash, or otherwise that you never have liked.

Those are what I call the low hanging fruit -- the obvious things to declutter.

Then, check out the ideas below for how to decide, of the nicer towels you've got left, how many of those to keep.

Plus, I've also provided ideas for what you can do with the towels you do decide to get rid of, including ideas for reuse and repurposing, and ideas for where to donate them.

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Guidelines For How Many Towels You Need In Your Home

Guidelines and factors to consider when deciding how many towels, including hand towels and wash cloths, you should get when setting up your home, or how many you should keep when decluttering {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest
The question I get most often when this Declutter 365 mission comes around is, "how many towels should I keep?"

I almost always cringe at questions like this, mainly because I want to be helpful, I really do, but at the same time there are so many factors to consider when making this decision, and it is very personal.

Therefore, in an attempt to be helpful I'm going to list first some basic guidelines, and then some factors you should consider that could change the guidelines for you, when making this decision.

You can use this thought process either when you are buying a new set of towels for your home, or are doing this mission and deciding how many towels to get rid of versus to keep.

Basic Guidelines

Each person in your household should have at least two full sets of towels, plus two additional sets for guests. A set includes a bath towel, hand towel and wash cloth.

This allows for one set to be in use while the other is being washed.

Many people don't mind using a body towel a few times before it is washed, assuming it is hung up to dry after use as opposed to laying on the floor and staying wet. (I know this grosses some people out. It personally doesn't bother me, but if it bothers you and you don't care about doing laundry more frequently and wearing out your towels sooner, I'm not going to argue with you.)

On the other hand wash cloths should be washed more frequently, I personally suggest after each use. Therefore, you may want to get more wash cloths per person, assuming people in your house actually use wash cloths.

Hand towels need to be changed at a minimum every few days, and I suggest daily, just like kitchen towels. This is especially important in highly trafficked bathrooms. Consider how many hand towels you need based on how frequently you wash towels.

Factors To Consider

The factors to consider when figuring out how many towels you should have in your home include:
  • How many people are in your household.

  • How many towels your household uses within a week period, including of all the various types of towels, such as body towels, hand towels and wash cloths.

  • How often you wash towels as part of your laundry schedule.

  • How many bathrooms you've got in your home, and whether they have different color schemes requiring different towel sets.

  • How frequently you have guests, how many guests you typically have, and whether you want them to have guests towels or to use everyday towels the rest of the household uses while they stay with you.

  • How much room you've got to store towels. Towels are bulky and cramming them into a too small space is constantly frustrating, so don't overfill the storage space.

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Ideas For What To Do With Old Towels

Ideas for what to do with old towels when decluttering, including ways to repurpose and reuse them, plus places to donate them {on Home Storage Solutions 101}use this Pin it button to save to Pinterest

Once you've decided how many towels to keep versus to get rid of, you've got to do something with the towels you've decided won't be used for their intended purpose anymore, which is to wash and dry your family's bodies.

Ways To Reuse & Repurpose Old Towels

Fortunately, there are quite a few ways you can reuse and repurpose towels that no longer make the cut to clean and dry your body anymore.

Especially if you've got kids or pets I suggest keeping a stash of old towels at the ready for clean up projects, from the planned ones to emergencies.

You can keep old towels ready for spills, drying pets or kids coming in from the rain or mud, and more. Just make sure to keep them in a separate area, away from those used in the bathroom.

These old towels can also become cleaning rags, for either use in the house or perhaps in the garage, such as to clean up the car or for other extremely dirty jobs.

I've even seen old towels turned into reusable covers for dust mops or Swiffers, to help clean your floors.

Places To Donate Towels

While keeping a certain number of old towels for dirtier jobs or other repurposing projects is a good idea, you may also want to completely get rid of some of these towels from your home.

In this situation I'm going to distinguish between really worn out towels, and those which are perfectly good for use for their intended purpose, but that for whatever reason you don't want anymore.

A good rule of thumb is that if you wouldn't wash your face with a wash cloth, or dry your body off with a bath towel, yourself, don't expect someone else to either. Still usable towels that you have too many of can be donated lots of places, but I suggest places like homeless shelters or domestic violence shelters, where they will be appreciated.

