Towel Turning Yellow? Here’s why

There’s nothing quite so luxurious as stepping out of the shower and into a fluffy white towel. The reason hotels always use white towels is because they can be seen to be clean. 

We try to replicate this in our own home and for a while all’s well. But sadly, over time those once pure white fluffy towels become less white and more yellow.

We know they’re clean because we wash them regularly so why do they turn yellow? To find out why, and how to restore them to their brilliant white again, keep reading.

Why Do Towels Turn Yellow?

There are several factors that can make your towels turn yellow. These include;

Hair And Skin Products

Certain shampoos, conditioners and other skin and hair products can stain your towels. Even if you wash them from your hair and skin, a small residue can remain which is enough to start the yellowing process of your towels.

Food And Cooking Oil Remnants

If it’s your kitchen towels that are mainly affected, it’s probably caused by any oils or food particles not washing from your hands properly before you dry them.

Natural Body Oils

As human beings, we all produce oils which exude from our skin. These oils mixed with sweat can all contribute to the yellowing of your towels.

Too Much Detergent

There’s a thin line between too much and too little detergent and both can lead to the yellowing of your towels. Too much detergent can mean it doesn’t all get washed away in the machine.

Too little detergent and the hair and skin products along with our natural body oils and sweat don’t get washed out of the towels which can also contribute to that yellowing.

Mineral Content In The Water

If you live in an area that is supplied with hard water (which is around 60% of the UK and around 75% of the US), the minerals contained within the water could be the cause of your towels turning a yellowy tinge.

A Build Up Of Cleaning Products In The Washing Machine

It could just be that your washing machine has a build up of detergent, fabric softener or other chemicals that could be causing that yellow colour on your towels.

Washing Towels At The Wrong Temperature

Towels should always be washed on a hot wash to remove any stains and bacteria and prevent germs from spreading and yellowing from occurring.

More and more washing machines and detergents are leaning towards cooler wash programs. And while that may be good for the environment, it’s not so good for your towels.

Towels need to be washed on a hot wash to remove all traces of body oils, sweats, deodorants, skin care products etc.

Ways To Remove Yellow Stains From Towels

If your towels have started to get yellow stains or a general yellow tinge, they can be restored using one of the following methods;

Use Bleach To Remove Yellow From Towels

Bleach is a great way to remove that yellowing from your white towels but take care, as not all bleaches are the same;

  • Chlorine Bleach
    Also known as household bleach, chlorine bleach can help to remove yellow from white towels. But it can also be responsible for turning white towels a yellow shade as well. It should never be used on patterned or coloured towels as chlorine bleach is so strong, it will remove the colours and patterns from the material. It is also dangerous to humans, you should always use in a well ventilated room and wear gloves to protect your skin when using chlorine bleach.
  • Oxygen Bleach
    Also known as percarbonate of soda, oxygen bleach is a safe, natural and gentle alternative to chlorine bleach. It can be used to remove stains, brighten white clothes, deodorise your clothes and is also biodegradable. It is made from salt, chalk and water all of which are found in nature. Oxygen bleach can be used on white towels, coloured towels and patterned towels too without any loss of colour or pattern.

For more information on using bleach on your laundry check out this article.

Using Chlorine Bleach To Remove Yellow From Towels


Chlorine bleach is an irritant and a corrosive which is why you need to take care when using chlorine bleach. You should always;

  • Wear gloves
  • Wear an apron

To soak towels in chlorine bleach you should;

  1. Fill a bucket with hot water
  2. Add ¾ of a cup of chlorine bleach and mix well
  3. Totally immerse the towel(s) in the solution and soak for 5 to 10 minutes
  4. Remove the towel(s) from the bucket and rinse the towel(s) in fresh water
  5. Wash in the washing machine on a hot wash using your regular detergent

Be extra careful to not use more bleach than necessary and always ensure it is rinsed off completely. This is because chlorine bleach is known to cause white towels to yellow in some cases.

Instead of soaking your white towel(s) you could add bleach to the dispensing drawer in your machine along with your regular detergent.

