We all love to have a soft, absorbent towel to wrap around us after a shower or bath. The softness protects and soothes our skin, and the absorbency captures the moisture so we can get dressed more quickly.
Unfortunately, even after buying the softest and most plush towels we can find (and afford), they can end up feeling stiff and scratchy after a few months. Why? It all has to do with how they're washed and dried.
Every towel will eventually become stiff and scratchy if body soil, body oils, detergents, chemicals, and minerals from hard water are left in the fibers after washing. Most of the time, the softness can be brought back to the towel simply by stripping away the gunk and then following some easy steps to help prevent the problem in the first place.
Equipment / Tools
- Washing machine
- Clothes dryer
- Wool dryer balls (optional)
- Outdoor clothesline (optional)
- Water softening system (optional)
- Hot water
- Distilled white vinegar
- Household ammonia (optional)
|How to Soften Towels|
|Water Temperature||Warm or hot|
|Drying Cycle||Medium heat or permanent press|
|Special Treatments||Distilled vinegar, conditioned water|
Load the Washer With Towels
Gather similarly colored towels and washcloths, and load them into the washer. Do not overload the washer because the towels need room to move in the washer drum.
Select the Water Temperature and Cycle
Add Distilled White Vinegar and Wash as Usual
If you have pre-loaded automatic detergent and fabric softener dispensers, disengage them for this load. Do not add any detergent or fabric softener. Instead, add two cups of distilled white vinegar to the washer drum. The vinegar will help strip away the residue left in the towels that is causing them to feel stiff.
If you live in an area that has hard water and don't use a water-softening system, it will take more than vinegar to cut through the mineral deposits built-up in the fibers of your towels. Instead of vinegar, add one cup of household ammonia to the hot water wash. Do not add anything else. Combining other products with ammonia can cause toxic fumes.
Load the Dryer Correctly and Choose the Correct Cycle
As you remove the towels from the washer, give them a quick shake to help fluff the fibers before you toss them in the dryer. Choose a medium heat or permanent press setting to prevent over-drying the fibers. After loading the dryer, toss in several wool dryer balls if you have them. The balls will "beat" the towel fibers during the tumbling action, leaving them softer and fluffier. Give the towels another good shake as you remove them from the dryer before folding.
Repeat If Needed
If the residue is particularly heavy and the towels have not returned to a soft state, repeat the steps.
Tips to Keep Your Towels Softer Longer
- Reduce the amount of laundry detergent you use in each load of towels: Excessive detergent leaves residue in towel fibers and causes them to feel scratchy.
- Increase your washing water temperature: Warm or hot water will produce better results, especially if you do not use a heavy-duty detergent.
- Don't overcrowd your washer when washing towels.
- Replace commercial fabric softeners with distilled white vinegar to combat residue that reduces absorbency.
- If you like the feel and scent left by commercial fabric softeners, use them sparingly, and do a deep cleaning monthly with vinegar to prevent excessive build-up in the fibers.
- Clean your washer, especially a front-load washer, regularly to remove detergent and fabric softener residue that encourages mold and mildew growth and causes strong odors that easily transfer to towel fabric.
- Use wool dryer balls and a lower heat setting in the dryer to keep towels fluffy.
- Install a water-softening system if you have hard water.