How to Wash Towels to Make Them Soft Again

If your old towels feel a lot less soft and fluffy than they used to, there's still hope for them. Rather than purchasing new towels, soften those old ones by washing them with a few natural additives that freshen up the fibers and remove residues that make towels feel stiff or scratchy.

  1. Shrink the Laundry Load Size

    • Crowding too many towels into the washer at once hinders the machine's ability to clean and rinse thoroughly. Wash only a few bath towels at a time, along with hand towels and washcloths, to ensure they all have plenty of room to move during wash, rinse and spin cycles. Select a large load setting on the washing machine to ensure there's enough water to soak the towels. Cut back on the amount of laundry detergent you would normally use for a load of that size as well -- soapy residue trapped in the towels may be to blame for their not-so-soft texture.

    Remove Residues Naturally

    • White vinegar cuts through all kinds of residue buildup on towels, whether it's shampoo, laundry detergent or body oils trapped between towel fibers. Select an extra rinse cycle on the washing machine when you wash towels. During the first rinse cycle, add 1/2 cup white vinegar. The extra rinse removes any traces of the vinegar's scent.

    Bounce and Dry

    • Add several dryer balls or clean tennis balls to the dryer when you dry the towels. The balls soften the towels as they bounce around in the dryer, making them softer without any chemical additives. If you prefer to line-dry the towels, shake them out a few times before hanging them on the clothesline, to help fluff them up.

    Skip the Dryer Sheets

    • Fabric softeners and dryer sheets may sound like perfect ways to soften up old towels, but in reality they leave behind residues that make the towels less absorbent and more resistant to water, which makes them harder to clean. Washing the towels with regular detergent doesn't remove all the residues, so the towels become less soft and less fluffy over time. If your towels have been washed and dried with softeners and dryer sheets, wash the towels again, adding 1/2 cup baking soda to the load along with the detergent. Vinegar added to the rinse cycle also helps remove any remaining residue.

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