This master list is not universal, but it’s about as close to universal as I can get. Let us assume you are a household with the following:
someone who cooks a lot; a child or two; an occasional need to bathe; an occasional need to clean house; an occasional tendency to go to a beach or a swimming pool or the local Ol’ Swimmin’ Hole; one or two total klutzes; pets
There are different categories of towels you want to have on hand at all times. Some of them can be, more or less, rags, but they shouldn’t all start out that way, ’cause that’d be a major bummer.
- You need bath towels. Nice, big, regularly laundered bath towels.
- You need hand towels: two for each bathroom. Keep one on the rack and a spare stowed away nearby, clean, because sometimes you have a guest and realize at the worst possible moment that the hand towel is vile and you want to be able to put a fresh one out immediately. If you have a spare hidden away, you can do that very easily.
- You need a metric fuckton of kitchen towels. I have written elsewhere about this. If you want details, go find that piece here.
- When kitchen towels start to look shabby, that’s when you demote them to the cleaning/spills pile. Rags made of old clothes work fine here, except in my experience a lot of the time old clothes are dark or too thick or somehow the wrong kind of fabric for this purpose. It just depends on what your own personal supply is like. So if you’re me, you hang onto old dishrags and dishtowels until they are literally fraying to the point of dust, and you use them for dusting and mopping up and catching drips and all kinds of things until they just cannot be laundered any more. The grungiest of the grungy are what you use for cleaning up animal messes, in the event paper towels are not available. (Pet messes are almost the only reason I use paper towels. Pet messes, and absorbing cooking grease, like when you have to drain fried food on something. This is why we use a roll of paper towels only once a year or so, if that.)
- Beach/Pool/Summer Activities towels. THESE are a whole different breed of thing, and I don’t exactly approve of them but I have come to accept that they are necessary. What seems to work for us is this: every member of the household has two towels that are “their” beach towels. They are brightly colored/patterned/illustrated, large towels that are instantly identifiable whether they’re spread out on the sand, thrown over the back of a chair, or wadded up on the floor someplace. I used to think everyone needed only one each, but two summers of constant laundry have caused me to decide that this is incorrect, and really everyone has to have two. My husband has two; my child has two. I have one, but I don’t count. Yes, that’s a joke. Kind of. Sort of.
The each person has “x” themed/colored towels is a system that I know has been adopted by other families after years of domestic strain caused by squabbling over beach towels. Avoid the squabbling and plan ahead, please.
You will, in the summertime, be laundering these things constantly, in a way you don’t at any other time of year. Summer is the season for going swimming, for eating popsicles, for spilling nail polish on the bathroom floor, for opening bottles of beer and having the head burst up and make a mess on the kitchen counter and the floor. It’s the season for biting into fruit that is so juicy it pours itself down your chin (good peaches) and the season for making messes with bubble blowing supplies (every child ever). Be prepared for summer. Invest in towels. Signed, the mother who has done laundry every 36 hours this week because it is summer.