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Why You Shouldn't Actually Reuse Your Towels At A Hotel

Abby Moore
Assistant Managing Editor By Abby Moore
Assistant Managing Editor
Abby Moore is an assistant managing editor at mindbodygreen. She earned a B.A. in Journalism from The University of Texas at Austin and has previously written for Tribeza magazine.
Young African American woman standing in her bathroom wrapping herself with a towel after a shower

If you've ever been in a hotel bathroom, you've probably noticed the plastic placard encouraging you to "go green." The sign gives guests an option to reuse towels or leave them on the floor to be washed. The purpose is to reduce water waste and help the environment, but new research suggests delaying those washes might actually do more harm than good.

A review published in the Journal of Hospitality and Tourism Research said there's no real-world data proving a positive "environmental impact of limiting towel, linen, and room cleaning" but instead, might actually be harmful to the planet and public health. 

The impact of reusing your towels. 

Delaying towel washes can cause the fabric to become more soiled, meaning workers will rely on repeated washes or stronger chemical cleansers to remove stains. If neither of those options work, hotels will have to throw away and buy new towels. These realities, unfortunately, create a canceling effect for the virtuous "delaying washes" tactic. 

Along with hurting the planet, these effects can also harm employees. After speaking with several hotel management systems, lead researcher Grace N. Sembajwe, DSc, "noticed a lot of respiratory reactions to green cleaning systems."

This is likely a result of using harsh chemicals, which according to the study "raise hotel operating costs through mounting worker illness, injury, and absence rates." 


Plus, no one wants to stay in a dirty hotel room.

If you're sleeping in a bed or walking on carpet where thousands of people have been before you, you want to trust they're clean. 

"Choosing to clean your linens at home once a week is very different from a hotel cleaning their linens once a week," Sembajwe said. "There are a lot of smaller facilities that do not wash blankets more than once or twice a year." OK, yikes. 

When being welcomed into a public space, guests should expect acceptable and healthy conditions, she said. 

To ensure daily cleanings are done sustainably, Sembajwe and her team at the Feinstein Institutes for Medical Research encourage hotels to invest in energy-efficient washing machines. While it might not seem cost-effective upfront, she said these changes will create greater return down the line, economically and environmentally. 

These laundering technologies already exist, and smaller businesses like the eco-conscious laundromat Celsious are already aware of their benefits. If you're washing linens at home, this other laundry fact might surprise you. 

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