Those towels that have holes, are getting frayed, or are worn are a different matter. They don't have to be thrown away though, but instead those older towels I suggest donating to an animal shelter, vet's office, or to a wildlife rescue organization. Places like this can use these towels for the animals, washing them between uses, and it doesn't matter as much that they aren't extremely high quality.

I'd love to hear your ideas and suggestions below, in the comments, for even more ways to reuse or repurpose old towels, or more places you could donate them.

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Declutter 365 missions: 15 minute missions for your entire home

Once you declutter one type of item in your home I bet you'll want to declutter some more. After all, decluttering gives you a great reward for even a small investment of time and energy.

The Declutter 365 system is designed to help you declutter, over the course of a year, your entire house, with just 15 minutes of decluttering each day!

Hundreds of thousands of people use this proven system to get rid of their clutter, and bring peace and calm back to their homes.

Declutter 365 works to guide you to clear the clutter without overwhelm, focusing on just one small area at a time, and without making a huge mess in the process, so you see consistent forward progress without all that "messy middle" that makes it even harder to function in your home than before you started.

In addition to building a daily decluttering habit, the Declutter 365 program, along with the accompanying 52 Week Organized Home Challenge, teaches you the skills, habits, routines, and mindsets necessary to maintain the clutter free and organized state of your home from now on, so it'll never be as messy and cluttered as it is right now, ever again.

If you haven't already, make sure to get your copy of this year's Declutter 365 annual calendar here (it's FREE!), find today's date, and do 15 minutes of decluttering on the day's mission. Then, repeat again tomorrow, and again and again. Over the course of the next year, if you do this 15 minutes per day, you'll declutter your whole house!

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Related Pages You May Enjoy

Getting Clutter Free 15 Minutes At A Time Hall Of Fame

Getting Rid Of Bathroom Clutter Hall Of Fame

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Comments for Ideas For What To Do With Old Towels

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Donate towels
by: Anonymous

Homeless shelters will take decent towels and linens. Old and slightly damaged linen can be donated to animal shelters. The animals don't care if it has a 70s pattern etc.!!!

Towel recycling
by: Bonnie

Take them to the vet. Vets use them for the crates of animals recuperating after operations. They don't need to be perfect.

Recycle old linens
by: Sally

Our landfill/recycling center accepts old textiles for recycling. I've taken very worn and fraying/stained towels, sheets, clothing, socks, and underwear to our recycling center. They can take up an enormous amount of space in our trash cans and ultimately in the landfill. I just keep a bag hanging in one of our closets for linens that I don't want to donate to 1) our local charity, or 2) the animal shelter. Our textile recycling center does not accept pillows or foam of any kind, and they don't accept plastic bags. I take mine over in trash bags, and just dump the linens out of the bags and into the dumpster.

I'm always amazed how good it feels to enter the recycling center with a car full of items, and to leave all of that in the various recycling dumpsters. So much that doesn't clutter up our landfill!

by: Lynne

Does anyone have suggestions for recycling old bed pillows! Usually resale shops will not take them. I hate to just throw them in the trash. Thanks for any ideas that you might have.

shop towels
by: crene4

I cut old towels up for my husband to use in the shop or for other messy cleanup jobs. Also good for when you have a big spill that's too big for kitchen or paper towels. I cut the old towels in half or smaller so they don't get mistaken for bath towels. We store some in the laundry room and some in the garage.

question about recycling pillows from Lynne
by: Taylor

Hi Lynne, I've written an article about decluttering pillows which you can read at the link. I discussed this issue, so you may want to check the comments of that article to see if anyone has come up with good solutions!

Old towel treatment
by: Anonymous

I had a heap of these and cut them in half, serged the edges, and mended any small holes. They are now "rags" but being serged, the raw edges won't fray in the wash and leave fluff all over the dark clothes in the load I wash them in. Also, the fact the serging is there tells my family that they are for washing, not disposable (unless used for something too gross!) My mum used to double them over and make bathmats, but I find they are hard to get dry when doubled.

Use old towels in the garage.
by: Audrey Pearn

Our garage is attached to the house. It gets filthy fast. Gardening projects, dirty cars, dirt and oil plus projects all add to it. I hate to say it, but we live in the woods, and get mice and bugs if I am not diligent out there. I keep a supply of half towels, hand towels and wash cloths out there, and feel free to toss them out after a filthy job.