Using Oxygen Bleach To Remove Yellow From Towels


Using oxygen bleach is a safer alternative to using chlorine bleach although because of its gentle action, it’s not as effective as chlorine bleach. To soak your white towel(s) in oxygen bleach all you need to do is;

  1. Fill a gallon bucket with hot water
  2. Add 2 to 4 tablespoons of oxygen bleach and mix well.
  3. Submerge your towel(s) in the mixture and soak for at least 30 minutes
  4. Place the towels in the washing machine and wash on a hot wash using your regular detergent

If you don’t want to soak your white towel(s), you can add oxygen bleach on top of the towels in the drum and wash in the washing machine using your regular detergent.

For more information on how to bleach white clothes click here.

Using Lemon Juice To Remove Yellow From Towels

Fruit Hand Press Juice Citrus Lemon Juicer,Multi-purpose Manual Juicer Tool
  • Product includes: Generous capacity lemons Squeezer with lid .

Lemon juice is a great alternative to bleach for restoring whiteness to towels. All you need to do is;

  1. Cut two lemons and boil in a large pan of water
  2. Remove it from the stove and soak the towel(s) for at least 1 hour
  3. Place the soaked towel(s) in the washing machine and wash in the usual way.

Using Baking Soda To Remove Yellow From Towels

Most households have a pot of baking soda. It has so many uses around the home. One you might not be aware of is as a whitening agent for white clothes including towels. 

All you need to do is;

  1. Place your towels in the drum of your washing machine
  2. Pour ½ a cup full of baking soda on top of the towels
  3. Wash the towels on a hot wash using your regular detergent

Using Bluing Liquid To Remove Yellow From Towels

Mrs. Stewart's Concentrated Liquid Bluing - Great for Laundry - 8-ounce Bottle (Pack of 2)
  • Mrs. Stewart's Concentrated Liquid Bluing - Great for Laundry - 8-ounce Bottle Pack of 2

Bluing liquid is an effective way to remove that yellow tinge from your white towels. It contains Prussian blue or ferric ferrocyanide which adds a blue pigment to the fabric of the towels which counteracts the yellow and makes the towels appear brilliant white.

It isn’t cheap, but as you need to use such a small amount, a bottle of bluing liquid will last for ages.

Using Ammonia To Remove Yellow From Towels


In some cases the yellowing is caused by a buildup of detergent in the washing machine and in the towels. Instead of using detergent to wash your white towels, try using ammonia instead.

Simply replace the detergent with a cup full of ammonia to revive white towels.

Using White Vinegar To Remove Yellow From Towels

Golden Swan White Vinegar for Cleaning, Pickling, Marinating & Cooking - Distilled White Vinegar- 5 Litre Bottle - Produced in The UK (1 Pack)
  • PERFECT FOR COOKING - Use in vinaigrettes, sweet-and-sour dishes, marinades, pickles, chutneys, and butter sauces. Or infuse with fresh herbs to make flavoured vinegar. Whatever the occasion our Fresh White wine vinegar will be perfect.

Another item that almost every home has is distilled white vinegar. You can use white vinegar to help revive white towels. Just;

  1. Mix 1 cup full of white vinegar with 1 litre of boiling water and soak your towel overnight
  2. Then wash the towel in the washing machine on a hot wash using your regular detergent.

Using Hydrogen Peroxide To Remove Yellow From Towels


Hydrogen peroxide is an old favourite and has been used for many years to bleach hair and disinfect cuts and scrapes. It can also help remove yellow from white towels. All you do is;

  1. Mix 1 cup of hydrogen peroxide into 1 gallon of hot water
  2. Add your usual detergent
  3. Soak the towel(s) for at least 30 minutes
  4. Remove the towel(s) from the bucket and place in the washing machine
  5. Wash on a hot wash using your regular detergent.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get yellow out of white towels?

There are several ways to get yellow out of white towels. You could use; white vinegar, oxygen bleach, ammonia, lemon juice, baking soda, bluing liquid or hydrogen peroxide.

Why is my husband’s towel turning yellow?

Your husband’s towel could be turning yellow due to several things which include; too much or too little detergent, water temperature too low, remnants of body and hair products, sweat and bodily oils or even the mineral content of the water.

Does hard water turn towels yellow?

Hard water can be responsible for turning towels yellow. It is due to the mineral content in the water.

Does bleach turn towels yellow?

The overuse of chlorine bleach can cause the white fibres in the towels to turn yellow. You should try giving your towels an extra rinse after using chlorine bleach when washing your towels.

How many times should you use a towel before washing it?

Towels can easily absorb dead skin cells, sweat and bacteria. You should aim to wash your towels every three days if possible.

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