Towel clutter HELP
by: Heather Hurst

Our home at the moment doesn't have much space for towels so thank you! I definitely need to do this. You've given me some basic things to go by... which I should've already known. Duh 😊 We have 6 kids (3 full time and 3 every other weekend and holidays.) plus kids friends occasionally and nephew. Let's see if I can do this 😳

Donate to the critters!
by: Tami V

Our local humane society will take towels, even if they're a little raggedy.

Old towels
by: Carmin

I always keep my old washcloths. I have a container in my kitchen cabinet (with the cleaning supplies). They are perfect for wiping up spills and spots on the floor. Wash and use again. Cheaper and greener then using paper towels. When they get too thin my husband takes them for shop rags.

Pot holders
by: Anonymous

When I was in 4H our leader taught us to sew and she used old towels cut in large squares for the insulation in the square pot holders that we made. This is a very simple sewing project for beginners because you are just sewing straight lines and learning to turn corners.

Donate to pet groomer!
by: Amanda

Ask your pet groomer! I own a pet salon and can ALWAYS use towels!

Animal shelter
by: Carol in CA

For towels that are too bad to use you can donate them to the local animal shelter. They use towels to line cages or to dry off animals.

Animal shelter
by: Sylvia

Animal shelters usually are in great need of towels. My local SPCA is always thrilled to receive them.

Donate old towels
by: Anonymous

Local animal rescue groups always need towels.

stained linens
by: Kaytee

Here in San Diego, there are people who "drop off" clean and usable, but stained, towels, other linens, and even clothing in Tijuana, near the dump. There are people living in the dump, who are happy to take and use them-- one friend who does this with our church rummage sale non-rag "rejects" says the bags are gone within a half hour. They don't care if their baby is wearing mis-matched socks, at least they have socks and that old sheet makes a room divider or curtain, if it's not needed for a bed.

Fire Station
by: Anonymous

Try your local volunteer fire station, they use old towels to dry down their equipment and would be glad of a donation.

cleaning out towels
by: Tracy

This is pretty scary. My husband thinks more is better. I sure can see the reasoning for cleaning out and getting rid of the extra. It will make the limited storage i have look nicer. It's just scary to start off.

Recycling and saving $
by: Anonymous

When we were on a super tight budget I used a basket and placed all my old wash cloths in it and placed it under the kitchen sink. We saved money using them instead of paper towels and we saved our planet!

I also kept a couple of old towels in the car for quick clean up of kids or berry picking hands.

Recycling towels & pillows
by: Annette

So many great ideas from other people, thank you.

I trim & resew old towels together for dog blankets & use old pillows for their bed. I put the pillow in an old pillow case to make them easier to clean.

No frozen pipes
by: Anonymous

My husband uses old towels to wrap our outside water spigots that stand in our garden areas, then he adds a 5-gallon bucket in the top to keep them in place. We have not had any problems with busted pipes so far.

Reference to old pillows - our animal shelter takes those too.

Pool Towels
by: Anonymous

Try to figure that one out! Every year I get EXTRA's! and I never seem to have enough!

Two towels gone!
by: Sheree

I had two big beach towels packed in a plastic tub in garage. Looked at what was in tub this morning. Do I keep or donate??? Meanwhile, I sold our old pool table. The lady came by a few moment ago and I ended up using the huge towels to line her trunk area. Two problems solved!

Be careful with holes
by: Anonymous

Donating old towels to a vet or animal shelter is a great idea but please don't donate the ones with holes or a lot of fraying. The animals get their paws or teeth stuck in the holes or chew on the long strings and choke. If they are worn or "ugly" they will be fine though.

Towel donation
by: Anonymous

I donate all of my old towels to our school district. The custodians use them daily for all cleaning related duties. The kitchens also use them daily and go through a dozen each day easily. This helps the custodial and kitchen budgets stretch further.

# of Towels
by: Donna Marie

I think 4 bath towels, 6 hand towels (I change mine on Wednesdays and Sundays unless more is needed) and 12 washcloths if you use them. We use liquid soap and our hands, so no need for washcloths. We only wash when the basket is full of whites or darks so it may take more than a week. I use one bath towel for my head and one for my body, so I need two!!! Yes, it does depend on the number of bathrooms and how much they are used!!!

by: Anonymous

Animal shelters will gladly take your worn unwanted towels.

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